Former American Vice President Joe Biden began as the favourite in the ongoing campaign to win the Democratic nomination for this year’s Presidential election. As the contest has progressed, however, he has lost more and more ground, and now Bernie Sanders has supplanted him as the frontrunner. As this essay will show, this fall can best be explained by one massive strategic error on Biden’s part.
It’s common for old people to fail to understand that the younger generations consider cannabis law reform a major moral issue. For the older generation, the anti-cannabis brainwashing was so ruthlessly intense that prohibition was taken for granted. People were so naive back then that anything said by an authority figure was taken as the Word of God.
Joe Biden has certainly failed to understand this. Referring to the contest for the Democratic nomination this year, Rolling Stone described him as “the worst candidate in the race” for cannabis users. He has consistently refused to concede any argument for cannabis law reform, stating repeatedly that he is against legalising cannabis at the federal level.
Even worse, Biden has warmly embraced the War on Drugs. Some could even say he was one of the architects of it. Biden has willingly promoted lies about cannabis, such as that it is a gateway drug, and that more evidence is needed before we can determine whether it should be legal. While Vice President to Barack Obama, he was part of an Administration that happily continued to force prohibition on the American people.
Part of this can be explained by the fact that Biden is old – so old that he’s not even a Baby Boomer. Back in the day, you almost had to expect that your left-wing candidate was going to be lukewarm about cannabis, because the still-brainwashed masses were too numerous, and politicians were forced to placate them. Biden has failed to realise that things have changed.
As is the case in New Zealand, voters for the left-sympathetic Democratic Party tend to be younger than voters with right-wing sympathies. As is also the case in New Zealand, young people are much more pro-cannabis (Dan McGlashan’s Understanding New Zealand has all the details on such matters). This means that Biden has completely missed a trick. Very few Democrats oppose cannabis law reform today.
This refusal to acknowledge the reality of young people’s lives is why the Biden campaign is now failing. He was paying only $3.30 to win the Democratic nomination on BetFair a few months ago – by today that has blown out to $18.00. In other words, the market considers him to have a less than 6% chance of winning the nomination today, compared to a 20% chance only recently.
By refusing to acknowledge the need for cannabis law reform, Biden has shown himself to not be up to the task of understanding the reality facing his constituents. This has left him extremely vulnerable to being out-flanked on the cannabis law reform front by candidates such as Bernie Sanders.
Sanders, by contrast, has made a point of ending the War on Drugs. His official campaign website states his desire to “end the War on Drugs by legalizing marijuana and expunging past convictions.” This clear and principled stand contrasts sharply with Biden’s timid dithering. It’s a message that has resonated with many of the young people who are tempted to not vote on account of that they feel all the candidates are shit.
This had led to Sanders’s support coming in – he is now paying a mere $1.91 to win the Democratic nomination on BetFair. Despite spending most of his political career written off as a kook, he is now odds-on to win the Democratic nomination, and (according to some), if he wins that he will be odds-on to beat Donald Trump in November. We could estimate that he already has a 30% chance of becoming the President at this stage.
New Zealand is at least a decade behind America when it comes to understanding the reality about cannabis. As shown in the graph at the top of this page, America was about evenly split on cannabis about a decade ago. Since then, the truth has won out, and the majority of people now understand that prohibition causes more suffering than it alleviates.
The pitiful reality is that a great number of people have gone along with cannabis prohibition simply because they had been given the impression that it was the right thing to do. The fact that the rest of their generation followed sheep-like into supporting the destruction of several of their number just seemed natural. It’s not until now that enough public attention has been devoted to the cannabis issue to make people question their assumptions about it.
It has been discovered in New Zealand that, of those undecided about cannabis law reform, the majority of them break in favour of reform once they are presented with accurate facts. Those who don’t question the brainwashing and stand against cannabis have been the majority for 80 years, but the more educated people become, the less likely they are to do so.
All politicians end up falling out of favour if they support a policy long after it becomes unfashionable. There are now very few mainstream Western politicians who openly state support for the criminalisation of homosexuality. The fall of Joe Biden shows that the time is coming when it will no longer be possible to publicly express a belief in imprisoning cannabis users.
Vince McLeod is the author of The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, the comprehensive collection of arguments for ending cannabis prohibition.