Social progress in the United States displays a decisive pattern: the right panics and presses every emotional button surrounding the horrible things that will ensue if x becomes law; x becomes law; nothing particularly bad happens (and if it does, the law gets modified or reversed; the bad effects, to the extent that there are any, get mitigated).
In other words, there’s this put up or shut up moment in each social advance that ends the debate; a time when the progressive reform shows and doesn’t tell. With Obamacare, gay marriage, and marijuana legalization, their moments for empirical testing are now.
Immigration reform and having a woman as president are in the cue.
Concerning marijuana legalization in Colorado, I like the concise way a reader at Andrew Sullivan’s blog put it this morning. It’s wonderful:
I believe that the collapse of prohibition will be swift, as the expansion of marriage rights has been, for the same sort of reason. The opposition is irrational, and once the thing is tested in the real world, the argument will be over.
Yes, the argument will be over. Reactionaries will grouse about marijuana legalization, bemoan cultural permissiveness, and blame every spike in traffic fatalities anywhere in or near Colorado, warranted or not, on legalization.
But they’ll be largely talking among themselves. The debate in the country as a whole will be over. 2014 marks the beginning of the end of the drug war. And it is Obama’s Justice Department that is letting Colorado’s law go into effect without harassment. Certainly, if a Republican were president right now, the feds would be swooping down on the state, intimidating marijuana purchasers.
Those days are over. With regard to marijuana legalization, we’re in the show, don’t tell/put up or shut up phase.