I’m friends with Frank Bynum, who’s the Democratic candidate for Harris County Criminal Court 8 judge. I contributed to his campaign because I think he’ll make a great judge. He knows the law and he has a deep concern for the rights of the accused. What more could you want from a judge?
HOUSTON — There was no question on primary night in Texas last month that Franklin Bynum would win the Democratic nomination to become a criminal court judge in Houston. The 34-year-old defense attorney had no challengers.
Frank will be on the ballot as a Democrat, but his affiliation is the Democratic Socialists of America.
“Yes, I’m running as a socialist,” Mr. Bynum said. “I’m a far-left candidate. What I’m trying to do is be a Democrat who actually stands for something, and tells people, ‘Here’s how we are going to materially improve conditions in your life.’”
A socialist? Doesn’t that mean he’s embraced a failed economic system, fundamentally contrary to our American system of capitalism?
Supporters, many of them millennials, say they are drawn by D.S.A.’s promise to combat income inequality, which they believe is tainting every facet of American life, from the criminal justice system to medical care to politics. They argue that capitalism has let them down, saddling them with student debt, high rent and uncertain job prospects. And they have been frustrated by the Democratic Party, which they say has lost touch with working people.
“The only group that expressed net positive support for capitalism were people over 50 years old,” he said. “The largest generation of Americans in history — millennials — have lost confidence. They are interested in finding a better way.”
There is nothing, per se, wrong with wanting to find “a better way.” Nor is there anything wrong with wanting to materially improve the conditions for those who are suffering financially. There are a lot of people in that situation. This is about financial survival, not microaggressions or turf wars for terfs.
He wants his campaign to highlight injustices in Harris County, where historically roughly 40 percent of defendants in misdemeanor court were kept in jail because they could not pay bail.
See a problem with the routine incarceration of the defendants held on routine bail, with all the baggage of conviction and downward spiral of being a criminal along with it? The system has been perennially in the hands of judges who get their campaign contributions from police unions, who campaign on promises to keep your daughters safe at night from the animals.
But the Harris County Democratic Party is struggling to figure out what to make of Mr. Bynum, who they say stands a good chance of being elected, along with other Democrats on the local ballot in November. Mr. Bynum’s Republican opponent, Dan Simons, a former prosecutor backed by religious conservatives, is already fund-raising under the slogan “Reject socialism.”
But if this leaves you scratching your head, wondering what socialism has to do with being a criminal court judge, it doesn’t. Frank won’t get to divvy up the loot and disperse it to the poor. What he will get to do is reflect the concern for the accused that others happily gloss over in the effort to err on the side of order, of safety and against liberty and freedom.
Gerald Birnberg, a former chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, has discouraged Mr. Bynum from talking about socialism or bail reform on the campaign trail. Socialism is too taboo in Texas, he said. And although bail reform is important, he said, “it’s not an issue that inspires voters in Harris County.”
Would anyone want a socialist president? Or senator? Or governor? Of course not. Not that the nice folks with their hands on the wheel now don’t suck big time, but socialism isn’t the answer either. Remember, the alternative to bad isn’t necessarily good. It can always get worse.
But when it comes to the type of guy I want to see sitting on the bench, the forces that push Frank to socialism, his concern for the accused, both their rights and their lives, the concerns shift. I wouldn’t want to have socialist hands on the purse strings, but on the gavel?
When it comes to the law, economic labels are kind of goofy. Rather, it’s shorthand for a guy who cares more about the rights of the accused than hanging out with cops. Vote for Franklin Bynum. He’ll make a great judge.