Just so nobody misses it, I want to highlight Mr. Pierce’s argument for historical memory when it comes to the “unintended consequences” of The War on (Some People, with regard to Some) Drugs:
… You will hear, often, of the explosion in the United States prison populations “since 1980.” That date is not accidental. We elected a president that year who ran on an implicitly — and, occasionally explicitly — racist appeal to white voters by which he argued sub rosa that those white voters should be frightened of black criminals, and angry at black people who were “exploiting” the welfare system. This was the final triumph of the political calculation made when Harry Dent drew up the Southern Strategy for the Republicans when the Democratic party became identified with the triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. It succeeded so well that it kicked off a decade of racial reaction. The accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement began to be rolled back. (The Justice Department went to court to defend tax exemptions for segregated “Christian academies.”) This, of course, continues to this moment, with the assault on the Voting Rights Act.
The entire fundmental basis for what became known as “cultural conservatism” was a fear of black crime and an anger at welfare “fraud.” It was an decade of archetypes. Welfare queens. Crack babies. Superpredators. And the national media went along for the ride, because the archetypes were scary enough — “IN YOUR TOWN!” — to move the ratings needle. That very few of them panned out didn’t matter. They served everyone’s short-term goals well enough to become established as fact. Then, in the middle of it all, the “war” on drugs got itself declared, and the face of the war on drugs was a black or brown face, and scared legislatures passed appallingly draconian laws in response. And a lot of black and brown people — an inordinate number, given the population as a whole — got tossed into prisons that are now so overcrowded that most of them are timebombs. So we’re looking at some of those laws again. This is a good thing. But if we really want to do it right, we should look honestly at the history of those laws and decide which consequences were truly unintentional.
I was reading a post about this at LGF and some brave soul went to some of the wingnut sites to get their reaction. Would you believe this is the beginning of Obama’s private army, made up of ex-cons and criminals of the pigmented persuasion?
Honestly. Some days I despair.
Not that I disagree with Pierce, but there was an actual sharp increase in the murder rate during that time, which certainly helped Reagan stoke racial fears.
TPM has a long post with an interesting chart documenting the rise and fall of the murder rate.
If AG Holder holds true on getting rid of mandatory minimums, my opinion of him will improve markedly, and he no longer occupies the basement shared with Alberto Gonzales as the worst.
Just remember: with the wingnuts, it’s always projection.
God bless Charlie pierce.
Why didn’t the Blacks heed Mrs. Reagan’s advice and just say no to drugs?
The key thing is that it’s another great example of the shock doctrine. There was a real crisis, which Reagan used as an excuse to do a bunch of stuff he wanted to do anyway, even when the response did no good or even exacerbated the problem.
You will hear, often, of many things in the United States getting worse, usually intentionally, “since 1980.” There’s a reason for that.
@Roger Moore: They will obviously need to buy even more guns to protect themselves from Obama’s private black and brown army.
@Emma: I’ll have to hurry up and commit some crimes so I can go to jail and be eligible. I hope there’s still time
Trust me, bending an arc lamp is not recommended.
@Emma: Some days we all despair. When we lived in Dallas, the school had class trips to the rodeo. The thought that children attended the rodeo in Missouri sickens me. The next generation could be worse because of it.
Is there a functioning democracy without common decency? I don’t think so.
I dunno. I think as long as it makes a profit and people are essentially stupid, justice won’t ever get here.The mirage just manages to look closer.
Another contributor is that probably more than 90% of the black characters on TV, both network and cable, are in nitty-gritty crime dramas. As TV is the closest a lot of real ‘muricans ever get to any form of black culture, their perception of what black folks are like is incredibly skewed. There’s a LOT of rural folks who would be as shocked as Bill O’Reilly was when he went to a black restaurant in Harlem and found it full of black folks who were just there eating their meals in peace, almost like they were just like us.
The Newsmax link to the right reads “Holder: Roll Back Reagan Drug Laws”. So I guess the narrative will be “blasphemy”.
I was surprised to hear snippets of Holder’s speech on the radio. (Surprised by the content, that is.) Good for him.
