Why Talking About the ‘Drug War’ in Iowa is Unusual

Why Talking About the ‘Drug War’ in Iowa is Unusual

Out of all the places in the whole wide world, Rand Paul chose to bring up a very sensitive subject, the drug war, in an unusual place earlier this month: the Iowa Republican convention.

It’s very strange for a politician who wants to win the hearts and minds of his conservative voters to make a “liberal” argument about the drug war in a state where there is significant racial bias when it comes to marijuana arrests, and I am talking about Iowa here.

A report from American Civil Liberties Union shows that blacks nationally are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. In Iowa, this figure is hugely disproportionate to the rest of the country at 8.34!

Quoting Rand Paul about the “War on Drugs” and its effect on black communities:

If you look at the war on drugs, 3 out of 4 people in prison are black or brown. White kids are doing it too, in fact, if you look at all the surveys, white kids do it just as much as black and brown kids. But the prisons are full of black and brown kids because they don’t get a good attorney, they live in poverty, it’s easier to arrest them than to go to the suburbs.

By addressing this sensitive issue in Iowa, Rand Paul was treating his “fan base” like intelligent adults. He also underlined the fact that while the GOP takes pride in its family values, it’s refusing to acknowledge and address this worsening situation in our penal system. Let me quote Rand himself:

“If the GOP is going to be the party of ‘family values’, it should bother Republicans that in 1980 there were 200,000 kids with a dad in prison and now there are two million.”

Radley Balko of the Washington Post writes:

It’s a rare thing for a politician positioning himself for a presidential run to go to an early primary state and say things about the criminal justice system that the people he’s courting may not want to hear. There’s nothing politically opportunistic about telling a bunch of white Iowa GOP caucusers that we need to stop locking up black teenagers for drugs — or that those who have been locked up should get back the right to vote.

Paul isn’t just refusing to pander, here. He’s actually trying to lead.

Was talking about the drug war in Iowa a risky move by Rand? Or do you agree with Balko that this was a display of true leadership? Share your thoughts below or send us a tweet. Follow us on Facebook for more updates on issues that matter.

 

Written by Chris Black

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