Clinton and the Drug War

I don’t want to make a big deal out of something that really probably isn’t, but I do think there is some significance to Bill Clinton declaring the drug war a failure. It matters precisely because of the possibility of Hillary Clinton running for president in 2016. Clinton is basically on the campaign trail now in the sense that anything he says could be construed as the position of possible candidate Clinton. Does this potentially mean the move toward decriminalization is beginning to gain traction in the political class? If Democrats at the top levels begin openly questioning drug policy, that is both extremely significant and a sign that the youth agenda is beginning to trickle up.

Again, it may not mean this much. But it isn’t nothing.

40 comments on this post.
  1. rea:

    a sign that the youth agenda is beginning to trickle up.

    The youth agenda, ha, ha. It’s been the youth agenda since 1967. Some of those youths are no longer so youthy.

  2. Amanda in the South Bay:

    Isn’t Hilary getting too old?

  3. Erik Loomis:

    By which I mean the social libertarian policies that young people believe in.

    I don’t think polling really shows the baby boomers as consistent supporters of marijuana legalization over the decades, despite the image.

  4. Todd:

    As a money-saving justification ($15 Billion fed. expenditures in drug war in 2010) it might make a nice wedge issue, peeling off some otherwise Republican-voting libertarians and independents.

  5. Incontinentia Buttocks:

    To count as “youth”? Probably ;-)

  6. jon:

    Dawg just wants his hookers and blow, is all.

  7. BackScatter:

    And adding approximately the same amount in tax revenue (if legalized and taxed similar to alcohol and tobacco).

  8. Corey:

    Agreed.

    I think pot legalization’s going to shock everyone in terms of how fast it comes. Seriously, I would not be surprised if in 5 years weed is effectively legalized throughout the country. Whether that’s decriminalization or full legalization/commercialization I don’t know, but people in five years will no longer go to jail for pot possession. Bank on it.

  9. MAJeff:

    Boomers include Willard and Shrub protesting FOR the Vietnam war. The whole “they all be hippies” has so missed how many of them were Romney/Bush pro-war, Barbour anti-civil rights, and general Reaganite fuckwits.

  10. Anonymous:

    Actuarially speaking HRC 2016 will be further from death than Mittens 2012.

  11. cpinva:

    more specifically, these were boomers who stood precious little chance of actually being called upon to serve in that war, by dint of family wealth/connections

    Boomers include Willard and Shrub protesting FOR the Vietnam war.

    since they represented such a minor percentage of the total boomer population, they are hardly a representative sample. that pretty much holds true today, as those same people are monied republicans, and supported both the financial GOP agenda and the romney/ryan ticket.

    knock out that small subset of the boomer generation, and i bet a more significant percentage (while not being actual “hippies”) does support ending the “war on drugs”, and legalizing pot.

  12. James E. Powell:

    For me, it isn’t that she is of a certain age, but rather that she has been around for too long. Hard to get people excited about someone whom they regard as yesterday’s candidate. Cf. Bob Dole.

  13. cpinva:

    what it would mean is that candidate clinton would be inviting a large, organized new enemy to fight her in the trenches:

    Again, it may not mean this much. But it isn’t nothing.

    the “war on drugs” industry. groups that would ordinarily be counted on to support a democratic candidate (police/prison guard unions), would now be aligned against her. along with all the other groups who have a vested financial interest in keeping all drugs, but most especially pot, illegal. their coffers are filled, with the billions of tax dollars spent per year, “fighting” this longest running, never ending war. they won’t give those billions a year up without a nasty fight.

  14. DocAmazing:

    You say that like it’s a bad thing…

  15. DocAmazing:

    I remember saying something similar in 1979…

  16. MAJeff:

    But the boomers are a huge generation with a wide disparity of political values. It was never accurate to attribute the hippies/SDS/Civil Rights movement as THE boomers because there were also a shit-ton of mainstreaming anti-Civil Rights, straight-laced pro-war members of the generation right alongside them. They became the corporate class and the “Reagan Democrats.” The contemporary white Southern GOP are boomers.

