Americans Support Legal Abortion & Marijuana

Abortion Sign

Recent polls have shown that voters want the government out of their personal business, including support for keeping abortion legal and for legalized marijuana. The Hill reports on a poll on abortion rights:

Political candidates, consultants and the media generally misunderstand the politics of abortion rights. They tend to believe either that most voters oppose abortion or that the anti-abortion base is larger than the abortion rights base. But neither is true.

A recent nationwide poll by Ann Selzer (declared “The Best Pollster in Politics” by FiveThirtyEight), commissioned by the Public Leadership Institute, proves that voters overwhelmingly support abortion rights both in general and when asked about specific reproductive rights policies. In addition, the poll shows that those who “strongly support” abortion rights substantially outnumber those who “strongly oppose” it.

Our poll found that by a margin of 69-to-27 percent, American voters approve of the constitutional right to abortion established by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. This result is similar to many polls over the years that have found Americans approving Roe by margins of 2-to-1 or greater.

Another poll from the Pew Research Center shows strong support for legalization of marijuana:

The share of Americans who favor legalizing the use of marijuana continues to increase. Today, 57% of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37% say it should be illegal. A decade ago, opinion on legalizing marijuana was nearly the reverse – just 32% favored legalization, while 60% were opposed.

The shift in public opinion on the legalization of marijuana has occurred during a time when many U.S. states are relaxing their restrictions on the drug or legalizing it altogether. In June, Ohio became the 25th state (plus Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico) to legalize marijuana in some form after Gov. John Kasich signed a medical marijuana program into law. This November, Americans in nine states will vote on measures to establish or expand legal marijuana use…

By more than two-to-one, Democrats favor legalizing marijuana over having it be illegal (66% vs. 30%). Most Republicans (55%) oppose marijuana legalization, while 41% favor it.

These polls show that, of the major and minor political candidates, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson side with the majority on supporting abortion rights, while Donald Trump is on the wrong side.

Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are the only candidates who consistently side with the majority on ending marijuana prohibition. Donald Trump has spoken of legalization in the past, but is hardly consistent on this. Hillary Clinton is the most conservative candidate on drug policy, having been a hard-line supporter of the drug war. This puts her views to the right of both the nation and the majority of her own party. While Clinton has tried to soften her position at times during the campaign, one of the leaked Wikileaks emails showed that her private position remains one of hard-line opposition to ending prohibition.

Record Number Doing Google Searches For Write-In Voting

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With both major political parties nominating candidates who are unacceptable for the presidency, I’ve noted before that more people than usual are looking at third party candidates this year. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both ethically unfit to be president, and neither are likely to address major issues such as the expansion the warfare and surveillance state since 9/11. Donald Trump runs as the outsider, but is inconsistent, and often incoherent on the issues, and has unique ethical issues, including a history of assaulting women. Hillary Clinton is much better than Trump on issues of concern to women, but otherwise is the candidate of the neoconservative status quo who would take us back to the horrors of the Bush years, and who epitomizes everything which is rotten in politics.

With the major party choices so poor, CNN reports that many voters are looking at another alternative, write-in votes:

Americans have expressed deep misgivings about both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton throughout the course of the presidential race. This week, their distaste is showing up in their search behavior.

Google Trends data indicates that the online searches for “write-in” surged over the last week by more than 2,800%, hitting a record high since 2004. The states with the highest rates of search are not battlegrounds, but Republican and Democratic strongholds…

Related searches to “write-in,” according to Google Trends, largely focus on two politicians, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Pence, the Indiana Republican. Searches for “is Bernie Sanders a write in candidate” spiked 2,750% in the last week while searches for “write in Mike Pence” spiked 2,400% in the last week.

Results though are different in the states. In Utah, for example, where a recent poll found Clinton and Trump tied with independent candidate Evan McMullin only four points back, the volume of searches for “Mitt Romney write in” grew by 4,000% in the last week.

Google Trends data don’t show what caused this trend, but the campaign trail was rocked on Friday after a 2005 video tape surfaced featuring Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a vulgar and sexually aggressive conversation about women. Trump later apologized for the remarks — first in a video and later during during Sunday night’s debate with Clinton — but since then has been rebuked and abandoned by members of his own party. Some called for Pence, Trump’s running mate, to lead the ticket instead.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s campaign has it’s own set of problems; WikiLeaks began releasing thousands of hacked emails from the account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Some of the emails, including one that suggested a senior campaign aide had communicated with government officials about the release of her State Department emails, led to accusations of collusion from Trump and other Republicans.

