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Populism Is When the People Are the Enemy of the People

Newsweek AMPLIFY - Populism

The text for today is "Stuck in the Middle With You" taken from the learned scholars at Stealers Wheel:

"Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am, Stuck in the middle with you."

That happens to be an old favorite of mine. The thought that I might be a political "centrist" is a bit strange, but politics really does make "strange bedfellows", especially today. (Please practice social distancing).

Meanwhile, in a few cities, "Leftists" and "Rightists" wage increasingly violent "demonstrations" claiming to represent "the People". In fact, most Americans are in favor of both minority rights and civic order. At such a time, we need for our leaders to seek to bring us together.

However, President Trump sent in totally unprepared "police" who tear-gassed "Moms" and beat up a peaceful Navy veteran, etc, all on camera. And it has escalated.

Brilliant, sir. Just brilliant!

Whatever happened to "Good people on both sides"?

Or bad people on both sides?

Well, only Italian politicians could put together a "Populist" coalition government with both a Leftist "Five Star Movement" founded by a comedian, and the Rightist "Northern League", headed by Matteo Salvini, who may be a Joker, but he is definitely not funny.

Of course, the coalition collapsed last year, in the best Italian tradition, so Americans might wonder why that is relevant. But remember, "Fascism" started in Italy, and Benito Mussolini claimed to represent the "People."

To paraphrase Professor Forrest Gump, "Fascist is as Fascist Does." And a country that is as divided as America today is very vulnerable to 'Populism"... i.e., Telling the people what they think they want to hear, in order to persuade them to give up their freedom for economic security and/or public order.

Obviously, this brings to mind Trump's claim, "I alone can fix it." However, for decades Joe Biden promoted the Drug War (and he still opposes legalizing marijuana). The people who rightly deplore Trump's use of militarized "police" have long turned a blind eye to the depredations of the DEA and the Drug War in general.

Today we lament the "good old days" when "Progressives" and "Conservatives" (note the quotation marks) worked together, but there were times when that was disastrous. After the death of college basketball star Len Bias from a crack cocaine overdose in June of 1986, Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, and Ronald Reagan worked together to pass the so-called Len Bias law, "The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986."

This act mandated a minimum sentence of five years without parole for possession of five grams of crack cocaine while it mandated the same for possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine. This 100:1 disparity was reduced to 18:1, when crack was increased to 28 grams (1 ounce) by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

Most whites used powdered cocaine, while crack was more popular amongst Black users, so the net result was to send large numbers of young African Americans to long prison terms.

It also amended the Controlled Substances Act to apply mandatory minimum sentencing provisions to offenses involving the distribution of five grams or less of marijuana to persons under age 21.

So, as Chairman Mao used to say, the great broad masses agreed.

Appropriately, it also created the "Office of National Drug Control Policy," aka the Drug Czar's Office which is still the propaganda arm of the American Drug War.

So how did America become united behind the Drug War? Well, it did not begin with Nixon, although he used it as a part of his "Law and Order" campaign.

John Ehrlichman, counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under Nixon, admitted, "The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."

But the Democrats, ever so "Progressive" and/or "Liberal", were happy to go along because the Drug War was and is simply the militarization of the Nanny state, but as I like to say, the only law that always works is the "Law of Unintended Consequences."

As the nation struggles with the racist abuses of law enforcement, the African American leadership continues to ignore the violence in the Inner Cities caused by the Drug War, and by alcohol-related violence.

Also, poor people in communities of color need easy access to medical marijuana more than whites, but even with legalization, there remain racial disparities between arrests of young black and whites. And yet, many African American leaders still oppose marijuana legalization... along with the most right-wing Republicans. (Many Republicans, like Trump's very own Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, even hates CBD!)

Meanwhile, in Louisville, KY, armed Black and white militia held competing demonstrations. The immediate cause was the shooting death of Breeon Taylor, and EMT, in a botched no-knock raid on March 13. Now, four months later no one has been charged with anything, which was the immediate impetus to the Black protests. Presumably, the white protesters like the idea of killing medical workers in their sleep. Sarcastic, yes, but the problem for Prosecutors is that "no-knock warrants" have long been S.O.P. In the Drug War, it's hard to know who to blame.

Meanwhile back in the present, the American people have rejected marijuana prohibition, over the objections of the establishment, and over 90% of the people are in favor of medical marijuana, but it is still a battle. When the people are united, how does the establishment resist? Or persist? By dividing us.

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