Rand Paul will mount a very serious campaign to be the Republican nominee in 2016. In fact, right now my money is on him securing the nomination. His campaign will include traditional libertarian influences such as reduced overseas commitments and a full-throated rejection of macroeconomics (anyone who follows retro revivals knew it was only a matter of time before the Gilded Age came back into style). And just like a nakedly ambitious Tom Carcetti touring Hamsterdam in season three of The Wire, Mssr. Paul the Younger senses that he can make a watered down repackaging of an entirely sensible component his ideological movement, the one that makes high school punk rockers with spikey blue hair fall in love with libertarianism, a central component of his campaign.
De facto legalization of marijuana for recreational use and a radical reexamination of the Drug War itself.
Of course he will. He senses this issue can set him apart from the Republican pack at a time when his party is in desperate need of reinvention and bold ideas, but still just can’t quite seem to make credible forays into the demographics that delivered Barack Obama to victory last fall. The minority ones, that is. The ones who have been affected most by the social ravages of America’s Most Catastrophically Failed War On An Abstraction.
Here he is, throwing up trial balloons on ending mandatory minimum sentencing for possession, perhaps the greatest national disgrace associated with the Drug War:
He even looks like Tom Carcetti, doesn’t he?
Can’t you imagine him locked in a room with his advisors, discussing how seizing this presently unclaimed issue could catapult him into the national consciousness (particularly considering that he has inherited nearly all of his father’s national support base along with the Tea Party political machine)? How it could even, just maybe, create inroads into minority communities that are at present completely closed to the GOP? To “split the minority vote,” in the language of political consultancy? Like Nixon going to China? That it could be packaged to fiscal conservatives as a common sense measure designed to shave billions off of state and federal budget deficits?
Since the answer to all of those questions is obviously “yes,” I now challenge you to answer one final question. This will count for 100% of your grade in today’s lesson.
How would Rand Paul forcing a radical reexamination of the social cataclysm that has been the War on Drugs not be a fantastic thing for America?
I’ll make you wait for it…
The correct answer is: Of course this would be a good thing for the country. This debate should have started decades ago. The United States enjoys the highest incarceration rate in the world today largely due to the logistics of accommodating mandatory minimum federal sentences for non-violent drug possession charges. Those who serve these sentences are only thrust deeper into the world of violent gangs during their time in prison, as a simple matter of survival. Debts accrued in prison are then repaid on the outside. A federal law enforcement agency is created from scratch and then entrusted with “scheduling” drugs based on the harm they inflict to society, then unsurprisingly blocks the National Institute of Health from conducting research into whether there is any basis to their findings so as to avoid challenges to its jurisdiction and access to taxpayer coffers. Judges are paid by PACs affiliated with the prison industry to pack prisons with as many offenders as possible to keep the demand for new facilities high.
The War on Drugs and the staggering Prison Industrial Complex that has arisen as a direct result of its policies constitute the greatest social justice crisis that has existed in America since the end of slavery. And any elected official who has the courage to begin a serious a national debate on bringing it to an end has–at a minimum–my attention. Close to $1 trillion dollars of taxpayer dollars has been spent over forty years, demand has never been higher, and the human cost visited upon dying cities and rural trailer parks through drug gang turf wars exceeds that Mexico has experienced over the past ten years as a result of its own crackdown on the supply of narcotics to the massive U.S. drug market.
The Drug War has failed beyond the capacity of English language amplifiers to express, and it must end immediately. Do I think you should be able to buy heroin or methamphetamines in your local 7-11? Of course not. These substances destroy lives and they must remain illegal. Those who profit from the serfdom these drugs create in users must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Do I think marijuana is significantly less dangerous than alcohol when consumed recreationally and has clearly demonstrated medical benefits? Yes, of course I do. Because it is and it does. Do I think that other presently prohibited “Schedule I” substances such as LSD or MDMA could have beneficial effects when used in a clinically controlled setting? Ask the PR guy for any pharmaceutical company what he thinks about the idea that mind-altering drugs can be a good thing for society.
This final question is for me. What impact does said future Presidential candidate’s views on turning America into a sweatshop nation with no central bank, that has abandoned the wisdom it acquired in the ashes of the Second World War and retreated from engagement with the rest of humanity have on the off chance that I will even consider voting for or donating money to him?
Well, to be honest with you, the issue I’ve discussed here is important enough to me that I may put faith in our system of checks and balances and reserve my judgement on that last question for the time being.