Stop the Drug War
David Borden How much reality is too much? For many politicians, any intelligent discussion about what the drug laws are actually doing to us is more reality than they can take.
This was illustrated in a lurid way recently, after the city council of El Paso, Texas, did something unusually real. As part of a resolution expressing solidarity with the neighboring Mexican city Juarez, struggling with a wave of drug trade violence that sometimes crosses the border, council members included an amendment calling for "an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition of narcotics" to stop that violence.
El Paso Mayor John Cook, who had only watched silently when the resolution was discussed, responded by vetoing it, arguing that it would make it hard for him to lobby Congress for funding. But he demonstrated the ignorance underlying his veto move in an e-mail deriding legalization supporters as "pot heads" that wound up going public.
It got worse. State legislators and even El Paso's US congressman got involved, lobbying the council members with sky-will-fall warnings about El Paso losing out on stimulus and law enforcement funding. But City Rep. O'Rourke, the sponsor of the resolution, pointed out that none of the legislators could cite a single actual threat made.
Tuesday, the Council failed on a 4-4 vote to override the mayor's veto. But the mayor's victory was pyrrhic. Council reps who voted against the override stated publicly they did so only because of the threat of losing funding. And critics of such intellectual intolerance waxed eloquent, like City Rep. Steve Ortega, who voted to override: "If we are silent on this matter, the prospects for the future of this community are placed in danger. And I'm not going to stand here idly and listen to unnamed legislators threaten us for having a dialogue over the future of this community."
For a city council to speak up about prohibition causing violence was too much reality this month for a mayor, their state legislators and congressman. But with neighbors across their border being killed, and the effects of it hitting El Paso, that reality was too much for the council to not speak up, at least for awhile. Ignorance won the final vote this time. But we'll be back.