Democratic politicians charged with pervasive pattern of racism

Charles M. Blow has a scathing OpEd in today’s New York Times blasting Democratic politicians: Smoke and Horrors

He refers to a war “being waged primarily against minorities and promoted, fueled and financed primarily by Democratic politicians.”

He notes the latest figures in California showing a marijuana war that grossly and disproportionately targets minorities, yet has a Democratic administration “chest-thumping” against an initiative designed, in part, to address that problem.

He points out that it was a Democratic president who signed the provision forcing young people out of college for drug offenses (aimed primarily at poor young people).

And he reminds us that it’s Democrats that keep pushing to restore funding to the Byrne grants — grants that push a numbers-oriented drug war frenzy that naturally is staged predominantly in minority communities.

Why would Democrats support a program that has such a deleterious effect on their most loyal constituencies? It is, in part, callous political calculus. It’s an easy and relatively cheap way for them to buy a tough-on-crime badge while simultaneously pleasing police unions. The fact that they are ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic men and, by extension, the communities they belong to barely seems to register.

This is outrageous and immoral and the Democrat’s complicity is unconscionable, particularly for a party that likes to promote its social justice bona fides.

No one knows all the repercussions of legalizing marijuana, but it is clear that criminalizing it has made it a life-ruining racial weapon. As Ms. Alexander told me, “Our failed war on drugs has done incalculable damage.”

When will politicians have the courage to stand up, acknowledge this fact and stop allowing young minority men to be collateral damage?


I think this would be a good article to send to your Democratic representatives. For too long (all the way back to Tip O’Neill and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986), the Democratic politicians have gotten a free ride on expanding and supporting the drug war as a way to act tough. They need to learn that there are consequences (that Prohibition Isn’t Free), and that these consequences can affect them politically.

Note: There is an odd disconnect between Democratic voters and Democratic politicians on this issue. It’s true that Democratic voters tend to be more likely to support drug policy reform. Yet while there often are political repercussions for a Democratic politician who doesn’t support gay marriage or abortion rights, they are rarely held to account for their position on drug policy. That needs to change.

This article gives them something they must answer.


Some commenters seem to be missing the point entirely, here.

Of course it’s not just the Democratic politicians. Republican politicians have included Nixon, Reagan, Walters, Souder, and tons of other hard-core drug warriors.

The point is that, for too long, Democratic politicians have viewed themselves in the drug war as Republican-lite, and therefore have acted like they should get credit for being as tough as Republicans, but not have the responsibility for the drug war they’ve been fully complicit in creating and sustaining.

If we continue to call them “almost as bad as the Republicans” then they have no political reason to change. They can continue to prattle on about how drug policy reform is a difficult political thing and now is not the time to waste political capital when there are important other things like health care and abortion rights that need to be front and center.

It’s healthy for Democratic politicians to be held to the fire and made to be aware that they can’t hide behind Republican-lite, but that they are personally responsible for racist policy that harms their constituents. And their constituents have to realize that as well.

The fact that this powerful OpEd from a minority author is in the New York Times one week before election is good timing to get their attention and help them start realizing that this could be a real election issue for them personally one day very soon.

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18 Responses to Democratic politicians charged with pervasive pattern of racism

  1. TrebleBass says:

    I wish they would also say what the disparity is between women and men who get arrested for drug offenses. I’m pretty sure it’d be a big number.

  2. Just me. says:

    We are all collateral damage in any government agenda. They profess to be helping “We The People”….Ive yet to see that come to fruition…on any agenda.

  3. malcolmkyle says:

    Not only does the US have the highest rate of incarceration on the planet, but the racial disparity of arrests, convictions and imprisonment have become grossly pronounced. Nationwide Afro-Americans are arrested, convicted and imprisoned disproportionately. Thirty-seven percent of drug-offense arrests are Afro-Americans, 53 percent of convictions are of Afro-Americans, and 67 percent — two-thirds of all people imprisoned for drug offenses — are Afro-Americans. This is depute the fact that Afro-Americans do not use drugs at a perceivable higher rate than white Americans. – 8.2% of whites and 10.1% of blacks use illicit drugs.

    Much of the voting rights & victories won by the civil rights movement during the 1960s have effectively been eroded. Nearly 5 million people are now barred from voting because of felony disenfranchisement laws. The United States is the only industrial democracy that does this.

    Drug prohibition has become a successor system to Jim Crow laws in targeting black citizens, removing them from civil society and then barring them from the right to vote. If harsh sentences deterred illicit drug use, America would be “drug-free” by now. But that is not the case, and never will be. The drug war has given the “former land of the free” the highest incarceration rate in the world and disenfranchised millions of citizens. It is a cure worse than the disease.