Seeing Donald Trump fall so far behind Clinton in the polls should put an end to the arguments of voting for Clinton based upon fear of Trump. That was never a very good argument as, regardless of how terrible Trump might be, those of us who disagree with Clinton on the issues, and who do not feel she is fit to be president, should not be denied our democratic right to vote for a candidate who is closer to our beliefs. There is far less reason to fall for “lesser evilism” when there is no longer a realistic pathway for Trump to win 270 electoral votes. The possibility of Evan McMullin taking Utah’s electoral votes out of the Republican column makes the chances even more remote. Gary Johnson is also taking votes from both Trump and Clinton.

While many on the left are considering write-in votes for Bernie Sanders, I would prefer to see votes go to Jill Stein. Stein has similar views to Sanders on economic issues, and has argued more forcibly on foreign policy. Stein, along with Gary Johnson, has also been a strong advocate of ending the drug war. Regardless of any comparison between Stein and Sanders, a vote for Stein will have greater impact. A vote for Sanders would purely be a protest vote. On the other hand, if Jill Stein could get 5 percent this year, which is possible if more Sanders supporters would vote for her, this would qualify the Green Party for matching funds in 2020, and assist with ballot access. With the Democratic Party moving so far to the right under Hillary Clinton, we need a viable party on the left to either force the Democrats to consider liberal and progressive issues, or to provide an alternative.

Clinton And Many Democrats Fail To Understand Importance Of Opposing Interventionism And Defending Civil Liberties

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The lack of concern for Hillary Clinton’s neocon record on foreign policy, and her far right record on First Amendment issues, by so many Democrats is really disappointing. It is as if they didn’t they learn anything from the horrors of the Bush years. Hillary Clinton appeared clueless when she campaigned for the millennial vote. As I discussed last week, and as David Weigel reported today, Clinton is losing a substantial amount of support to third party candidates.

When George Bush was president, Democrats showed concern for matters such as avoiding unnecessary wars, civil liberties, and government transparency. Now that they have nominated a candidate who is far to the right on these matters, they no longer show any concern. For example, Paul Krugman made a pitch today for millennial voters who are voting for Gary Johnson, but ignored these issues. It makes absolutely no sense to seek the support of those considering Gary Johnson without addressing the main issues which are causing Clinton to lose support to Johnson, along with Jill Stein.

Krugman also resorted to the bogus Ralph Nader argument. If the 2000 election turned out badly (as it did) because of George Bush becoming president, it makes no sense to use this to support a neoconservative such as Hillary Clinton who supports the so many of the same policies as George Bush.

Just as bad is the manner in which Kevin Drum dismissed concerns over military interventionism and civil liberties: ” Unless you’re basically a single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force, it’s hard to see why any lefty of any stripe would even think of supporting Johnson.”

Drum is right in his post in arguing that it would make more sense for Bernie Sanders supporters to support Jill Stein than Gary Johnson, but he certainly diminishes the importance of several issues with the phrase, “single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force.”

These are two of the most important matters considering both the expansion of the warfare/surveillance state since 9/11, and considering which areas fall most directly under the control of the president. Plus these encompass multiple issues.

Civil liberties mattered to Democrats eight years ago. During the 2008 campaign Hillary Clinton was the only Democrat who refused to sign a pledge to restore Constitutional liberties. All the Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, also refused to sign.  As I’ve discussed previously, Clinton’s poor record regarding civil liberties and separation of church and state includes her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act , a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, leading a campaign to censor video games and introducing a bill making flag burning a felony. Her views mocking freedom of speech when supposedly fighting terrorism sound alarmingly similar to those expressed by Donald Trump. Issues such as the drug war and opposition to the policy of mass incarceration she supported is yet a different issue which leads many to support Johnson and Stein over Clinton.

Similarly there are multiple foreign policy issues. These include her support for intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria. In other parts of the world, there are her views on Russia, and record in Honduras. There’s also her history of joining with the Republicans in opposing a ban on cluster bombs in civilian areas. There’s her threats to obliterate Iran. Her past statements on the use of nuclear force against terrorist groups sound similar to those expressed by Donald Trump.

