A couple of weeks ago, Senator Rand Paul did a courageous and unusual thing by visiting Howard University in DC. Howard is what is known as a “historically black university,” founded in the wake of the Civil War to provide opportunities for higher education to African-Americans. It’s not exactly home turf for Republicans, but that’s precisely why Paul went, in order to bridge a massive gap that is hurting the GOP.
Response to his visit was mixed, but yesterday, NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous wrote a generally supportive op-ed on CNN. Although noting that Paul missed his target in most areas, there is one area that has promise:
Paul struck out when he tried to equate today’s Republican Party with the party of Abraham Lincoln, while ignoring much of the 150 years in between. (He even acknowledged his mistakes shortly after). But his willingness to step up to the plate can provide a lesson for a GOP struggling to get on top.
Republicans will not win black votes by paying lip service to party history while attacking social programs and voting rights. But they can make inroads by showing a commitment to civil rights, something Paul managed to do briefly in his remarks.
By any reasonable standard, the War on Drugs has been a total disaster It has not shown any results in terms of reducing drug usage. The cost in money, resources, and lives has been immense. It’s no shock, then, that a whopping 82% of the American public believes it has been a failure. Yet in our political realm, it is the name that cannot be spoken. Political leaders who seriously question it are largely on the fringes, with coverage of the issue mainly relegated to places like Reason and other libertarian sources (as well as some liberal publications). In my experience, it’s rare to even see it discussed in conservative circles - and that’s a great shame. If conservatives could educate themselves on it, I think it could be a great issue. There are numerous reasons why, but here are just three.
First of all, the War on Drugs destroys families, especially within minority communities. Conservatives like to talk about how important the family is, yet seem to be not bothered by the fact that the United States incarcerates 2.3 million people, more than any other nation (except perhaps China). Many of these inmates are fathers, sons, mothers and daughters who are in prison for non-violent drug-related offenses. They are doing hard time alongside violent criminals because our laws are so strict. Instead of getting clean and being able to make something of their lives, they are in prison with felonies on their record, making it near impossible to recover. I can’t see for a second how society and the family unit are bettered by this. Why destroy someone’s life for using drugs?
Those who affiliate themselves, either casually or intensely, with the right wing of the political spectrum need to seriously look themselves in the mirror as regards our policies toward our southern neighbors.
On immigration and the War on Drugs, nativism and paternalism seem to be the dominant fundamentalisms of those who most frequently espouse a fondness for freedom and liberty. On immigration especially, nativism goes directly against not only what America is, a nation of immigrants, but against the beacon of liberty that conservative icon Ronald Reagan characterized America as:
Robinson correctly observes that Reagan would have had nothing to do with the anger and inflamed rhetoric that so often marks the immigration debate today. “Ronald Reagan was no kind of nativist,” he concludes, noting that Reagan was always reaching out to voters beyond the traditional Republican base, including the fast-growing Hispanic population.
It’s worth remembering that Reagan signed the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which opened the door to citizenship for nearly 3 million people who had been living in the country illegally. Robinson is confident Reagan would have supported the kind of comprehensive immigration reform championed by President George W. Bush and approved by the Senate in 2006.
This will seem quite harsh, but I will say it frankly and succinctly: If you think that a child born in this country but the parents of illegal immigrants should be deported, you don’t believe in freedom. You believe in something else; something antithetical to the beautiful message which adorns the Statue of Liberty:
Polls in the state are showing support, albeit reportedly shaky, for marijuana legalization:
California voters, by a modest margin, think they should be allowed to grow and consume marijuana, according to a new poll that also found more than 1 in 3 voters had tried pot and more than 1 in 10 had lit up in the past year.
The Los Angeles Times/USC poll found that voters back the marijuana legalization measure on the November ballot, 49% to 41%, with 10% uncertain about it. But support for the initiative is unstable, with one-third of the supporters saying they favor it only “somewhat.”
For anyone shaky on this issue, I can imagine where you are coming from. Perhaps you’re like Charles Krauthammer and don’t like the thought of living in a world where marijuana and other drugs are available readily in a drug store. To those who share Krauthammer’s concerns, remember that we live in a world of trade offs. We can remain living in a world where drugs are available in the seedy alley behind a local pharmacy, or move to a world where drugs are available safely from the neighborhood pharmacist.
Recently, I have been reflecting on the war on drugs and the fight for marijuana legalization and why so many people are opposed to legalization. What is most alarming to me about this situation is the almost across-the-board lack of support from Republicans, and even vocal opposition to legalization efforts. This is incredibly troubling, if not hypocritical.
While Republicans decry the health care bill as an attack on our rights, as unconstitutional, and opposed to our liberties because of a possible mandate, they at the same time argue that the governments complete ban on a substance, even if it used by an adult in their own home. If you believe the government has the right to dictate what an adult does in their own home to their own body, you ultimately believe that the government owns the citizens.
This philosophy that Republicans abide by via their support for the war on drugs makes many of their arguments against health care ironic. It’s not that I disagree with their views on health care, by all means I am opposed to government-run health care, but this “picking and choosing” of when the government can become pervasive and counter to a liberty-oriented philosophy of rights is simply not consistent.
I have never smoked marijuana. My support for marijuana legalization does not come from a desire to use the substance myself, but from a belief that the government’s role is not to make decisions about what we do to ourselves. Think of it this way – drinking alcohol is not a crime; drinking alcohol and then driving and running someone over is. Smoking marijuana should not be a crime; smoking marijuana and then killing someone is. Marijuana in and of itself is not a crime, nor is the consumption of it. The fact that we put people in prison for possessing a plant, while at the same time call ourselves a “free nation,” is extremely ironic.
Podcast: Jim Bunning, 2nd Amendment, Health Care Reform, Reconciliation, Extremism, Puppycide,Guests: Doug Deal & Mike Hassinger
Featuring a myriad of “every day” people, this ad by NORML addresses the belief that the only people interested in legalizing marijuana are the much maligned “pot-heads” and hippies.
Focusing largely on the failure on prohibition in general, Rob Kampia also points out the large amount of revenue that could be collected by the government should marijuana be made legal.
Joy Behar hosts Steve Baldwin and Dr. Ron Paul, giving them the opportunity to debate the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana.