GIULIANI MYTHOLOGY: Dana's piece today on the second-tier Democrats policy proposals is very informative. In particular I think the section on drug and crime policy reform highlights a serious injustice that should be on the agenda of mainstream Democrats and, lamentably, is not. But I do have a nit to pick with this little bit of analysis:
Although large majorities of Americans would like to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, being 'tough on crime' and 'tough on drugs' are perennially winning stances in American elections. Just look at Rudy Giuliani.
As the resident Giuliani myth-debunker I think it's worth pointing out that he lost his first race for mayor, barely won his second, and dropped out of his Senate race because he was trailing carpet-bagger Hillary Clinton in the polls.
Nonetheless, I would readily concede that being tough on crime has been a winning stance for many candidates, and that Republican Giuliani owes his victory in heavily Democratic New York City to his focus on that issue. But that was in 1993, when crime was much higher than it is today. It was also before Bill Clinton largely neutralized the Republican advantage on crime by taking a tough-on-crime approach himself as president (and congressional Democrats called Republicans' bluff by pushing for stricter gun control.)
So the political scene today is quite different: crime is down, Democrats aren't perceived as weak on the issue, the prison population has swollen enormously, the crack epidemic is over, and acceptance of substance abuse as an illness rather than criminal act has become more widespread, (just look at Rush Limbaugh). If Democrats don't have the courage to come out with proposals to switch from prison to treatment for non-violent drug offenders now I fear they never will.