An honest politician is hard to come by. In the last, say, 50 or 60 years, the amount of subtext in any political statement has skyrocketed. First the right wing politicians couldn’t say (second paragraph) what they really mean. Racism wasn’t cool anymore. So they had to get creative.
In the last 20 or 30, coinciding directly with the rise of neoliberalism, the “leftist” (really, the centrist) politicians couldn’t say what they mean either. Worth noting is the fact that austerity until about 2004(?) was called trickle-down-economics, which was itself a euphemism created by Reagan and his cabinet full of howling psychopaths.
Why? Why can’t politicians say what they mean anymore? On the right the answer is that the popular mood has moved past explicit white supremacy. No longer can you out and out say the n-word (see: Lee Atwater, above). So, what you have to do is disguise what you’re saying to make it palatable. Of course most Republican voters understand what’s being said anyway. I suspect largely that the change in verbiage is to satisfy the mass media who do almost precisely no challenging of the arguments presented.
Why can’t the centrists say what they mean anymore? Because they have adopted the unpalatable positions of the right from 20 years ago. Obama said himself that he would be considered a moderate Republican in the 1970s. Hoo boy that’s progressive. The “left” now pushes trickle-down Reaganomics with a new name and welfare reform, dog-whistling the entire way. It also certainly helps that the neoliberal political project of the last 30 to 40 years has been at least in part to drive people to such levels of political apathy that they don’t investigate or think about what their politicians are telling them. And, to really put a nail in the coffin of honest political discourse the center has pushed the left almost entirely out of politics anyway.
Bernie Sanders says what he means, except when he veers into the realm of neoliberalism. Dismissing human rights violations in Israel (a fairly well accepted fact among anyone who has sensory organs) with air quotes, an otherwise fairly forthright politician has to enter the realm of the absurd lest he betray the truth of his position thereon: he doesn’t care about human rights abuses in Israel because for whatever reason he supports their government and its mission to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people.
But I digress.
I alert you, reader, now to two different politicians. One of whom has said what he means, the other who has not.
JOE KENNEDY ON MARIJUANA
Joe Kennedy III, it appears, has said the quiet part loud. Quite loud indeed! Most Democrats who oppose marijuana legalization will at least give the standard “it’s addictive” answer (it is not.) Others will say that they do not support legalization but will hide behind state’s rights (!!!).
Kennedy has thrown all of that subterfuge right off. He has openly admitted that his objection to the legalization of marijuana is from a place of social control.
The 4th Amendment protects all of us against unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police stop you on a pretext (i.e. a lie) and then proceed to search your car, they have violated the 4th Amendment and the results of that search should be thrown out and unusable as evidence against you at trial. A long line of extremely boring and stupid Supreme Court law has held that the 4th Amendment’s purpose is to protect the citizenry against police abuses. (Prior to about 1920[?] it was Supreme Court jurisprudence that the 4th Amendment protected a sphere of privacy that surrounds the citizen. I would characterize the switch to prevention of police abuse as a step backward but that’s a different argument for a different article).
The actual effect of the 4th Amendment is quite different from the theoretical effect. A hypothetical: you are pulled over. You were not speeding, you were within the lines, you signaled at all appropriate places. You, it so happens, are black. The cop who pulled you over is a New Jersey State Trooper. You protest your stop, as is your right. Unfortunately you, being a normal human being, happen to have some marijuana in your car. The NJ State Trooper “smells” it, searches your car, finds it and subsequently arrests you. What are you to do? Challenge the validity of the stop under the 4th Amendment! What happens?
First, your lawyer files a motion to suppress the evidence. Subsequent to that motion being filed there is a hearing on the merits of the motion. Within that motion hearing will be testimony. The officer who pulled you over will testify. He will probably say exactly what he wrote in his police report, which will be a lie. You can testify. You can say exactly what happened. But who is the old white male judge going to believe? You, the black person with marijuana in your car or the (undoubtedly) white NJ State Trooper? Good luck, friend.
This is all to say that Joe Kennedy III, as a former prosecutor, knows the role that “smelling marijuana” has. He knows what’s up. He knows that cops disproportionately pull over minorities. He knows that despite efforts made towards reform that the court system is run by old white men who have enough lee-way to still impose their racist views on defendants.
It is shockingly illiberal of him to admit that his concern with legalization of marijuana was from less a place of concern for the health and safety of his constituents as it was from a place of pure social control. If marijuana is made legal, he has one less way for his officers (and every prosecutor you’ll ever meet will refer to them possessively) to lie on the stand.
Prosecutors are cops. They are, unarguably, law enforcement. Joe Kennedy went to Harvard Law. He’s supposed to be smart enough to figure out why things are happening the way they are. “Why,” he may have at some point asked himself, “am I imprisoning so many people of color?” And he made the decision a while ago to cheerlead for the carceral state and to try to acquire it all the tools it could possibly need to continue grinding people into the dirt.
KAMALA HARRIS ON ICE
From one prosecutor to another! Kamala Harris was on TV recently. She said a funny thing. She said ICE was necessary. Well ok then.
Her argument was that ICE has a role in the apprehension of serious and violent criminals (Serious and violent, by the way, are words associated intimately with California’s abhorrent 3 Strikes system. They are the two classes of felonies that are still considered strikes. Harris, I assume, also supports the 3 Strikes system, which has been a spectacular and massive failure on literally every level it operates).
Let us, for the moment, accept that there are immigrant (undocumented, LPR, etc.) criminals that need apprehension. Let us, for the moment as well, ignore that immigrants commit crime at a lower rate than native-born Americans. We assume that there are immigrant criminals in need of apprehension.
Why can’t the police do that? Is that not what the police do? That’s what prosecutors will tell you the police do: they catch the criminals. I am not aware (as a California resident and criminal defense attorney therein) of some mandate or statute that prohibits California state-level law enforcement agencies (i.e. not ICE) from apprehending and questioning immigrants. In fact I’ve never read an ICE police report. Because ICE doesn’t really do anything to apprehend criminals in California. My experience with ICE has been that I can’t let my undocumented clients go to the Sheriff’s Office to serve community service sentences because when they’re done ICE picks them up. These are real dangerous people, don’t you know.
The apprehension of “serious and violent” criminals has now and always will fall to local law enforcement or, in rare instances, the FBI. This is mentioned in the Splinter article.
So congratulations to Kamala Harris for not saying the quiet part loud. What does she mean? She means (in that what she wants will have the effect of) she wants ICE to remain around for the purpose of terrifying the immigrant labor force into submission. Naturally she can’t say that. So she says we can’t let ICE “abuse their power” as if abuse of power is anything less than fundamental to the very nature of ICE. You cannot separate ICE from the concept of abuse of power. But there she goes, the good neoliberal that she is, saying she’ll try.