    One out of three young African American (ages 18 to 35) men are in prison or on some form of supervised release. There are more African American men in prison than in college. Thats a four times higher percentage of Black men in prison than South Africa at the height of apartheid.

    Let’s look at the statistics again: (2008 – illicit drug use by race) “Current illicit drug use among persons aged 12 or older varied by race/ethnicity in 2008, with the lowest rate among Asians (3.6 percent) (Figure 2.9). Rates were 14.7 percent for persons reporting two or more races, 10.1 percent for blacks, 9.5 percent for American Indians or Alaska Natives, 8.2 percent for whites, 7.3 percent of Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, and 6.2 percent for Hispanics.”

    That’s 8.2% of whites and 10.1% of blacks using illicit drugs. Now look at the incarceration statistics:

    (2007 – incarceration rate by race) “The custody incarceration rate for black males was 4,618 per 100,000.
    while the incarceration rate of white males was 773 per 100,000.

    This means that there are at least 5 times more blacks incarcerated for drug offenses than should be expected. This is clearly a gross injustice!

    Whatever the exact dynamics involved, these horrific racial disparities are a direct result of drug-prohibition and are quite clearly unacceptable. This moronothon has done nothing but breed generations of incarcerated and disenfranchised Afro Americans and any citizen not doing their utmost to help reverse this perverse injustice may duly hang their head in shame.

  4. pfroehlich2004 says:

    It’s time to start punishing Democratic politicians (and Republicans while we’re at it) who defy the will of their constituents on this issue. Drug reformers need to start participating in party primaries. Politicians need to to be made to understand that continuing to push prohibition can be a career-ending move.

  5. are we supposed to pretend that nixon, reagan, bush and bush the second had nothing to do with any of this?

    there is no question that the war on drugs is waged disproportionately against minorities, but blaming this on one party over another (and gee, how convenient to release this one week before an election) is another red herring.

    the drug war is and always has been purely a human rights issue. repubs and demos are equally culpable in violating the Constitution’s protection of equal rights for ALL.

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  7. If I had a rocket launcher says:

    TrebleBass unlike the racial disparity it is factually correct that men are significantly more likely to enjoy getting high. Even AA meetings are disproportionally populated by men. My speculation is that women are more secure in themselves because they are needed to progenerate the human race. Men, not so much. One guy can keep hundreds of women knocked up every year. Hundreds of guys to one women still can only produce 1 baby per year with an outside chance of twins or triplets. If it were true that minorities disproportionally engaged in MAD use the issue of race wouldn’t be important. But so far the only race which I’m aware of having a more significant use rate of MADs is the Native Americans/Inuits. The Inuit populate entire cities in Northern Canada and it sure seems to my from observation that they can really fuck up their lives with pathological, destructive abuse of MADs. It’s no reason to keep MADs illegal, they will use drinking alcohol if they have nothing else. The Native Americans/Inuit do seem more disposed to pathological self destructive substance abuse than Caucasians, Asians or Negroes and I believe that the numbers support my perception. If I’m wrong about this please let me know and at least give me a starting point to help me analyze why I’m mistaken.

    I got to spend some time in the Graybar Hotel back in 1987 in Fairfax County VA. Fairfax county at the time had a population that was right around 11% black people. The jail’s population was 60-65% black. I still recall the day that a newly arrived guest who was bloack moved into our hotel suite. It was his first time as a guest at the Graybar. He and I got to talking and he mentioned to me how shocked he was that so many white people were taking advantage of the county’s hospitality. I felt really bad having to give him the news that blacks were disproportionally represented by a factor of almost 6 times what their numbers would be were the population representative of the at large population. The only way to justify this would be if black people were actually more prone to being criminals than white people for whatever reason. But it’s been proven that it’s just not so. Lots of people see this and give kneejerk reactions trying to fit it into a non-racial meme. They’re poor and it’s the rich who get out of jail, look at how OJ Simpson got away with murder. While I certainly believe that we’ve come a long way since the days of Strom Thurmond’s bid to be elected POTUS in 1948 it doesn’t mean that these racial disparities aren’t real. So called ‘racism without racists’ doesn’t make it’s victims any less a victim of racism. Yeah, it’s a valid point that black people are less financially secure than white people in the US. A significant reason for that was because white people stole the resources of black people for a couple of hundred years and passed that stolen money to their children. Don’t ask me to propose a equitable way to balance this very wrong situation because it is beyond my ken.

