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Supporting Harsh Drug Laws is Political Suicide in NY

Submitted by smorgan on
Now that New York's famous Rockefeller drug laws have been scaled back, the issue is being used as a political weapon against those who failed to support reform:

For many Democrats in Albany, it was a landmark achievement: the long-sought overhaul of New York’s strict Rockefeller-era drug laws, repealing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders that critics said disproportionately and unfairly fell on blacks and Latinos.

But that legislative victory last year has emerged as a litmus test in the increasingly bitter five-way Democratic primary battle for attorney general.
"The reforms resonate powerfully in the African-American community," said David S. Birdsell, dean of the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College. "It is also a signature piece of progressive legislation for an increasingly large part of the Democratic primary base. It's a litmus test for progressive voters and an appeal to a group that was disproportionately harmed by the old laws." [NYT]

You couldn’t ask for a better example of how quickly drug war politics are evolving. For decades, our political culture has clung to the conventional wisdom that endorsing drug law reform was instant career suicide. Now we're beginning to see candidates getting burned for failing to endorse reform.

That doesn't mean you can now get elected president on a meth legalization platform, but it should come as a harsh warning to any elected official who thinks they can still sell voters on stupid anti-drug stereotypes from the Reagan years. Certain reform issues now enjoy majority public support and others are surging in that direction.

If you're not ready to embrace and champion reform, that's one thing, but it should at least be clear that shrouding yourself proudly in the drug war battle-flag is no longer a smart campaign strategy.

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