Obviously, to drug policy reformers, the war on drugs is one of the critical issues of our time — it affects everything, from criminal justice and fundamental Constitutional rights to education to foreign policy to poverty and the inner cities, and on and on.
So it can be baffling to note the degree to which serious discussions about the drug war tend to be missing from the major political blogs on the right and the left. They talk about everything else — abortion, gun control, gay marriage, etc. — but not the drug war, except maybe in passing. [Note, this post is a generalization. I have not read all the blogs all the time, and would be happy to be corrected on this, but it appears to me to be true.]
Drug testing in schools and the workplace? Nothing. Harm reduction? Zip. Medical marijuana? Well, Raich got a bit of play, but where’s the outrage from the left about the jack-booted thugs raiding medical marijuana dispensaries? Where’s the outrage from the right about states’ rights? (Oh, I forgot, that was the old right.)
Mexico? As far as the left is concerned, there is no drug war in Mexico. Some of the right-wing blogs bring it up, but usuall only as an added element to justify a hard-line immigration stance (Mexicans bring disease. And drugs, too.)
Afghanistan? Mostly a side-issue to bash the other side about the war. (“See, the war planning was incompetent.” “See, we need to support the war even more.”)
Criminal justice and sentencing disparity gets some play, mostly due to the tireless efforts of Jeralyn Merritt, the original TalkLeft blogger.
Consider the powerful article by Misha Glenny in the Washington Post yesterday. As of this writing, 40 blogs link to it, but there are no real A-list bloggers there (and you know they all read the Post).
It was interesting, then, to see Brad Plumer concerned (and rather perplexed) in Why the Prison State? He mentions the excellent Daniel Lazare and Glenn Loury pieces I’ve covered regarding incarceration, race, and the drug war.
And it got him thinking…
That’s persuasive, but it still seems incomplete. The War on Drugs, which has contributed more to our mass-incarceration orgy than anything else, strikes me as more than just Jim Crow for the 21st century. […] There seems to be a mass frenzy at work here that goes beyond race, even if that’s how it started.
And then Matthew Yglesias picked up on it, too (although briefly). And both seemed to express some concern over the fact that liberal leaders have been behind much of the historical support of the war on drugs.
I think reading between the lines in the Plumer and Yglesias posts (and the comments) gives a little insight into why so few of the major left or right blogs talk about this — You can’t use the immorality or the injustice of the drug war to score political points. Both sides have been complicit. Both sides have been dupes.
Update: Scott Morgan comments.