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Why Do Democrats Defend The Drug War?


Obamaby Scott Morgan

The rank hypocrisy of Obama’s position on pot has been amplified rather dramatically by last week’s revelation that he literally smoked more than his share of it back in high school. It’s an important conversation to have, but I think this analysis by Paul Waldman in The American Prospect lands a little off the mark.

At the moment, there remains a strong incentive to support the status quo, lest you be targeted in your next race as some kind of hippie-lover. The incentives on the other side, on the other hand, are almost nil. When was the last time somebody lost a race for being too tough on drugs? The half of Americans who favor marijuana legalization are not an organized voting bloc that gets together to punish its opponents at the polls.

This is almost the opposite of what I’ve been saying lately, given that in just the past month, two different well-connected democratic candidates have collapsed under the weight of their unpopular drug war posturing. First, Oregon voters roundly rejected Dwight Holton in an attorney general race that focused heavily on his opposition to medical marijuana. Then, just yesterday in Texas, U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes lost the congressional seat he’s held since 1996 in a primary challenge from outspoken drug policy reformer Beto O’Rourke.

Really, the whole notion that candidates who support reform will be labeled as “hippie-lovers,” is nothing more than a fictitious cliché without a single good example to justify its utterance. Instead, we’re witnessing the emergence of the exact opposite, a new dynamic in democratic races wherein a history of defending the drug war is a political liability that can be exploited to powerful effect by candidates who side with the majority of voters in favoring reform.

That’s why it’s so frustrating to see observers like Waldman, who supports reforming drug policy, nevertheless endeavor to uphold the notion that political realities require our leaders to do the wrong thing. If Obama were to read that analysis and find it convincing, Waldman would have succeeded in helping the President rationalize his refusal to support reform. We’re hurting our cause when we say stuff like this, and worse yet, the idea itself isn’t even true.

The truth is that a majority of voters actually do want the President to stop waging war on marijuana. It isn’t in any politician’s political interest to ignore public opinion while defending bad public policy. The smart play is to steer into the changing political current, just as Obama did with gay marriage, and the result is that public opinion itself begins to change that much faster. This is what’s known as leadership, and when it comes to reforming our horrible drug laws, our politicians have everything to gain by speaking up and speaking out.

Article From StoptheDrugWar.orgCreative Commons Licensing


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  1. Billbreidenstein on

    This is a perfect illustration of Obama’s poor leadership skills. He admitted himself that he had smoked his share of Pot’ so who is he going to impress by escalating the drug war especially on medicinal marijuana? He is being a hypocrite to pursue a policy that will land people in jail for victim less crimes. If he wanted to show some balls he would end the drug wars.

  2. hmmm just like how accourdint to the article posted on hightimes.com the dea has a quote legal stash of pot for their own uses hmmm and thier afraid of it getting in the wrong hands aka lab coats they dont want it discoverd its medicaly safe to use because if it was ever brought out that its safe opps more and more people might accept it and want it legalized . wonder what the feds gotta say about it .

  3. yes … thats right … all of the big bad governments of the wOrLd combined …with all their Hbombs and military and guns are in complete fear of a little flower …

  4. johndenton46 on

    Democrats are overall frightened children looking to Authority to keep their little worlds from crumbling. They are too intimidated to question 9/11, torture, the failed drug war, Obama’s drone war, corporate health care, the Rule of Big Banks, and the ruined economy. ‘Just keep me safe! And stupid!’

  5. the word and spelling of ‘hippie’ is a slur on the original ‘hippy’ plural ‘hippys’
    the media also as well adopted the word ‘marijuana’ as a slur in order to demonize ‘Cannabis’
    Cannabis smoking peace Loving hippys are right yet are a threat to and in complete opposition to
    what this country does … so this country attempts to demonize these peaceful people by declaring a war against children of nature smoking flowers yet this country continues to murder people abroad …
    and what is the bottom of the pit is these politicians believe in the christian idea of …
    ‘thou shalt not kill’ yet follow the demons into bloodshed by their own volition … interesting that
    a plant can pose such a threat to such a mighty armed power … they are obviously unsecure …

  6. Not all Democrats are like Obama. Nancy Pelosie fights for medical cannabis and all the house and state senate here that fight for it are democrats, so don’t fall into the trap of voting party only or making general labels that is the shit that got us here in the first place.

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  8. I agree.  What then is the next step?  I’m confident the overwhelming majority of TWB readership already supports your argument.  How, then do we reach everyone else….including Waldman.  Have you contacted him?

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