California just basically got rid of mandatory three-strike sentencing last year IIRC, so there’s some momentum here.
@gnomedad: haha.. I just scroll right past that pesky site but since you mentioned it, I read the headlines . Cruz’s pastor dad blasted Obama but no mention of the gays he attacked.. hmmm..
Is it as bad as crossing the streams?
Did it really start with Reagan? I thought it had started at least a decade earlier with Nixon, who was running on all the same themes.
Ah you with short memories. John Mitchell? Ed Meese? John Ashcroft? All light years ahead of Holder in the run to the basement of the DOJ.
@Chris: Nixon ran on the themes, but the damage to the criminal justice system was mostly done under Reagan.
Would it help if they called themselves a “militia?” They can plant bombs in FBI buildings, fly planes into IRS buildings, even shoot doctors.
@NotMax: I’ll admit I was thinking about one of those extra-bright desk lamps with a flexible neck, which mostly get called ‘arc lamps’ around here. Never could resist a punning title!
@Wag: yeah, that’s a classic firebagger comment lacking in appreciation for the pure shit that Reagan put into that office.
Holder hasn’t been perfect but he hasn’t been this monster than the emo left and the right wing nut jobs portray him. The guy has been vigilant when it comes and to voting rights, stop and frisk, and abuses by police departments across the country. And lately civil and fraud charges against Bank of America and JP Morgan.
That must be a very localized nomenclature. Arc lamp
Never heard those referred to as anything other than gooseneck lamps before.
@Billy Dilly: picking on the non white AGs, ha? How about the one who was actually sentenced to prison? I don’t understand the irrational hatered of Eric Holder from the left and the right.
@Patricia Kayden: I was PTA President for a small elementary school in Riverside CA in 1986, and we had Red Ribbon Day every year. It was to remind kids to just say no to drugs and it was stupid and I told my board that we shouldn’t be wasting our time and money cutting and tying ribbons for a meaningless gesture like that, and I got what amounted to the Brawndo response: the kids will be reminded not to use drugs.
@NotMax: Tried googling, and it looks like ‘arc lamp’ and ‘arch lamp’ may be converging in the minds of us consumer types…
@beltane: Didn’t the current POTUS talk about the way Reagan transformed the country? He may have meant it in a different way.
You know I am in a bad place right now and I just realized that there is nobody I can call. I hate that.
@ankh hotep: I remember that. I never thought it was Obama “complimenting” Reagan like some people thought.
I thought it was more Obama saying that yeah Reagan “was” a transformational figure in American politics I remember Obama being in one of his reflexive interview phases and he was saying that good or bad (we of course all agree bad) Reagan’s admin did “transform” US politics, more so than Clintons
Mike in NC
Yes, 1980 was a watershed year. Saint Reagan vanquished the odious Jimmy Carter, welfare queens and strapping young bucks were put on notice, and the media has stuck to that narrative ever since.
Mike in NC
@Litlebritdifrnt: Wishing you the best.
@Litlebritdifrnt: So sorry.
Jim, Foolish Literalist
Right down to Bill Clinton saying, in a SOTU address IIRC, that “the era… of Big Government…is over!”
Leave us not forget state laws disenfranchising felons, either permanently or by requiring an individual petition for restoration of voting rights. Feature or bug?
@lamh36: Yeah, I agree. I don’t think it can be disputed that Reagan was transformational. So was Pol Pot. Doesn’t mean it was in a good way.
@Violet: That would have been super rad if Obama had name-checked Pol Pot.
@lamh36: Yeah many emo’s got mad but like many things they never read and understand context. He said that Reagan transformed politics and the country in a way Nixon and Clinton did not and he wanted to be transformational. He even said that he disagreed with his policies and vision but admired his political skills. Reagan said the same thing about FDR when he was in office.
I Heart Breitbartbees
@Emma: Only some days you despair? You have far more hope than I, though that may change.
@Litlebritdifrnt: Seriously, feel free to unburden yourself here if you need to. We tend to be a sympathetic bunch.
