Your immediate reaction may be: How dare a white male who just yesterday revealed that he only very recently understood BLM in his blog post about 2020 come out this morning against women.
If you think that, I get it. But keep reading because that’s not what this post is about.
I’m against the pardon of Susan B. Anthony because not only does this pardon not matter to her daily existence (Susan B. Anthony died in 1906–35 years before Bernie Sanders was born), but a pardon requires the acknowledgment that what the person did was a crime.
Same when you bump into someone (remember those days when we could get close enough to people to make accidental contact in the normal course of existing?) and you say, “Pardon me.” You know you done goofed, so you ask for your error not to be taken as anything more than that. But if you were in the right, it’s reasonable to ask for forgiveness if you judge the benefits of doing so as outweighing the benefits of maintaining your position of correctness. We’ll leave to another time a discussion of ethics related to insincere apologies as well as qualified apologies and non-apology apologies. If we can agree that we can all benefit from being able to look at a situation from someone else’s point of view, we can be better off. I’m not saying that the other person is right, but without taking the time to understand where someone else’s argument originates, we’re going to keep running into unnecessary conflict by communicating poorly.
Now, one can point out unfair convictions and pain felt subsequent to such convictions. They can be a rallying cry for social change and a plea for presidents/governors to use the only remedy granted to them: altering the post-verdict treatment, as the executive branch does not have the power to overturn a ruling.
Every so often we hear of the push to pardon Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. The claims are that they were wrongly convicted of being spies for the Soviet Union and therefore should not have been executed. In their case, pardon is the proper thing to seek because they were soooooo guilty. Crazy guilty. Absolutely they were spies. Pardon is the proper request. Equally proper response: No.
In the case of Susan B. Anthony, she voted when women weren’t allowed to vote. And part of her legacy is the 19th Amendment, whose 100th anniversary of ratification it is today. (She had been dead for more than 14 years; Bernie Sanders was still a couple decades away.) The 19th Amendment made what she did not only not a crime but a right throughout the land.
She should be exonerated, not pardoned. She should have been exonerated when her crime stopped being a crime. To prosecute Susan B. Anthony today would be unconstitutional.
For those who don’t care about the difference between saying that she never did a crime or that she did a crime, but we’ll pretend she didn’t, I understand. From a legal standpoint, her rights would be the same either way. Also she’s dead, and she ultimately won, so I don’t imagine that the impact of this action now is a matter of personal importance.
The other problem, of course, is the person granting the pardon. That Donald Trump would be the one to grant a pardon to Susan B. Anthony and to do it right now is calculated and gross.
With 11 weeks to Election Day (about seven weeks till California mails out the ballots to individuals–look out for them starting October 6), Trump is scrambling. How can he appeal to women voters after many notable incidents of being bad to women (Access Hollywood tape, Stormy Daniels, Karen MacDougall, Jeffrey Epstein, etc.)? Be the champion of feminism with the stroke of a Sharpie.
But it goes beyond that.
Trump has pardoned or given clemency to some high profile people who were pretty bad including Michael Milken, Joe Arpaio, Dinesh D’Souza, Rod Blagojevich, and Roger Stone.
To be able to say, “Yeah, I commuted the sentence of Roger Stone (who was perfect, by the way. Totally unfair that anything bad happened to him), but I also pardoned Susan B. Anthony. Stop complaining,” is wrong.
I think Susan B. Anthony’s criminal record should be expunged, but there’s all kinds of stuff wrong with happened today.