Not a Time to Praise the Obama Era

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The U.S. has just seen a surprise presidential election victory by a candidate who banked his campaign on vilifying Muslims and undocumented immigrants and on promising to maintain the devalued legal status of Black lives. Now that Democratic Party and media figures have been quick to make cynical speeches about uniting the country and moving on, the nation’s progressive movements should be ever more compelled not to lose sight of the Constitutional power that is still afforded to President Obama, the same man returned to office by progressive votes four years ago.

I’m talking about the power of the pardon, the final executive branch check on the legislative and judicial branches, which over the years have passed laws and interpreted them through a white-supremacist, capital-supremacist lens. According to Article 2 Section 2, it is constitutionally possible for Obama to issue “reprieves and pardons” to all people, whether in jail or not, facing charges or not, who up to this point in time may have committed a federal offense.

At the very least, Obama owes his electorate an immediate blanket pardon to all people accused or convicted of nonviolent federal drug offenses, and— to borrow an idea of Peter L. Markowitz published in the New York Times last July— to all people who entered the United States other than through an official port of entry. Over the next two months or so of his term, he ought to be spending the greater chunk of every remaining day…

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