So now I’m getting blow back on my post about John Kasich’s fake steelworker. The good news is that my message on ex-offender rights is getting traction. The complicated news is that…well….this is a complicated issue.
Many people are surprised that I haven’t got a problem with folks bringing up dude’s criminal record. “I thought we weren’t supposed to bring up criminal records. Hypocrisy!” Given I’ve been badgered with my own criminal record unjustly for such a long time, and so many of my own supporters are the folks wondering if I’m a hypocrite, I understand that reaction. So I need to be clear.
Under the law, if you have a criminal conviction related to your veracity as a witness, no matter how long ago, the conviction is admissible evidence regarding your ability to tell the truth on the stand. Settled law for centuries. Fake steelworker dude is endorsing John Kasich as a guy who lost his job in a steel mill. If he is a convicted liar – fraud, forgery, or theft are crimes of veracity – that is relevant under the law if he is testifying in court. Just because we aren’t in court, but in politics, doesn’t make his convictions any less relevant to his veracity.
If fake steelworker dude were convicted 15 years ago of drug possession, or say, importuning, or some other crime for which truth-telling is not an element of the crime, I definitely would have a problem with bringing up that conviction. Such a conviction would be irrelevant to his veracity, and it’s merely titillating entertainment to bring it up, perpetuating the cycle of vengeful hate. That is not the case here. Fake steelworker dude is doing precisely that which got him in jail – lying.
That’s why my ban the box proposal, and most ban the box legislation in the country, only outlaws employment discrimination based on criminal record for crimes unrelated to the job. I’ve been very clear on this, both in my campaign, and in my own struggle to get beyond my mistakes. My conviction is unrelated to just about any job I would apply for. The vast majority of drug convictions, which make up the vast majority of the ex-offender population, are also unrelated to most jobs the ex-offender would ever apply for. It is simple justice to make that distinction.
I learned in my case, even if an employer is a good guy and gives you a shot in spite of your past, you will have to prove every day of the rest of your life that you will never commit that crime again. Running for office, I simply had to give the voters the full story myself, i.e. “bring up the conviction” MYSELF (which I did at length online – hell I ran on the conviction with the ban the box proposal), so I could ask ask voters to make the judgment that I had indeed moved on, and see where the chips fell. They fell pretty solidly in my favor, because voters judged that I had indeed moved on, based on my openness and transparency about the conviction, and my own behavior in the years since.
On to fake steelworker dude. As an ex-offender, I fully understand his plight. But dude is repeating his stupid pattern that got him into trouble. So I looked at his record closely. He plead “no contest”, instead of “guilty”, to all of his charges. Big difference. Moving on means admitting your mistakes in their entirety at the time of sentencing, and committing to never repeating them again. “No contest” ain’t that. Neither is hiring yourself out to lie for a political candidate 15 years later.
Finally, there is a vast difference between being a paid actor in, say, a pharmaceutical commercial, and being a paid actor in a political commercial. When someone pays you to say something political, you cross a very bright line. You aren’t a voluntary endorser because you believe what you say, you are a paid endorser to say whatever payor wants you to say. Or wait a minute – the character you play is an endorser….but ummmm…..the character is fiction….so….how do we know if…..how do we judge veracity……how can we ask a fictional character…….see? It’s the Republican addiction to fiction boiled to a hard resin. It matters politically in a way it doesn’t matter in any other advertising/acting gig. That makes fake steelworker dude’s veracity even more relevant, and thus his crimes of veracity more relevant, too.
In fact, it’s precisely the difference Paul Krugman notes regarding how many Republican presidential contenders are now paid Fox News contributors. The powers and billionaires behind the Tea Party, and Republicanism itself, use their money to pay people to do their dirty work, because there have never been, and never will be enough actual people who believe their line of horseshit. This is where the rubber meets the road, folks. And if some jackass wanders into this arena thinking his record of being held criminally accountable for his own lies is somehow going to go unnoticed, well, too bad, fool.
I don’t like people’s criminal past following them. But if the reverse is true – if that person is following his own past – how can redemption follow, too?