    Some people like to blame all white people for holding blacks as chattel. The reality is that slavery ended because some white people told other white people that it wasn’t acceptable and they couldn’t do it anymore. I really do feel good about the fact that my family had nothing to do with slavery. My great great grand parents on both sides of my family arrived in the US from Ireland in the 1880s. My mom’s great grandfather absconded to avoid criminal charges of stealing a pig from the British. It was his pig before the British came and took it in lieu of taxes due, and great great grandpa stole it back ‘to feed his poor starving family,’ at least that’s the family’s official story. Sharing substantial DNA with great grandpa I can state with almost 100% certainty that he most likely stole it back simply because it was his fucking pig. That’s how it would likely have played were it me in his place. Oh well, at least I know the etiology of my genuine hatred for authorities.

  8. If I had a rocket launcher says:

    Speaking of Strom Thurmond’s 1948 bid to be elected POTUS on a platform of bigoted racism, Here’s a clip of Larry Wilmore, Senior Black Correspondent of the Daily Show commenting on how lame today’s racism is versus days past. He has a clip of Strom Thurmond’s speech from 1948 when he was running for POTUS on the Dixiecrat ticket which really does point out how racism has been significantly tempered.

  9. Ripmeupacuppa says:

    One guy can keep hundreds of women knocked up every year.

    And that’s without even trying!

  10. fixitman says:

    This is not a partisan issue! It’s a mistake to “blame” the mess we have now on either of the two difficult to distinguish from the other political parties. Prohibition doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter if your personal leanings are left or right the facts remain facts. The blame game isn’t helping.

  11. Ivebeentellingusaboutthedems says:

    Nixon was responsible for signing the CSA. But, ever piece of drug prohibition legislation was crafted by the Democrat lead US Congresses, even the piece Nixon signed. All but one drug prohibition law was signed into existence by Democrat Presidents, too. I’m a pre-Nixon conservative & I can tell you he & his cronies joined the Dem prohibitionists & hijacked the GOP while they were at it. Visit to review the history of the Party. From Lincoln freeing the slaves from Southern Democrats to the first Civil Rights Act (repealed by Democrat packed US Supreme Court). Prior to 1972 the GOP did not meddle in private affairs of the citizenry. That leaves only one Party responsible for prohibition. Even the Volstead Act was voted into being by a Democrat lead Congress over the veto of the President. Roosevelt campaigned on overturning the Volstead Act to get elected & that’s one of the 1st things he did. Joe Biden crafted the ONDCP & coined the term ‘Drug Czar’. How is Democrat compatible with Czar? Biden crafted the Asset forfeiture (seizure) Act & the Drug paraphernalia Act. How is it constitutional to take personal property without trial? That’s lead to a lot of false evidence being planted in order to take innocent citizen’s nice new SUV’s for Police use. How is it drug paraphernalia is worth more jail time than the drug being used? Go Democrats. Go GOP. That’s why I went Libertarian. Politicians are quickly figuring out what Roosevelt did, that they stand to lose more votes than they’ll gain by being a Hardline prohibitionist. Voter’s are fed up with the war on cannabis users & they’re afraid of the cops, too. The drug cartels are using prohibition profits to corrupt cops, prison guards, judges & AG’s. I think of cannabis prohibition as Volstead Act II. This war on cannabis users is on the way out.

  12. TrebleBass says:

    If I had a rocket launcher, women don’t use drugs at such reduced rates in comparison to men as women get arrested for in comparison to men.

  13. DdC says:

    Ivebeentellingusaboutthedems you’re entitled to to form an opinion, but not to form it as fact. Southern racist KKK Dixie Democrats turned into GOPerverts after Johnson signed the CRA. The Goldwater John Birch zenophobes were still spouting the Reefer Mad nonsense against Mexicans as Anslinger did. As far as parties dems have always represented workers while the Wallmart St moneysluts bought off the GOP long ago.

    The 37 tax ax is dead. Tim Leary killed it in 69. Nixon and the Neocons weaseled the CSA through Congress while the world watched the bogus Watergate circus. Same game plan as when Rockefeller removed the farmers ethanol while all the people heard was Al Capone. Then again with Hearst and the corporatists at IG Farben Dupont, Pharmaceuticals and Fossil fools in competition. The 37 tax ax only banned recreational. Medicinal and Hemp were still legal until 1969. The 37 act heavily regulated and required a government tax stamp. But it was technically legal till the Neocons.

    You perpetuate the red herrings pitting Dems against GOPers when the money financing both is International vested interests and Banks. Shafers commission recommended decriminalizing and Nixon rejected it. Wars are waged by Congress and have specific rules of conduct concerning trading with the enemy and profit. Thats why Neocons wage Police Actions or reduce wars with Mission Accomplished. Now Haliburton and Dyncorps can profit all they want. On the $trillion of tax money teabogs don’t seem to bitch about. Same as the Ganja “police action” Or Vietnam, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Colombia and Iraq.

