In June 1971, Richard Nixon declared a war on a disease that had plagued over 2 million Americans, and like cancer, this disease stems from a betrayal of one’s own body. President Nixon had aggrandized this disease as “public enemy number one,” and smeared the victims of it as criminals. The disease is not one that is met with compassion and sympathy. President Nixon has tainted this disease as a crime, its victims as criminals, and its symptoms as the epitome of failure. This disease is drug abuse.
Nixon’s strategy was simple: make the population hate something and capitalize on that hate to get votes. He went on national television programs and made grand speeches declaring to the world of the dangers of drug abuse and how it rots American cities. Pouring vials upon vials of fear into Americans’ minds were just the first step in his strategy to gain higher approval from the public, and ultimately, as an excuse to jail up minorities. The next step was to fix the problem he had planted in the public’s mind, by deploying police on the “drug-infested” streets of urban cities and tightening up laws around drug usage.
The American population had shifted views from supporting a white supremacy to now condemning racism. Nixon knew this, so he just criminalized something that was associated with minority groups and hippies: drugs. In fact, Nixon’s campaign manager also admitted, “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.”
This is no small accident long forgotten in the past, however, as it still affects many minority groups to this day. The failing war on drugs also costs American taxpayers $51 billion dollars and more, as the prison population explodes because of this strict policing. In a nation of crumbling bridges and rotting infrastructure, spending $51 billion to increase our population size (resulting in more costs) and destroy communities is a path towards disaster.