  17. Erik Loomis:

    I do think though that things are very different than 1979. It’s that the first half of the Carter administration saw a move toward drug legalization much faster than anyone expected. But by 1979, it’s clear that, like much of left-leaning social policy of that decade, it was 30-40 years ahead of its time. The McGovern coalition couldn’t win in 1972; in fact, it was decimated by the conservative counterrevolution. But there’s zero evidence of such political conditions in 2012.

  18. joel hanes:

    trickle up

    A measurement! In this case, “trickle up” took roughly 45 years.

    I wonder how much longer “trickle down” is going to take? I’m guessing it’s slower.

  19. charles:

    Kudos to him, I suppose, though is it really controversial or something of significant courage to point out that a patently abominable policy is a failure (generally speaking). One thing he said did concern me greatly though: “Don’t be drug-free because it’s illegal. Be drug-free because it’s the key to your freedom; it’s the key to your future.” That is basically implying that if you are a drug user, you are enslaved to your drug use, and have some sort of personal and mental deficiency that is a condition of said use. That’s pretty much what drug warriors have been spouting forever. Now, maybe he was referring to drug addicts, but even still, the vast majority of drug users use responsibly and are not addicts.

  20. jefft452:

    agreed

  21. John:

    Don’t you think that the “first woman president” possibility will alleviate that fatigue of familiarity to some extent?

  22. RhZ:

    After what just happened, in Colorado and WA, I can understand your optimism.

    Remember the old saw about how the tobacco companies were all ready to start offering marijuana products? Maybe they were all true…

    What surprises me is that not only is smoking or possessing now legal, but growing is too…

  23. Josh G.:

    Most recent polls show that a small majority of Americans now favor marijuana legalization. Perhaps more importantly, this support is very heavily weighted towards younger demographics. According to this recent Quinnipac poll, voters age 18 to 29 support legalization by a 67%-29% margin, while senior citizens are opposed 56%-35%. Even voters in the age 30 to 44 demographic strongly favor legalization, 58%-39%. (This latter figure also indicates that, contrary to what some social conservatives like to assume, the liberal views of younger voters probably won’t change much when they grow older and start families.)

    These figures indicate that legalization is probably only a matter of time, and that time may come soon. It’s another cultural war issue, and conservatives pretty much always lose these in the long run. And the demographics most opposed to legalization are demographics that don’t vote for Democrats anyway. The increased polarization of the U.S. political system means that Democratic elected officials will have to pay more attention to their base (younger voters, minorities) and less attention to people who aren’t going to vote for them anyway.

  24. StevenAttewell:

    Precisely. The counter-culture was counter-something; the baby boomers came of age with Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan.

  25. Mike G:

    Another way to look at it, is that for boomers, supporting marijuana legalization became a tribal-allegiance issue. If you are a Boomer who resented hippies based on personal experience then you wouldn’t support legalization regardless of its merits. Following generations X, Y, etc. don’t have much cultural baggage associated with the issue.

  26. James E. Powell:

    Maybe, but I am in my late 50s. I have no idea what might spark the interest of voters under 30. I doubt that ending the Drug War will do it.

  27. James E. Powell:

    is it really controversial or something of significant courage to point out that a patently abominable policy is a failure

    Yes, very often, it is. See, e.g., the Viet Nam war, Cuba, and, if you have the time and energy, American political history of the last 200 years.

  28. rea:

    Certainly my tribe of boomers was all pro-legalization. The kids with the “Four More Years!” posters, not so much.

  29. mds:

    peeling off some otherwise Republican-voting libertarians and independents.

    Since she’ll be unlikely to also run on tax cuts targeted to rich people, and abolishing the FDA, getting ten extra votes will be irrelevant.

  30. Fed up in PA:

    wow quite a change in mindset!
    :)
    Erik Loomis says:
    December 7, 2012 at 1:06 pm
    The idea that Democrats can win on an openly pro-pot agenda–as their centerpiece–is totally absurd.

    That is political suicide. LOTS of older voters are very uncomfortable with this and they are the ones who come out in a midterm election.

  31. sparks:

    2014 != 2016

  32. spencer:

    I think that was in the context of a mid-term election tactic (the key clue there was the inclusion of the phrase “midterm election” in the comment). If you are able to do so, please read this post of Erik’s a bit more closely and observe how it places everything into a somewhat different context.