    Boosh created the largest government, largest deficit and greatest tax burden in History, not very GOPer. Klintoon arrested more for pot than Nixon, Reagan and Bush 1 combined. Inhaling or not. Lumped in ditchweed to raise statistics on eradications 98%. Kicked out more GI gays. Not too Liberal. Both are Neocons with no allegiance to the US. The planet is their country and the game is cheap labor. Out sourcing jobs to China is more bottom line, period.

    So the so called Industrialists will use whomever it takes. Say whatever you want to hear and do what is required to maintain the status weird. Divided by hobgoblins and greed. Ganja and Hemp are public domain the same as the air waves. That doesn’t mean they’ll let us have Pirate Radio and TV or any truth without a fight. 95% of the media is owned by 5 corporations sharing an agenda. Most of the pot arrests are possession. Most of the trials are plea bargained to avoid 404 gag rules and mandatory sentencing. Its rigged and those red flags fall on blind eyes. So get real and solve the problem or pretend your side is winning and continue.

    Drug Worrier solution. Barthwell and Bayer selling their sublingual gadget. Just lower the bogus classification from schedule#1 to a bogus classification schedule#2 requiring a triplicate and keeping it in the Pharmacy. Keeping Hemp and Ganja outlawed. Ghee would they do dat?

    No one likes to buy Band Aids until they get cut. Instead of whining about safety nets using taxes on citizens, try speaking out about the corporate politicians causing the need in the first place. Drug propaganda or Cayman island shelters cost the workers more than the poor cost. If the reason to keep Boosh’s tax cuts for the wealthiest fascist is that it will create jobs. Why didn’t it create jobs? If everyone using their SS feels it works well, why fix it? You would rather have seniors die on the streets after Hoovers great depression? GOPerverts are more hypocritical falsely claiming to be Pro Life. They’re not even anti abortion. More pesticides and poisons aborting babies in the goper fortune 700 club bible belt than RvW. More death, baby killing and abortions in the Boosh Lieraq police action bombing infrastructures from 30,000 feet popping go go pills. Poison not used on hemp.

    The Neocon Ganjawar is as anti American as Benedict Arnold or the Syphilis Tests on black prisoners. The GOPerverted cheerleaders and the Demonkrat cowards hiding from it. Better chance of removing ignorance from cowards than to take profits from greedy cutthroats. We the People have no power but we do have more of us. We saw what 8 years of Boosheney rape and pillage did. Why would GOPers even be allowed to run let alone the insanity of voting for one?

    There’s a Monopoly on Marijuana Growing & Research By Dave Stancliff
    CN Source: Times-Standard August 09, 2009 USA

    US Government Patents Medical Pot
    July 3rd, 2008 By: Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    Andrea Barthwell, Snake Oil Salesman

    Richard Nixon’s Vengeful War on Marijuana

  14. claygooding says:

    Amen DdC, and they forgot to kiss my ass while they were doing all that.

    I am sorry for all the kids that died in OKC but if that guy had parked a bigger bomb at a mandatory session of congress instead of OKC,he would be a National hero now instead of gassed.

  15. darkcycle says:

    Uh…me too. I think.

  16. allan420 says:

    sorry pete… this is a shameles and blatant self-promotion! (but certainly not traditional spam) As promised folks, the 2011 Cannabis Calendars are ready… please, feedback on what y’all think.

    As to the Dems… I have said since John *cough* (insert “derisive politician comment” here) Kerry totally blew his chances by not heeding the words of those of us who maintained the busiest topic on his website’s bulletin board (notice no other politician has done anything similar since) during his run (more like an out-of-shape jog) for Prez. In any close election we can carry the swing vote and yet the Dems just keep pissing on us. Except for those I like on their own merits, Dems are and have been in my crosshairs for a cuppla decades. Buncha wimps that colelctively really need to get a grasp of on-the-ground reality and… they really need to grow a pair.

    In the truer sense tho’… the point is moot because the “two parties” are in truth one party that are but two heads on the same slothful beast, pretending to argue whilst thieving as much as they can stuff in their pockets. The beast that says corporate dollars in any amount, secretly given, is “free speech.”

  17. malcolmkyle says:

    Ivebeentellingusaboutthedems said:

    “Even the Volstead Act was voted into being by a Democrat lead Congress over the veto of the President.”

    That would have made a very good story, were it not for the facts:

    1) The Sixty-sixth United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, comprising the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, DC from March 4, 1919 to March 4, 1921, during the last two years of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives was based on the Thirteenth Census of the United States in 1910. Both chambers had a Republican majority.

    2) The President who vetoed the Volstead Act was Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat.

  18. slacker says:

    Good post , I’m going to spend more time researching this topic

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