While Drum has consistently ignored the facts regarding the email scandals, the State Department Inspector General report verified accusations that Clinton violated the rules put into effect to promote transparency, showed that she tried to cover up her actions, and that she failed to cooperate with the investigation. This is just one aspect of the scandals involving Clinton which give millennial voters, and others, reason to distrust Clinton and vote for a third party candidate.

The numerous issues involved here contradict Drum’s mischaracterization of Clinton’s opponents as a single-issue voter. By the same logic, many of the issues which he backs Clinton for could also be lumped together as a single issue. It is no surprise that Gary Johnson is taking votes away from Clinton when he is more liberal than her on military interventionism, civil liberties, the drug war, social issues, and government transparency. There are also several problems with Johnson’s views, making Jill Stein an even better choice for those on the left.

Hillary Clinton Responds To DEA Decision On Marijuana But Continues To Back Prohibition

Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during her primary night gathering at the Philadelphia Convention Center on April 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton defeated her democratic rival Bernie Sanders in the Pennsylvania presidential primary.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has released a response to the decision of the FDA which I discussed yesterday to keep marijuana a Schedule I drug. From Think Progress:

In a statement published yesterday in the Cannabist, Maya Harris, a senior policy adviser to the Clinton campaign, applauded the DEA’s concurrent move to loosen restrictions on growing marijuana for research — and indicated Clinton will go even further to accomplish what Obama has failed to so far.

“We applaud the steps taken today by the Obama Administration to remove research barriers that have significantly limited the scientific study of marijuana,” Harris said. “Marijuana is already being used for medical purposes in states across the country, and it has the potential for even further medical use. As Hillary Clinton has said throughout this campaign, we should make it easier to study marijuana so that we can better understand its potential benefits, as well as its side effects.”

“As president, Hillary will build on the important steps announced today by rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance,” she continued. “She will also ensure Colorado, and other states that have enacted marijuana laws, can continue to serve as laboratories of democracy.”

As is common with Clinton, there is some benefit to her conservative approach, while she remains behind the times on the issue. With regards to medical marijuana, reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II drug would be a tremendous improvement over its current status as a Schedule I drug. While physicians cannot prescribe Schedule I drugs, Schedule II drugs can be prescribed. Presumably this would put an end to the federal government interfering with medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

On the other hand, Schedule II drugs are the most restricted class of drugs which are prescribed. The class includes drugs such as Morphine, OxyContin, Methadone, and Norco. Written prescriptions, or a highly secure electronic prescribing system, must be used, and refills cannot be included. One reason to support the medical use of marijuana is to reduce the use of the more addictive and dangerous medications now in use.

More importantly, while a Schedule II drug can be prescribed for medical purposes, it does not end prohibition of marijuana. Over the past several years there has been growing support for legalization, with sixty-one percent in favor as of last March. The change Clinton supports would do nothing to resolve the problem of mass incarceration and the disproportionate incarceration of minorities.

In contrast, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson both support an end to prohibition. As I also noted yesterday, the generally incoherent Republican nominee Donald Trump is for and against legalization of marijuana.

DEA Refuses To Reclassify Marijuana But Acts To Facilitate Research

Reefer Madnes

The DEA has rejected a request to reclassify marijuana and it will remain a Schedule 1 drug. NPR reported on the decision, and the questionable rational:

The Obama administration has denied a bid by two Democratic governors to reconsider how it treats marijuana under federal drug control laws, keeping the drug for now, at least, in the most restrictive category for U.S. law enforcement purposes.

Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Rosenberg says the decision is rooted in science. Rosenberg gave “enormous weight” to conclusions by the Food and Drug Administration that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and by some measures, it remains highly vulnerable to abuse as the most commonly used illicit drug across the nation.

“This decision isn’t based on danger. This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine,” he said, “and it’s not.”

Marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, alongside heroin and LSD, while other, highly addictive substances including oxycodone and methamphetamine are regulated differently under Schedule II of the law. But marijuana’s designation has nothing to do with danger, Rosenberg said.

This conflicts with a growing body of evidence that marijuana does have medical benefits, along with being safer than opiates for treatment of chronic pain.

