Schaffer Online Library of Drug Policy Sign the Resolution for a Federal Commission on Drug Policy


Contents | Feedback | Search | DRCNet Home Page | Join DRCNet

DRCNet Library | Schaffer Library | Information for Drug Policy Reform Activists

Political Strategies

by Clifford A. Schaffer

This is a first crack at the kinds of political strategies we must use to end the drug war.

We must win by knockout.

I believe that we must pick issues where we can by knockout. The odds are so stacked against us that, unless we win by knockout, we will not win at all.

While I agree with the economics and civil liberties arguments for decriminalization, I do not favor the use of these issues as a primary focus. The primary reason that I do not like the arguments on economics or civil liberties is because they are highly intellectual arguments which could be debated all day with no clear resolution. They make people think too much, and that slows down decision-making. We want issues which will change people's minds forever -- and do it today. I believe that these arguments may be useful to convince other people like us, but it will not convince large masses of Americans.

There are two primary issues where I believe we can win by knockout right now. They are the treatment of medical patients, and the issue of African-American men. In both cases we have clear, overwhelming arguments which would get the immediate agreement of large masses of Americans.

We must build a coalition of constituencies.

We must bring people of different persuasions together to support our cause. In our Resolution, we have already chosen a broadly based statement which does not use the "D" word and which could be supported by people of all persuasions. That is step one.

Next we, need to formally identify our constituencies and the specific arguments which will be most relevant to those groups.

Some constituencies are:

Doctors - The relevant issues here are the persecution of doctors and the treatment of medical patients.

Medical Patient Groups - The relevant issue is the treatment of medical patients.

African-Americans - The relevant issue is the incarceration and economic destruction of African-American men.

I believe that doctors and African-Americans are absolutely vital to our success and that every one of us should take immediate steps to recruit them to our cause.

We must form "intervention groups" and target specific individuals that we need on our side.

We have used an approach which someone likened to an Alcohols Anonymous intervention group. We assembled a group of people that we knew an important person would find persuasive. Then we all went together to that person and explained our concerns in terms that were important to that person. Then we asked for support, not for the "D" word, but for general drug policy reform.

This technique is highly effective and will enable us to change the thinking of many important people, or at least start them down the slippery slope to the "D" word. I believe that we should all commit to participating in at least one of these intervention groups to change the mind of at least one important person.

We must seek action.

We have already asked for public hearings. As many of you have already stated, public hearings may not come about and, even if they do, they may not change anything. Therefore, we must seek other means which will also bring about clear public confrontations on the issue. When those confrontations occur, we must all respond unanimously.

We must provide support for people who speak out for drug policy reform.

We all know that many people are reluctant to speak out for reform because of the McCarthy-like tactics of our opposition. We must come to the defense of anyone who is criticized or vilified because of their support for a change in drug policy. Point out that people are not vilified because they are Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian, but people are vilified if they even want to discuss a different drug policy. This is McCarthyism.


Contents | Feedback | Search | DRCNet Home Page | Join DRCNet

DRCNet Library | Schaffer Library | Information for Drug Policy Reform Activists