While Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz/Marco Rubio were able to keep hope alive after Super Tuesday, the odds of a Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton general election matchup definitely increased. I, and many other progressive cannabis law reformers and civil libertarians, have spent a lot of time describing why Bernie Sanders is a better freedom candidate than Hillary Clinton, the time has come to sound some warning alarms about Donald Trump.
I asked my friend and colleague John Payne, Executive Director of Show-Me Cannabis, about the possibility of a Trump presidency and what it would mean for cannabis law reformers and civil libertarians. The libertarian-minded activist, responded, on behalf of himself and not for SMC: “It’s true that Trump has said some good things about medical cannabis, but he’s also changed his mind on nearly every issue he’s been asked about on the campaign trail. I don’t think we have any reason to trust his position on the issue. Furthermore, his promise to ‘open up’ libel laws would pose a grave threat to freedom of speech and quickly be used people with dissenting political views, such as cannabis law reformers.”
I know that some civil libertarians, even some here at Marijuana Politics, have serious issues with Hillary Clinton and have felt that Donald Trump’s history has pointed to signs that he may be a better civil libertarian, particularly on drug policy, than Clinton. Some even point to the likelihood that Trump will abandon some of his racially-charged and xenophobic rhetoric when he pivots toward the center during the general election, as candidates do after they win the primary. However, the way Trump has run his campaign, the zealotry of his followers, a few of his policy proposals and his cozying up to Chris Christie, raise serious concerns for freedom under a Trump presidency.
On the surface, Donald Trump’s marijuana policy isn’t much different than Hillary Clinton. Both of the front-runners have shown support for medical marijuana and maintain a states’ rights position for states that have legalized all adult use. While former Secretary of State Clinton has begrudgingly moved more progressive on cannabis, prodded by Democratic-leaning voters, GOP front-runner Trump has moved in the opposite direction, as he once advocated for the legalization of all drugs in the early 1990s.
While some Drug War reformers may hold out hope that Trump would revert back to his more libertarian ways on drug policy, his endorsement by Chris Christie should give pause to that idea. Governor Christie, who we have playfully deemed the Cannabis Cartman here at Marijuana Politics, has called marijuana users diseased and that the cure would be more law enforcement.
If Trump were to be elected president, Christie would surely be on the shortlist of attorney general nominees. Even if Trump were to continue to publicly support medical marijuana and states’ rights to their own cannabis laws, he would be unlikely to halt an Attorney General Chris Christie (I shuddered as I typed that) from prosecuting people for marijuana as presidents usually have bigger fish to fry than meddling in marijuana prosecutions, especially when those prosecutions will mostly be occurring in states that didn’t vote for Trump.
We have also seen Donald Trump gleefully have protesters forcefully escorted from his rallies, stating that they should be thrown out in the cold after his guards “confiscate their coats.” The Republican front-runner has even stated that he wished to commit violence upon a protester himself, he longs for the “good old days” when police acted quicker to rip protesters out of their seats and his crowds have gotten rather disgusting. Throw in the fact that Donald Trump advocates for eminent domain policies and opening up libel laws so he can go after media that criticizes him, we can see that he isn’t very libertarian when it comes to waging executive power domestically. Also, Trump has pledged to “bomb the shit out” of ISIS and any escalation of war usually creates a nationalistic fervor that makes it more unacceptable to criticize the government and curtails civil liberties.
As Bill Clinton’s former Labor Secretary Robert Reich stated, Hillary Clinton didn’t sew up the nomination on Super Tuesday, and I, and many other civil libertarians will continue to tout Bernie Sanders candidacy until the fat lady has sung, that doesn’t mean that we are so vehemently opposed to Clinton that we would welcome a Trump presidency. In our age of perpetual war and continual surveillance, it is imperative that everyone concerned about freedom and liberty remain vigilant against authoritarian tendencies of our elected officials; the very fate of our republic may depend upon it. As it looks very likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee, we’ll certainly be keeping tabs on how authoritarianism is seeping into our political system and the dangers it imposes.
Featured photo credit: DonkeyHotey via Flickr