How to Tell a Tide’s Turning

After National Review repeatedly questions a grand policy, and the Wall Street Journal prints an essay against that same policy, the tide’s turned in a meaningful way.

Bonus indicators: (1) defenders of the current policy have to justify it in ways they wouldn’t imagine necessary a decade earlier, and (2) David Frum – self-professed conservative most other conservatives ignore – argues for half-measures to steady a teetering status quo..

Rich Lowry of National Review has it right:

Every alternative has its pitfalls. The mandatory treatment now being implemented in New Jersey, although better than a jail sentence, is often less effective than advertised. But we are exiting the era when a focus on the harmful effects of illegal drugs excludes all consideration of the harmful effects of their hard-fisted prohibition. The debate is becoming less susceptible to cheap rhetorical bullying.

Lowry’s final sentence describes what was, but is no longer, a winning habit of drug warriors: “cheap rhetorical bullying.” Questions about costs, effectiveness, militarization of civil society, and disproportionate arrests by particular race or class are no longer swept aside with a few dismissive phrases about law and order.

The proper questions have always been which laws, for what order, at what price?

There’s still an audience for big-government enforcement solutions, and it’s as diehard as ever, but its numbers are fewer each year.

Ahead: a tipping point. Elsewhere first, but eventually even here, in America’s Dairyland.

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