The DEA did include one item in its decision which could lead to an increase in research on medical benefits of marijuana:

DEA announced a policy change designed to foster research by expanding the number of DEA- registered marijuana manufacturers. This change should provide researchers with a more varied and robust supply of marijuana. At present, there is only one entity authorized to produce marijuana to supply researchers in the United States: the University of Mississippi, operating under a contract with NIDA. Consistent with the CSA and U.S. treaty obligations, DEA’s new policy will allow additional entities to apply to become registered with DEA so that they may grow and distribute marijuana for FDA-authorized research purposes.

Of the presidential candidates this year, Hillary Clinton has been the most conservative on marijuana and drug policy, while Jill Stein and Gary Johnson support legalization. Donald Trump has spoken of legalization in the past, but is hardly consistent on this, or virtually anything else.

Libertarian Party Picks Ticket

Johnson Weld Libertarian Ticket

With the prospect that the two major party candidates will nominate candidates as awful as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, there is increased interest in third party options this year. The election of either Trump or Clinton will lead to the growth of the warfare and surveillance state, with both having a similar hostile viewpoint towards civil liberties. Many Sanders supporters are thinking of voting for Jill Stein if Sanders is denied the nomination, assuming Stein will win the nomination of the Green Party. The Libertarian Party held their convention over the past weekend, choosing former New Mexico Governor to once again be their nominee. Former Massachusets governor William Weld will be his running mate.

The Libertarian Party might siphon votes away from Trump, but overall Clinton loses more support than Trump to third parties in recent head to head polls which include third party candidates. While Sanders supporters will disagree with Johnson on several issues, there are issues where we will agree. His brand of libertarianism is generally preferable to that of Rand Paul. He is similar to Paul in defending civil liberties. While far less of a supporter of military interventionism than Clinton, he might be somewhat more for military interventionism than Paul.  Johnson primarily from differs from Paul in being a social liberal. This includes support for abortion rights.

Just as many Democrats oppose the nomination of Hillary Clinton and many Republicans oppose Donald Trump, many Libertarians are also unhappy with their ticket this year. Both Johnson, and to a greater degree Welds, are criticized by hard-core right-libertarians for differing from their positions, but some of these discrepancies from right-libertarian dogma actually make Johnson more acceptable to Sanders supporters, including left-libertarians.

For some examples of why they are disliked by some libertarians, I will cite portions of a post at Red State in which Johnson and Weld are both called fake libertarians. The author is more socially conservative than orthodox libertarian thought, but such conservative views are also held by many libertarians. It should be easy to see through some of the spin here, such as calling legalization of same-sex marriage “government sponsored-gay marriage,” and see where Johnsons and Weld hold more reasonable views.

Johnson’s fiscal policies also apparently include government-funded prizes for science and paying U.N. dues, two things he brought up during the recent debate hosted by TheBlaze and moderated by Penn Jillette.

The more objectionable view of Johnson is that social liberalism is essential to libertarianism. In fact, it is distinct, if not in opposition to the philosophy…

Johnson’s embrace of social liberalism has gotten him into trouble with the base of the party. It reveals him to be not a libertarian, but a libertine and an authoritarian, which are qualities today well-represented by the Democratic Party.

Like Democrats, Johnson is in favor of legalizing only marijuana. Libertarians are in favor of all drugs being legal. Like Democrats, he is in favor of government-sponsored gay marriage. Libertarians oppose government involvement in marriage. Like Democrats, he believes that businesses must cater (literally-he believes Jews should have to bake Nazi cakes) to anyone and everyone. Libertarians believe in freedom of association and freedom of conscience/religion. Like Democrats, he supports funding for Planned Parenthood. Libertarians oppose government subsidization of private organizations. Like Democrats, Johnson is in favor of some gun control. Libertarians oppose restrictions on gun ownership.

The more I read about Johnson, the less libertarian I realize he is. Others are coming to the same conclusion.

Recently, Johnson affirmed his true beliefs when he selected former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld as his running mate, another self-described libertarian who also erroneously believes the philosophy means “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” In particular, Weld is proud to be pro-LGBT and pro-abortion, two hallmark positions of social liberalism.

