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September 24, 2010

Can GOP "Pledge to America" be read to suggest drawing down federal involvement in the drug war?

The federal GOP leaders who put together the new "Pledge to America" (available here and here) obviously did not give much thought to the drug war and mass incarceration.  In fact, I searched in vain for any significant mention of any crime and punishment issues in the "Pledge to America" (save for a brief mention of fighting against terrorism and illegal immigration).

Nevertheless, in light of the on-going local, state and national debates over marijunana policy and politics, I could not help but see some of these lines from the Pledge to be supportive of efforts by libertarians and others to urge a deescalation of the drug war at the federal level:

America is an idea – an idea that free people can govern themselves, that government’s powers are derived from the consent of the governed, that each of us is endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness....

America is an inspiration to those who yearn to be free and have the ability and the dignity to determine their own destiny....

We pledge to advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense, and national economic prosperity....

It’s time to do away with the old politics: that much is clear....

Our plan stands on the principles of smaller, more accountable government; economic freedom; lower taxes; fiscal responsibility; protecting life, American values, and the Constitution; and providing for a robust national defense.....

We will launch a sustained effort to stem the relentless growth in government that has occurred over the past decade.

Especially in light of GOP Representative Lamar Smith's recent comments assailing the Obama Adminstration for not getting tougher in the drug war (discussed here), I am certain that the GOP authors of the "Pledge to America" do not mean or want this pledge to be seen as taking any position on marijuana legalization or any other federal drug crime issues.  Still, I find it interesting and useful to think about growth in federal size and spending, as well as the impingement on liberty and on all those who "yearn to be free and have the ability and the dignity to determine their own destiny," that has resulted from the federal government wagging a war on drugs over the last four decades.

Some related posts on pot policy and politics:

September 24, 2010 at 08:07 AM | Permalink


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I wouldn't read too much into this "Pledge". They always start to sound a little libertarian when the dems are in power. If/when the GOP regains power this "Pledge" will be relegated to bum-wiping duty, along with the constitution.

GOP out of power: "Low taxes, small gov't and Freeeeedom!"
GOP in power: "Gays are evil! Terr'ists gonna git us! Immigrants are evil! Who we gonna bomb next?"

Posted by: DanF | Sep 24, 2010 10:04:11 AM

Where libertarianism and crime policy conflict, the tough-on-crime faction of the Republican Party always wins. Republicans in power, however much they claim to be libertarians, are practically never willing to apply that principle to the criminal code.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Sep 24, 2010 11:09:10 AM

A resolution of the War on Drugs is necessary for national security reasons. Large parts of Mexico have been hollowed out by the drug cartels and are effectively autonomous from the national government.

This has occurred for a variety of reasons: the most important are that the Mexican government has lost its monopoly on the use of violence, and is perceived by Mexican citizens as being totally corrupt and undeserving of any loyalty or respect.

The autonomous areas of Mexico are ruled by dynastic criminal gangs, who currently appear to be only interested in the bottom line of their drug business. However, La Familia by its use of religion has almost created the "plausible promise" necessary for the establishment of a proto-state.

Traditional US law enforcement/criminal justice tactics can only attrit the cartels. They have steadily grown stronger and more destabilizing during the entire War on Drugs, all because of the unimaginable profits they are able to make in the US market.

The War on Drugs was lost a long time ago. There is no reason to tip toe around it: total abject defeat.

But no politician of either party will admit it.

Posted by: Fred | Sep 24, 2010 11:12:21 AM

The Republican Party is not libertarian, particularly some of the people running this time around. As with "family values," the war on drugs has a large conservative morality function to it, so the Republicans are not going to vote against it. It is fun and all to play around with their words, but let's not be too serious about the whole thing. Their concern for fiscal sanity, e.g., is laughable when looked at as a whole, no matter how much they insist otherwise.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 24, 2010 11:28:02 AM

They mean the "unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of" Darwin's Law.

Posted by: George | Sep 24, 2010 1:07:33 PM

There are factions of both parties who support the drug war. Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer both came out against Prop 19 in California. Eric Holder and our current Drug Czar - appointed by Obama also added their voice to the opposition.

Democrats have a problem as Government Employee Unions all favor a continuation of the War on Drugs. Many Mental Health professionals do not favor prison, but would like to have that budget moved to their section of the woods. In order to have this done, government would continue to decide which drugs, what delivery, what amount, and who to deliver to. This still amounts to a ton of control.

Legalization will happen, but power is not easily given up.

Posted by: beth | Sep 24, 2010 2:05:11 PM

What does the one day-old Republican Pledge have to do with anything?