  33. witless chum:

    Actually, expressing surprise that Bill Clinton would say this while Hillary is possibly in campaign mode for 2016 is part of the same mindset that questions whether pot legalization would hurt the Democrats if they embraced it.

    My guess is that the Democratic nominee in 2016 will have a better position on weed than Obama does, but there’s a big difference between that and what you were suggesting in that previous thread.

    Whoever wins in 2016 will probably make a sop to federalism and vaguely suggest that they’d not interfere in state efforts to decriminalize or maybe even say they’ll ask congress to change the law so that states determine whether marijuana is a schedule one drug inside their borders or not.

  34. Lee:

    A lot of boomers were also weekend hippies like how a lot of people are weekend hipsters. During workdays, they would be normal students or employed people going about their lives but would venture off into the counter-culture a little during the weekends.

  35. Fed up in PA:

    The basic premise of my post was that I think the legalization of cannabis is an excellent issue for a the democratic party to use to get out the vote in the midterm election at the local and national level. Eric refuted that point as “political suicide”. Meanwhile Andrew Sullivan seems to think its a winner for republicans. Why again is it a bad issue for democrats? Its about time this war ends and unlike Mitt last month cannabis legalization has momentum!

    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/12/states-rights-and-marijuana.html

  36. bradP:

    Since she’ll be unlikely to also run on tax cuts targeted to rich people, and abolishing the FDA, getting ten extra votes will be irrelevant.

    Not true.

    LINK

    Most strikingly, a plurality (48 percent) of these fiscally conservative socially liberal millennials planned to vote for Obama, compared to 38 percent who planned to vote for Romney. However, including Gary Johnson as a potential third party candidate left Obama’s numbers fairly unchanged, but brought Romney’s numbers to 29% of these young libertarians as 17 percent said they’d vote for Gary Johnson.

  37. witless chum:

    Legalization would have to pretty damn popular to motivate enough young people to come out to vote for Democrats who otherwise wouldn’t. Is there any reason to believe support is that overwhelming among young people? There’s a big difference between telling a pollster that you support something and actually caring enough about to get your ass to the polls.

  38. Fed up in PA:

    http://justsaynow.firedoglake.com/2012/12/05/quinnipiac-poll-majority-of-american-voters-support-marijuana-legalization/

    new survey by Quinnipiac is the latest in a string of recent polls to find that a majority of American voters think marijuana should be legal. According to Quinnipiac, 51 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal while 44 percent think it should remain illegal.

    The poll found that that men overwhelmingly support marijuana legalization, 59% to 36%, but women remain narrowly opposed, 43% to 52%.

    Not surprisingly the biggest divide existed on partisan and generational lines. Marijuana legalization is supported by 58 percent of Democrats and Independents but by only 31 percent of Republicans.

    The survey also found that the younger a voter is, the more likely he or she is to support legalization. A solid majority of voters under the age of 45 think marijuana should be legal with voters under the age of 30 supporting legalization by a greater than two-to-one margin. On the other hand, senior citizens are the only age group where a majority want marijuana to remain illegal.

    This is the fourth national poll about marijuana legalization released in the last week. Both the surveys from Angus Reid and Public Policy Polling found majority support for marijuana legalization, while the CBS News poll found Americans evenly split 47%-47% on the issue. Based on all the recent polling it is clear that a majority of the country now no longer supports marijuana prohibition and that support for legalization is likely to continue to grow.

  39. cpinva:

    good question:

    Is there any reason to believe support is that overwhelming among young people?

    especially since this same group has been bombarded, since they were in the womb, with anti drug propaganda. brainwashed from birth that drugs are the greatest evil they’ll ever face in their lives (never mind endless shooting wars, torture, economic devestation, global warming, etc), you do have to wonder what % of the 18-35 set have figured out that most of it is lies, brought to them by the same industry that profits from pot being illegal?

    would this group be energized enough to break away from video games & texting, to vote in 2014? i have no clue. but, it’s a question the democrats might well find it’s worth investing some time & money to get an answer to.

  40. Gypsy Howell:

    It’s the drug war equivalent of the typical Clintonian “safe, legal and rare”

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