Jesse Walker of Reason listed some anti-libertarian positions held by Weld, including support for an assault weapons ban, eminent domain, and foreign intervention, and summed up Weld as “more of a moderate “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” type, with “fiscally conservative” defined by Massachusetts standards and with “socially liberal” defined in terms a Michael Bloomberg could embrace.”

Conservative Review also notes Weld’s support of EPA regulations and affirmative action. In addition, Weld endorsed Obama in 2008, Romney in 2012, and Kasich in 2016 before linking up with Johnson.

Much of this are plusses, even if inconsistent with libertarian views, including support for marriage equality, social liberalism, funding of science and Planned Parenthood, some gun control, and EPA reglations. Similarly I can accept a candidate who supports legalization of marijuana but not all drugs, especially if he seeks to end the drug war and treat addiction as an illness rather than a crime.

Another description of his views in the recent debate from Hit & Run chastizes him for his support of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. I do have some concerns over how they describe his foreign policy views, but virtually anyone is preferable to the ultra-militaistic Clinton, who has rarely seen a war she didn’t like, or Trump, who I fear would bumble us into a war despite being less openly interventionistic compared to Clinton.

I have not gone into the areas where Johnson’s views are closer to traditional right-libertarianism. Gary Johnson is hardly the ideal candidate, and it is far more likely I will wind up voting for Jill Stein, but his views do provide an important contrast to the major party candidates. Unfortunatelyboth the Libertarian and Green Party candidates will probably receive minimal media coverage and be denied participation in the debates.

Terrible Choices From Major Parties Leading To High Degree Of Interest In Third Party Candidates In 2016

Independent Candidate

The Democratic establishment, and their supporters, mistakingly blame the protest against Hillary Clinton on Bernie Sanders. There is no question that a tremendous number of Democrats and independents prefer Sanders over Clinton, but this is far more than a battle between personalities. It is over principles. Martin Longman tried to set Democrats straight in writing, It’s Not All About Bernie:

Perhaps it is unfortunate, in a way, that Bernie Sanders has a substantial amount of personal charisma and has won the allegiance of quite a number of people based on them liking him personally rather than for what he has to say about U.S. foreign policy and economic justice. The reason I say this isn’t because I think this number is that large, but more because it has contributed to a sense that there is a Cult of Bernie with ardent and sometimes misbehaving acolytes. Some people call them Bernie Bros., but that insulting catch-all doesn’t capture what’s driving so many Democrats into the arms of an (until recently) independent Socialist who is still a harsh critic of the Democratic Party and its leadership.

From a personal perspective, I’ve been traveling in progressive circles for more than a decade now, and I’ve been part of the liberal blogosphere almost since its inception. By far, most of the people I’ve become acquainted with, many of whom are among the most committed and experienced Democratic organizers and partisans you will find, have been Bernie Sanders supporters from the beginning of this campaign. By and large, they aren’t part of any cult and they haven’t been drinking any Kool-Aid.

The liberal blogosphere snapped into existence at a time when it seemed that the Democratic Party had lost its way. They had lost the election in 2000 (made it close enough to steal, if you will), had failed to stop Bush’s devastating tax cuts, and were showing no backbone against Bush’s post-9/11 national security insanity. In the 2002 midterms, the Democrats performed much worse than expected.

Meanwhile, the media was not questioning the assumptions behind or the factual basis for the march to war in Iraq, and they were painting concerned citizens as unpatriotic.

In the beginning, the progressive backlash against this didn’t much include any retrospective condemnation of the Clinton administration, except to the limited degree that some blamed it for letting things get so out of whack. It wasn’t until we had the 2008 primary that progressives began having an internal argument about the legacy of the Democratic Leadership Council and the triangulating ways of Bill Clinton. This was fueled further when the economy collapsed in September of that year, which eventually led to the Occupy Movement and a further split on the progressive left…

So, what the Sanders campaign really is when you get past the idiosyncrasies of Bernie Sanders, is an expression of dissatisfaction with the status quo and a desire to change the party to meet the needs of the country on a more urgent basis. And the practical way that can be done is by having their voices heard at the convention. To the degree that this ambition is shunted, the progressive conscience of the party is marginalized and frustrated.

The focus shouldn’t be so much on personalities or the worst behavior of the loudest and most annoying people. It should be on the big picture. Young people, in particular, are vastly more attracted to the Sanders message than what is being offered by Clinton. These are potentially Democratic Party members for life, but that isn’t going to happen automatically, and especially not if they feel that their beliefs are unacceptable and have been defeated.

