Bill Clinton has insisted throughout this presidential campaign that Bob Dole represents "a bridge to the past", and in at least one regard Clinton has called it correctly: in recent stump speeches, Dole has been positioning himself as somewhere between Harry Anslinger and Carry Nation, the voice of the New Prohibitionists.

The problem with this, of course, is that Prohibition, enacted nationally with the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 and terminated with the Twenty-first in 1933, didn't work worth a damn; the drugs are different these days, but the law of supply and demand remains unchanged.

Bob Dole knows this, and not just because he was around for some of it. And Bob Dole also knows that a realistic drug-control program concentrates on reducing demand, not trying to interdict the supply but he's not about to rework his catchphrase into "Trust the people, unless they want to ingest something Washington doesn't like." Mostly, Bob Dole trusts the people to go on looking the other way while the government subverts the Constitution in its pursuit of pushers.

Not that Bill Clinton is going to be any help. As the stakes go higher and street prices rise, the logical Democratic solution (now there's an oxymoron in action) is to issue Federal drug stamps to low-income users in an effort to keep them from drifting farther below the poverty line. The Democrats haven't actually proposed this yet, but surely it's just a matter of time.

To borrow another Dole catchphrase: It's my money. I can think of a great many more useful ways to spend it than vain efforts to curb drug sales. Even midnight basketball strikes me as a palpable improvement at least no one's trying to make those courts into just another arm of the police state.

The Vent

10 October 1996

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 Copyright © 1996 by Charles G. Hill