2014] FLAWED COALITIONS AND THE POLITICS OF CRIME 1475
“The American people are crying out for bipartisanship and real solutions to the
challenges we face . . . .”
— Congressman Charles F. Bass1
“Although there is no progress without change, not all change is progress.”
— John Wooden, Former UCLA Basketball Coach2
Bipartisanship can be dangerous. In the late 1970s, liberals and
conservatives had vastly different objectives for criminal justice reform.3 Yet
despite little agreement about the outcomes they hoped to achieve, the two
sides united to discard two centuries of discretionary federal sentencing
practice and ushered in an era of fixed guidelines that would reshape the
criminal justice landscape.4 Unfortunately for liberals, the guideline regime
established by the Sentencing Reform Act5 (“the Act”) ultimately advanced
hardline conservative criminal justice goals that were antithetical to the
objectives of many of the Act’s liberal supporters.6 The fact that liberals
undermined many of their long-term interests by cooperating with
conservatives raises two foundational questions: why were liberals’
expectations for sentencing reform so misguided, and were the liberals
irrational to ally themselves with parties that did not share their long-term
goals? This Article examines whether cultural cognition theory can provide
some clues as to why opposing parties might form ill-conceived coalitions
when their interests diverge.
1. Representative Charles F. Bass, Statement on National Security and Job Protection Act
(Sept. 13, 2012) (transcript available at Targeted News Service).
2. JOHN WOODEN & STEVE JAMISON, WOODEN: A LIFETIME OF OBSERVATIONS AND
REFLECTIONS ON AND OFF THE COURT 199 (1997).
3. See infra introduction to Part III.
4. See Michael Vitiello, Sentencing Guideline Law and Practice in a Post-Booker World:
Introduction, 37 MCGEORGE L. REV. 487, 490 (2006) (“Beginning in the 1970s, a coalition of
liberal and conservative commentators mounted a challenge to t he dominant indeterminate
sentencing model in effect in the United States at that time.”). See generally Kate Stith & Steve Y.
Koh, The Politics of Sentencing Reform: The Legislative History of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, 28
WAKE FOREST L. REV. 223 (1993) (describing the political history of the Sentencing Reform Act
5. Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, Pub. L. No. 98-473, tit. II, ch. 2, 98 Stat. 1987.
6. Stith & Koh, supra note 4, at 282 (“[M]uch of the criticism [of federal sentencing
reform] is from the political left, including defense attorneys and scholars who had been early
and enthusiastic proponents of binding sentencing guidelines. ”); see also Albert W. Alschuler,
The Failure of Sentencing Guidelines: A Plea for Less Aggregation, 58 U. CHI. L. REV. 901, 933–34
(1991) (describing how liberal supporters of sentencing reform “[sold] the farm”); Gerald F.
Uelmen, Federal Sentencing Guidelines: A Cure Worse than the Disease, 29 AM. CRIM. L. REV. 899, 899
(1992) (“The Federal Sentencing Commission, and the Congress which created it, simply are
not getting the message, although the message could not be clearer: Your cure is worse than the