Many of us are seeing our principles betrayed by having the party establishment back Hillary Clinton. Those of us who backed the Democrats in protest against George W. Bush’s foreign policy and neoconservativism are not going to automatically vote Democratic if this year it is the Democrats who are running the neocon as their candidate. Similarly, those of us who protested the violations of civil liberties, hostility towards government transparency, the role of money in government, and the support for an increased role of religion in public policy under Bush are not pleased to see a Democratic candidate who shares these faults. Plus Clinton is to the right of Trump on issues ranging from trade to drug policy. The election of Hillary Clinton looks like a third term for the policies of George W. Bush with the ethics of Richard Nixon.

Clinton certainly has the edge in the election, but it is now looking very close. If Democrats want the support of those who backed them in opposition to Republican policies, and if they want to win, they need to offer a candidate who respects our values–not one who quotes arguments from The Wall Street Journal to attack Medicare for All and other progressive programs. If the Democratic Party doesn’t offer an acceptable candidate, many voters will look elsewhere.

Third party candidates have the potential to disrupt the Democratic/Republican monopoly more than usual this year. A Data Targeting poll from today shows that “55% of respondents favor having an independent presidential ticket in 2016.” This includes “91% of voters under the age of 29.” In addition, “65% of respondents are at least somewhat, pretty or very willing to support a candidate for President who is not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.” Both Trump and Clinton have historically high negatives. While I am skeptical that this will actually occur, here is their most dramatic finding:

In a ballot test against Clinton and Trump, a truly independent candidate starts off with 21% of the vote.

This number increases to 29% in the “Big Sky” region, 30% in “New England” and 28% in the “West” region.
Among voters with an unfavorable opinion of both Trump and Clinton, the independent actually wins the ballot test

TRUMP: 11%
CLINTON: 7%
INDEPENDENT: 56%

Democrats can greatly reduce the risk of seeing Donald Trump being elected by nominating a candidate who stands up for Democratic principles like Bernie Sanders. Otherwise they risk losing a generation of potential voters, and possibly the beginning of the end of our current two party system if it fails to provide a true choice.

Trump Clinches Control of GOP While Sanders Continues To Fight Clinton For Democratic Nomination

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Who would have predicted that Donald Trump would clinch the Republican nomination while Hillary Clinton still has an opponent in the race after the Indiana primary, even if Bernie has a huge uphill battle to pull it out? Sanders’ only hope is that something major happens which erodes support for Clinton among the remaining primary voters and/or the superdelegates. While many Republicans continue to oppose Trump, it is hard to see any way to stop him now that both Cruz and Kassich have left the race.

While I do not want to give up all hope of an acceptable presidential candidate emerging from a major party, the pundits are concentrating on a Clinton versus Trump race, as horrible as those options are. Clinton certainly starts out with the advantage when you consider both the advantages for any Democrat in the electoral college, along with how Trump as alienated so many groups, including women and some minorities. On the other hand, the decline in Clinton’s support must raise the question of whether she can survive a general election campaign.

Some Republicans are even talking about voting for Clinton over Trump. Perhaps this will be like the PUMAs of 2008 with the majority ultimately voting for Obama despite initial threats to vote for McCain in protest over Clinton’s defeat. Trump is at a greater risk of a real defection this year. While he is wrong on many, many issues, Trump’s views are vastly different from the GOP mainstream. A neoconservative, DLC Democrat like Clinton is  not very far ideologically from the faction of Republicans which are not outright bat-shit crazy, and the old Goldwater Girl would actually be a sensible choice for many Republican voters. Neocons have already been talking about supporting Clinton for quite a while, and she has received the endorsement of Robert Kagan.

It certainly makes sense for Clinton to try to attract Republican votes, and such votes might make up votes Clinton will lose from those on the left who will not vote for her out of principle. A small percentage of Sanders supporters might even prefer Trump over Clinton. On paper Trump is preferable on foreign policy, showing far less interest than the ultra-hawkish Clinton in military interventionism and regime change, but I would also fear that he would blunder us into a war. Many Sanders supporters  prefer Trump over Clinton issues such as trade and legalization of drugs. Many other issues will make it unlikely for Sanders supporters to vote for Trump.

