That also distinguishes him from so many of the terrified Democrats kowtowing to barbaric police right now, ordering and enabling the brutality ricocheting around Twitter and cable news. Jones rattles off a host of important reforms that are urgently required: A repeal of the 1994 crime bill that enabled mass incarceration, demilitarizing law enforcement by ending the transfer of military-grade weapons to local police departments, and ending the qualified immunity that so often lets cops off the hook for their crimes, among other items.
Jones also insisted that Congress needed to pass a ban on chokeholds and require police officers to both identify themselves to pedestrians and practice de-escalation, which many departments don’t even teach their officers. And with his Department of Justice pedigree, Jones not only has the will and moral urgency but also the expertise to structure these laws to ensure that they survive challenges and dramatically change our broken system of law enforcement.
“At a minimum, we can use financial incentives and disincentives in the way that the [‘94] crime bill did,” he said. “We should also be making the killing of unarmed civilians by law enforcement a federal crime. And the mechanism for doing that is if local law enforcement has received federal funding, then it’s in your jurisdiction.”
The Department of Justice experience also taught Jones a lesson that it took many rank and file Democrats much longer to discover, a lag that continues to haunt us today: Expecting any kind of bipartisanship from the Republican Party is just plain foolish, like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football and get it shoved down his throat instead.
At the DOJ, in addition to working on criminal justice reform policy, Jones vetted and prepped federal judges for Senate confirmation and grew immensely frustrated by the GOP’s refusal to allow them fair hearings. It took years of obstruction for Sen. Harry Reid to invoke the nuclear option and end the filibuster for those nominees, breaking a logjam but never fully undoing the damage. Now Republicans have made confirming judges their central focus, ensuring years of conservative domination of the courts.
“We should never have trusted the Republican Party, with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan as the House Speaker,” he says. “From the onset, they said that their primary purpose was to oppose anything President Obama did. I think that we could have been using our majorities in the Senate more effectively, to really serve the best interests of the American people. That was a huge learning experience.”
That all being said, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Lowey hadn’t yet announced that she would be retiring when Jones declared his candidacy last summer. At the time, he was planning to run as a primary challenger, motivated by Lowey’s seeming unwillingness to support impeachment and her record as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, which included giving even more funding to ICE in 2019.
He also points to Lowey’s failure to repeal the SALT cap for homeowners, a major issue in his district, as it jacks up the cost of living in what is already one of the most expensive places to live in the country. One of his key issues is a massive expansion of mixed-income housing so that opportunity can be spread more equally, as well as green energy in the district that is home to the infamous Indian Point nuclear plant.
These are all lofty goals, but again, this is a deep blue seat that should be occupied by a progressive — especially given the alternatives this year. Jones is running in the primary against the IDC alum as well as a multi-millionaire pharmaceutical heir trying to buy the election while refusing to divest his pharmaceutical stock, making Jones that much more of a clear choice. It’s a neck-and-neck race ahead of the June 23rd primary, so any and all help will go a long way right now.
“If you can’t get a progressive victory in a seat like this, then then you’re going to be out of luck,” he says. Because this is where the action is in a gerrymandered society. In blue states like this, we can afford to challenge ourselves to do better even as we challenge Republicans.”