To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Huffington Post

From an Arianna Huffington post/editorial:
There is a major disconnect in the 2008 Democratic race for the White House.

While all the top candidates are vying for the black and Latino vote, they are completely ignoring one of the most pressing issues affecting those constituencies: the failed War on Drugs, a war that has morphed into a war on people of color.


But what to do about the legion of nonviolent -- predominantly minority -- drug offenders has long been an electrified third-rail in American politics, a subject to be avoided at all costs by our political leaders, who fear being incinerated on contact for being soft on crime.

You might have thought this would change during a spirited Democratic presidential campaign. But a quick search of the top Democratic hopefuls' websites reveals that not one of them -- not Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, not John Edwards, not Joe Biden, not Chris Dodd, not Bill Richardson -- even mentions the drug war, let alone offers any solutions.
I would love it -- if she was right about the politics of the issue, but I'm afraid she isn't. Kudos to her for bringing visibility to the Drug War, and for encouraging the candidates to talk about it, but it seems to me, it's hardly in their political interest to do so. What's to gain? Or who's to gain? Someone like a Kusinich can get out there and make honest, and controversial statements about an issue as polarized as drug policy, but that's only because he running one race. The Democratic primary. The whole point of a guy like that is to bring issues to the table and force the realistic candidates to respond to a few of the typically hot-button ones. Drugs aren't going to be that hot-button issue. Not in this election cycle. Look, you can't even get Hillary to apologize for her vote on Iraq. You think she is going to get out there and talk about an issue (talk about it in any way that would change the situation for the better) like drugs? She would have to be insane to do that. She has a general election to win, and even for the people whom oppressive drug policy harm the most, it isn't on the top of their concerns. Exit polls have shown this. Iraq War, economy, health-care....It's very much the same for latinos and blacks as it is for middle-class whites. That's not to say that violence, police corruption and the whole host of corollaries stemming from the Drug War are not concerns for urban minorities. Of course they are. But do they all see eye-to-eye on what the major causes of those problems are? I'm honestly asking the question, but I'm pretty sure the answer is no. For many of us (I'm thinking your typical TtP reader) it's pretty easy to blame prohibition for most everything. I'm comfortable that I'm right about that. But the urban black community? I don't hear those type denunciations coming out of the city's, black religious leaders consistently (who, at least in Baltimore, put city politicians in power). And why should they? Their community wants to deal with people who murder 16 year old girls like Estefany Gonzalez, and have little patience for the seemingly contrarian argument that drug prohibition causes these deaths, as much as anything is to blame for them.

Counter-point to my argument: I'm reminded of a Democratic and black Mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke. The guy came out and said similar things that I say everyday in denouncing the Drug War. Toned down of course, but that's kind of my point. Basically he said that we really needed to think about whether the War on Drugs was a good idea (in '88). That it might be the biggest obstacle to creating a safe and prosperous Baltimore. On a local, city level it worked pretty well for him. He won in a landslide the following election, and instituted some actual policy changes. It didn't stick however. The current Democratic star of Maryland politics made his name taking a zero-tolerance, arrest-everyone-you-can approach to Baltimore problems. After serving as mayor, O'Malley is now currently running the state (into the ground most likely) and has rumors of national aspirations swirling around him. This is the guy who made his name arresting street-level dealers, "quality of life" offenders and just about anyone else the city police could fit cuffs on.

I'm not trying to discourage the conversations that need to occur for the needed change to happen. Obama or Edwards do not take their political cues from a blogger named Rob at TtP. I just think a lot more work needs to be done on a local level, changing minds and policy, before national politicians will be brave enough to talk about a subject that desperately needs to be talked about.

Huffington's post here. The National Review editorial -- containing a piece written by Mayor Schmoke -- that as a young kid was instrumental in forming my own opinions on the War Drugs and the changes needed, here.

Update: Reading this over, it struck me that you could take me for suggesting that I would like a Hillary or an Obama to win in '08. Not the case. I was merely looking at the Democratic field. Wanted to add that.

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