Sanders showed that his campaign is very much alive with his upset victory in Indiana. Many Clinton supporters are now calling on Sanders to leave the race, but they miss the point. Sanders has been facing an uphill battle from the start, but there is a need for a candidate to present an alternative viewpoint to those of Clinton and Trump. Hillary Clinton still has major negatives leaving a long shot chance of her campaign still being stopped, and even if she cannot be prevented from winning the nomination, voters in remaining primaries deserve an acceptable choice. This is also a campaign over principles and the future direction of the Democratic Party, regardless of whether Clinton wins the current nomination.

Clinton and Trump Battle For Sanders Supporters

Susan Sarandon created a lot of controversy last month when she questioned whether Trump or Clinton would be worse. She did it again this week when interviewed by Stephen Colbert (video above). She criticized Clinton on her environmental record and on her hawkish foreign policy views: “I’m more afraid of, actually, Hillary Clinton’s war record and her hawkishness than I am of building a wall, but that doesn’t mean that I would vote for Trump.” She also questioned the possibility of Trump being elected: “Come on, who’s going to vote for Trump, seriously?”

With Donald Trump within three points of Clinton in one recent poll (compared to an eleven point lead for Bernie Sanders over Trump), there are apparently some people who would vote for Trump. Both Trump and Clinton are going after Sanders supporters.

As Sanders has said, his supporters will not automatically back Clinton if she wins the nomination, and many will not learn to like her. Clinton says she will go after Sanders supporters in a “very aggressive” manner. No matter how aggressively she goes after my support, nothing she can do can negate her utterly unacceptable record.

Trump will have even greater difficulty in his attempts to obtain the support of Sanders supporters. He could attract the support of some Sanders supporters on issues such as trade. While his foreign policy speech was seriously flawed, he is still to the left of Clinton on foreign policy (as is pretty much everyone). Trump is significantly to the left of Clinton on the drug war. As Sanders has warned, Trump will use the email and Foundation scandals which he has stayed away from, which could also wind up putting Trump to the left of Clinton on government transparency, where she is already extremely conservative, as well as on matters such as government corruption and reducing the influence of money in politics. It is also refreshing to see a Republican candidate who does not advocate the destruction of Medicare and Social Security.

Despite all of the negatives for Clinton, Trump has serious negatives of his own, including the manner in which he has pandered to racism, xenophobia, and mysogeny. Only thirteen percent of Sanders supporters have a favorable view of Trump, and currently only ten percent say they would vote for him. However, it could affect the election results if ten to thirteen percent of voters who otherwise might have voted Democratic should not vote Democratic due to opposition to Hillary Clinton. Many more who don’t like either Trump or Clinton are also likely to sit out the election or vote for a third party.

Susan Sarandon Stephen Colbert

Walker Bragman has raised the question of who is the greater evil at Salon and tried to make a liberal case for Trump. While I do not agree with all of his points, it is good that there are writers on the left who are not falling into the tribalistic support for Clinton and exaggeration of Trump’s faults (as big as they are) which has become common among many Democrats. Even if Trump is the greater evil, the real question is which candidate will do more harm in the White House.

It is very likely that Trump will do less harm out of a combination of having less interest in going to war than Clinton and not being able to get sixty votes for his agenda in the Senate. On the other hand, many Democrats who would oppose conservative policies from Trump would defend comparable compromises from Clinton.

Clinton has already indicated a willingness to compromise with Republicans on areas from Social Security to access to abortion. We have seen the damage from compromise with Republicans and triangulation by Bill Clinton. Similar compromises by Hillary Clinton with Republicans would be more likely to move the country to the right than policies from a Republican president who face opposition from Democrats. We would be more likely to see cuts in Social Security, and restrictions on access to abortion, if Clinton is elected compared to Trump or another Republicans. Plus we would be more likely to go to war under Clinton, more people will be incarcerated for drug crimes, and we will have a president more concerned with how she can profit monetarily from the presidency than working for the good of the country.