The Democrats have had complete control of Congress since the 2006 election. They will continue to have complete control of it throughout the upcoming lame duck session, even if they lose one or both houses.

Having had nearly four years of control, the last part of it with Mr. Obama as President, any failure to "improve" federal drugs laws (or damage them for that matter) lies 100% with the Democrats. They had plenty of time to push through a government takeover of medicine the country didn't want and can't afford. But they can't deal with the relatively less daunting CSA (which THEY passed 40 years ago)? Hello?

When X alone has been steering the ship for four years, it's just cowardice and foolishness to blame its direction on Y.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 24, 2010 5:10:07 PM

...not if Y's sole aim is filibustering and holding power (as opposed to actually accomplishing things), and not if Y reigns supreme as the undisputed heavy-weight champion of demagoguery.

Your cynicism never ceases to amaze, Bill.

To paraphrase something Bill said in another post today, This GOP has packed more mush-mouthed right-wing platitudes into one "Pledge" than anyone since Newt Gingrich.

Posted by: John K | Sep 25, 2010 10:25:10 AM

John K --

"Demagoguery" is your word for arguments that defeat yours -- in court, in Congress (even a Democratic Congress), and in public esteem.

The fact, which you do not and could not dispute, is that the Democrats have had Congress for four years. A good chunk of that time, the Republicans didn't even have enough to filibuster. And STILL the Democrats did zip to even amend, much less repeal, the CSA (which, as you also fail to rebut, THEY overwhelmingly passed in 1970).

You're turning into a partisan hack. The idea that the Republicans are responsible for legislative outcomes over which they had little or no control is preposterous. If the Republicans had the power you attribute to them, this healthcare disaster would never have been enacted, not even with all the lying, bribes, secret mark-ups and armtwisting Pelosi and Reid pulled off.

As I type this, the Dems are heading for the hills trying to avoid responsibility for their disastrous reign in Congress -- both what they had done and what they have failed to do. They promised to end the partisanship in Washington and have made it worse. They promised an end to earmarks and have given us more. They promised to end Bush's irresponsible spending and have doubled down on it. The promised to end politics by payoff and have given us the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase.

I know you detest elections, since they present the opportunity for the voters/taxpayers -- or, as you would have it, the unwashed masses in the political middle who aren't buying your hard-left mantra (about criminal law and all the rest of it) -- to have their say. But have their say they will.

I hope you're ready to party on the night of November 2. If you're not ready, time to start.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 25, 2010 11:40:34 AM

Truly, everything the government does to prevent any sort of drug plight is very ineffective. I think if this pledge is kept, it will make much better use of the government’s time and allow them to focus on issues that are a bit more pressing in nature.

Posted by: GOP | Sep 25, 2010 1:52:24 PM

Demagoguery is my word for appeals to emotions with pitches intended to inspire fear and anger...in lieu of making an honest, reasoned argument.

Posted by: John K | Sep 27, 2010 4:24:46 PM

My, my! Are you admitting that the controlling, massive Democratic majority has capitulated to arguments driven by "fear and anger?"

Actually, it seems to me that the Democrats, what with all their talk about how Republicans are ready to let old people die (by repealing Obamacare) are THEMSELVES appealing to "fear and anger." John Boehner as Satan, dontcha know. Gosh, whatever happened to hope and change? The principal change we've seen is that the country has gone from Bush's irresponsible spending to Obama's grossly irresponsible spending. Otherwise, what with Charlie Rangel and the guys, things seem much the same.

But assuming that you're right, and the Dems are merely capitulating to voters' fear and anger, rather than using them, that would not present the most compelling argument to keep them in power, now would it?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 28, 2010 6:35:05 AM

The following are links to two recent articles from September 20th and 25th in the LA Times about the similarities and dissimilarities between the problems posed by the Colombian and Mexican drug cartels.



Posted by: Fred | Sep 28, 2010 9:39:29 AM

Here is a link to a map prepared by Stratfor showing what that organization considers to be the areas controlled by the Mexican drug cartels.


Posted by: Fred | Sep 28, 2010 9:46:53 AM

Does the loss of sovereignty described in the two articles and the map pose a national security threat to the US?

How does the War on Drugs address the Mexican government's lack of sovereignty?

To what extent has the War on Drugs contributed to the loss of sovereignty?

How does the decrimalization of ONLY marijuana affect the loss of sovereignty?

From time to time in the comment section of this blog there is democrat v. republican trash talking. See upthread.

Does any of the trash talking here or elsewhere help or worsen the loss of sovereignty?

Posted by: Fred | Sep 28, 2010 10:04:49 AM

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