@Litlebritdifrnt: I completely feel your pain. And I send good wishes to your mum and hub.
And the national media went along for the ride, because the archetypes were scary enough
No the media went along because they are a bunch of lazy fucking stenographers and the GOP was real good at supplying stereotypes, not archetypes. The GOP figured out early on how stupid and lazy the media had become.
@AnotherBruce: The media also went along because they live or at least work in New York City and Washington DC, two cities that went into serious decline during the 1970s.
Well there are a few things tangled up here that should be untangled: crime, drugs, hippie-punching, and race.
First of all, Pierce is right that the War on Black Brown and Poor people was a Reagan-era phenomenon. It was straight-up racism. The anti-drug cover for it– which tangled the three things together– had Nancy “Just Say No” as the big propaganda arm, and had the added benefit of a hippie-punching aspect of it (those damn potheads!) that the right wing and fundamentalists loved.
But it is true that crime was very high in the late 1970s, especially in big cities. Like, scary high. You didn’t walk around a lot of NYC unless you were nuts. Seemed like murders, muggings, beatings, rapes, were waiting on every corner.
I think that was more due to the crumbling economy of the time, and the alarming decay of cities. NYC in particular went literally bankrupt. Inflation was high enough that not just the moneylending elite but everyone felt its effects, and it was devastating to the poor and to seniors on fixed income: the rent (and gas prices, and food prices, etc.) was too damn high and kept going higher.
So it wasn’t so much that Reagan stirred up fears, he just used the ones that were there, and gave them a racist and cultural interpretation (i.e. stating that the cause of the problem was non-white people and hippies, when it was actually economic) and also a politically-sellable, perfectly dog-whistle-friendly, drug prohibition cover for going after those folks.
Reagan went to war against black people, brown people, liberals, hippies, civil rights in general, and the 1960s, and he found the political masterstroke of using drugs as a cover/dogwhistle for all of the above.
That’s where this surveillance state came from. Those are the laws keeping it going. We need to repeal them.
I don’t know if you have shared with the group or not yet but just wanted to say that we can sometimes be half decent here so please let us know how we can be supportive.
Villago Delenda Est
@Mike in NC:
Just as important, Reagan destroyed all of Carter’s energy independence initiatives, at the behest of the fossil fuel tycoons.
If Carter’s initiatives had not been destroyed, we’d be in much better shape right now to deal with both energy independence and global climate change.
Actually, it’s a bit worse; I was just watching LOD interview the guy who took the video. His wife is from Taiwan and they had brought what sounded like an exchange student from Taiwan to the rodeo to give him a slice of American culture. Ended up with the rather unpleasant side of our culture.
@Litlebritdifrnt: We’re here. You’ve seen it work with others.
@I Heart Breitbartbees: I try very hard to remember this bunch. Even the ones that piss me off are decent human beings, with one or two exceptions. If we’re a slice of America, decency is winning — slowly.
Unload if you need to. We have broad shoulders, big ears and willingness to use them both.
@Wag: Holder only prevented Texas from changing the voting rules in Texas, and is going to take them on again. That’s a meh because…well it’s a good thing, so people forget that it happened.
He’s not the worst, by a long shot.
@Villago Delenda Est:
And even with that destruction, those initiatives changed things enough that national energy consumption didn’t rise above 1979 levels until 1992.
That’s one of the reasons it pisses me off that so many have bought into the conservative propaganda that Carter was a “bad” president. He was less effective in many areas than I would have liked, but in terms of what he tried to do, he was a better president than we deserved. It’s appalling that he is considered “worse” than someone like Reagan, who was more skilled and used those skills to destructive ends. As was noted earlier in the day, the number of trends that are bad for regular people that are often described as starting “around 1980” or “about thirty years ago” or “in the past few decades” is just astounding, as is the general acceptance that they “just happened,” rather than being a direct consequence of Reagan Administration policies.
@ankh hotep: One of my favorite things from Harry Potter is in the first book, when Harry is getting his wand. The wand he gets is a twin of Voldemort’s, and when the shopkeeper points it out he says something to the effect “The owner of the other wand did great things. Terrible things, but great things.” I always liked the separation of great from terrible, one being a scale and the other being the consequence.