Obama, Clinton, and Sanders & The Drug War (Sanders Has The Best Position)

Commuted Sentences Obama

The drug war is one of several areas where Obama has tried to move in the right direction, but his overall accomplishments over the last seven years have been disappointing. Far too little has changed. The White House has now announced that President Obama is reducing the sentences of sixty-one more individuals imprisoned due to drug laws, bringing the total to 248:

Today, the President announced 61 new grants of commutation to individuals serving years in prison under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws. More than one-third of them were serving life sentences. To date, the President has now commuted the sentences of 248 individuals – more than the previous six Presidents combined. And, in total, he has commuted 92 life sentences.

Underscoring his commitment not just to clemency, but to helping those who earn their freedom make the most of their second chance, the President will meet today with commutation recipients from both his Administration and the previous administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. During the meeting, the commutation recipients will discuss their firsthand experiences with the reentry process and ways that the process can be strengthened to give every individual the resources he or she needs to transition from prison and lead a fulfilling, productive life…

While this is welcome news, both liberal and libertarian commentators have expressed regrets that Obama hasn’t done more. Vox notes:

…the White House is still falling far short of the expectations it set for itself two years ago, when it encouraged thousands of prisoners to apply for shorter sentences. Then–Attorney General Eric Holder even went so far as to speculate that 10,000 prisoners might get their sentences reduced by the end of the Obama administration.

In that context, the 61 new commutations — and even the 248 total commutations — look different: a very small, incremental change that may signal the White House will do more in future but almost certainly won’t help it live up to its own expectations.

This comes not long after considerable discussion in the medical field regrading the negative impact of handling drug abuse as a criminal as opposed to a health matter, including in an article in The Lancet:

In a report published Thursday in The Lancet medical journal, Beyrer and an international team of researchers assessed the growing body of evidence for the public health impacts of programs such as opioid substitution therapy and needle exchange programs. In addition to criminal justice changes, the researchers made specific recommendations for policy makers to improve access to services that can reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C virus, also known as HCV.

“We think there is the first opportunity in a generation to have meaningful drug reform,” said Beyrer, who led the research for the report , which was commissioned by The Lancet and Johns Hopkins University

The report comes weeks before the United Nations General Assembly Special Session convenes on April 19 to discuss drug policy for the first time since 1998.

“There is pressure from a number of countries who feel the war on drugs has failed them, particularly Central and South America, where there is some of the worst drug-related violence,” Beyrer said. “We sought to review all the scientific evidence so it would be available to the U.N. member states when this is being debated.”

According to the report, injection drug use has led to increases in new HIV and HCV infections. Unsafe injection practices, such as sharing needles, are linked to about 30% of HIV transmission outside of sub-Saharan Africa. HCV transmission is also high among people who inject drugs, and a study in the United States found that more than half of people got infected in the first year they were injecting.

Hillary Clinton’s opposition to needle exchange programs, along with her hard line overall on the drug war, was an issue in the 2008 election. This year Bernie Sanders differs from his current opponents in going the furthest to oppose the continuation of the drug war:

Bernie Sanders’ campaign is now officially neck and neck with Hilary. Considered by many of us, to be a voice of progress and a champion for a new America. Much of his platform is forward-looking and based on reimagining what Americans should value in the future. To reinforce this outlook, many of his major policies address the redistribution of wealth and the reevaluation of some of the country’s long-standing campaigns—with the the War on Drugs being at the top of the list. Bango, Bernie!

Now pay close attention here, his mandates related to the War on Drugs are to treat and rehabilitate non-violent drug offenders rather than imprison them, to prevent large companies from further profiteering off of prisons and to legalize cannabis. If he is elected and this reform is passed by Congress, America would look very different—for the better, we like to think.

As much as Big Bernie is an advocate for policy change, he’s also focused on creating a major cultural shift. This is most strongly evidenced by his plan to create treatment facilities for non-violent drug offenders. If implemented correctly, the plan would encourage Americans to be more sympathetic towards those who have fallen victim to drug addiction, regardless of how or why. As Sanders sees it, it takes a community to help someone get back on their feet, and we need to be in the business of creating the infrastructure to make this happen…

There were also recent reports that a top Nixon aide had described the real reasons for the war on drugs:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people,” former Nixon domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman told Harper’s writer Dan Baum for the April cover story published Tuesday.

“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

This also fits into the Clinton model of expanding police power. I fear that if Clinton is elected we will slide backwards on continuing the disastrous drug war.