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Clarence Page: Outside Washington, right and left get along

BY CLARENCE PAGE Published: November 23, 2012

Another dramatic coalition helped California roll back its 18-year-old “three strikes” law. It set a national standard among efforts at the time to pack prisons with lawbreakers and throw away the key, without much regard for whether the punishment was more serious than the crime. The old law demanded a life sentence for a third conviction of any felony. The new law will put away for life only hard-core criminals such as murderers, rapists and child molesters for any third felony offense.

Right on Crime, a prominent conservative justice reform initiative, supported the law, which was drafted by a partnership of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and a group of Stanford University law professors.

How prominent is Right on Crime? Its signatories include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

Cash-strapped states and small-government conservatives appreciate measures that can save money without increasing crime rates. Alternative sentencing for small-time offenders and drug rehabilitation for nonviolent drug offenders make great fiscal sense and reduce the abuses that the Legal Defense Fund fights against.

But Norquist has long built coalitions around a simple but critically important concept: Don't let ideological differences on other issues stop you from cooperating wherever your interests overlap.

It's refreshing to see ideological opposites find ways to get things done. It's too bad the political left and right haven't been getting things done that smoothly in Washington.