There have been a number of transformational figures throughout history, but not all of them good.
Try not to despair, and as better persons than I have already said – this can be a pretty supportive group.
What part of the country are you in? I have this (probably misguided) idea that there’s gotta be someone else from here in your area, might be worthwhile to have a mini-meetup, if that would help.
@Litlebritdifrnt: Thinking of you. Hope it gets better. Those life flight bills are ridiculous.
Mike in NC
@SFAW:Jacksonville, NC area
Mike in NC
@Redshift: Carter would have been re-elected easily had it not been that unpleasantness in Iran, which the media milked every night for months. Granted he was a bit clueless.
Fuck you, Ted Koppel.
@Mike in NC:
Oy. A little far for the MA contingent.
As I said, probably misguided.
@Mike in NC:
I think it was more than just that, although that was certainly part of it.
I think when people started referring to him as “the white Barack Obama” he was doomed.
Mike in NC
@SFAW: I’d be open for a BJ meetup in Wilmington some time
A bit more, inflation was rampant(since the Nixon admin), the economy was slowing(the Volker Fed policies to control inflation), and add to that the Iranian hostage crisis and reinstituting the draft. The Carters also got along with the Washington press corps about as well as the Clintons, with the Georgia mafia(Carter aids). There was also the ‘Malaise’ speech, where he never actually said malaise. Reagan had a happy attitude, Carter was in the Rose Garden in a funk.
That all said, I voted for Carter.
@Patricia Kayden: Acknowledging your snark, however, there has been at various times a commercial on TV stating that 48% of drug use was in the cities and asking where the other 52% was. The visual for that voice over was a nice suburban street with white kids on it.
Enhanced Voting Techniques
Weren’t we just discussing the spike in violent crime in the 70’s and 80’s along with how it paralleled lead in gasoline use? Probably more reasonable to say there was a crime wave in that era, in response the power that be(tm) responded by rounding up the usual suspects (as in – harass people who aren’t white for being not white) and then when that didn’t work, they doubled down and doubled down.
This all started with Nelson Rockefeller in 1973:
@Jeremy: I’m glad that President Obama ignored the cries (from the left and right) for him to dismiss Holder. I stopped listening to Bill Press when he joined that chorus.
I Heart Breitbartbees
@Emma: That’s why I finally started posting here after more than a year of lurking. I needed to interact with more people from the reality-based community, and I have been consistently amused and informed by this bunch, with two or three exceptions.
Part of the reason the media went along with the Reagan blitz was that they had been getting hammered about “liberal bias” by Accuracy in Media types for most of the ’70’s and that combined with Reagan’s win and popularity convinced them the criticism was right. It was the result of a long game the results of which we’re still living with.
Paul in KY
@Mike in NC: Y’all could have a beach meetup on Emerald Isle or go down to Topsail.
@Enhanced Voting Techniques:
While leaded gas may have been a factor*, the economic tailspin, foreign policy crises, the end of the draft, and the general ‘me decade’ obliviousness certainly had more to do with it than lead in gasoline.
*Confession: back in the mid 80’s I owned a 75 Caprice that I knocked the restrictor plate out of in order to use cheaper leaded gasoline, along with torching open and blowing out the catalytic convertor.
Ironically enough the car scored better on a pollution check after the cat was disabled than before.
The car was a lead sled, but it was *fast*.
I had a state trooper pull me over when I was 19, and when he asked me if I knew how fast I was going, scared shitless me stuttered ‘No sir, the speedometer only goes to 100’.
He laughed and said I was doing 115 and accelerating when he flipped his lights on. :)
@NotMax: generally “arc light”
Actually, that is a bit arbitrary. While the rise in incarceration rates accelerated in the 1980s it began around 1970. That was back when Nixon was President and Democrats generally had enormous majorities in Congress. In fact, the Dems controlled the House all the way until 1995, the period during which most of the damaging laws were passed, and controlled the Senate for all but six of those years.