Attempting to play Jesus to the Lazarus of Nancy Reagan’s long dead and discredited “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign, President Trump unveiled his very stable genius plan to combat the opioid epidemic today in a speech at Manchester Community College in New Hampshire.
While the Reagan-era abstinence campaign was thoroughly debunked as an effective measure in reducing drug usage amongst Americans, Trump included a revival of a government sponsored anti-drug media war as part of his plan to fight the latest battle in a war on drugs that has essentially been an ineffective waste of millions of dollars and countless lives.
As the first step in the new offensive, the president announced a new website, crisisnextdoor.gov, dedicated to providing a forum for people to tell their stories about how addiction has impacted their lives. But, as the infomercials say, “wait, there’s more!”
Trump also announced his signature breakthrough idea — airing “great commercials” during “the right shows” to convince children “how bad” drugs are. Perhaps he’ll enlist an army of Russian Twitter bots to help successfully amplify his message.
These “great commercials” as Trump described them will do something that the president is quite skilled at, albeit for ostensibly different reasons, instill fear into the hearts and minds of the American people. Except that rather than fear of nuclear war, environmental destruction, or any other results of the failed policies of his administration, the fear Trump wants to instill in this case is the fear of drug addiction.
Pres. Trump calls for "spending a lot of money on great commercials showing how bad" drug addiction is. "That's the least expensive thing we can do, where we scare them from ending up like the people in the commercials." https://t.co/2fKckBQ7nA pic.twitter.com/VJUfPDTarN
— ABC News (@ABC) March 19, 2018
The president’s descriptions of the ads he wants produced indicates that they’ll be right in Trump’s comfort zone, bad TV and unsavoury situations.
“And we’ll make them very, very bad commercials…unsavoury situations.”
We can leave it to a high-priced Madison Avenue advertising firm to debate Trump on the wisdom of producing “very bad commercials” when you’re trying to convince anybody of anything, but suffice it say that as ineffective as this idea will most likely turn out to be, it’s at least less damaging then Trump’s attempts to emulate the strategy of Filipino dictator Rodrigo Duterte by executing drug dealers.
The extra-judicial murders of thousands of suspected Filipino drug dealers and drug users has drawn condemnation around the world for the lack of fair trials and due process as police mete out their own version of street justice, acting as judge, jury, and executioner as they conduct late night raids on homes and businesses.
To be truly effective in reducing opioid addiction, Trump’s call for the death penalty for major drug dealers would have to include the CEO’s of major pharmaceutical companies who produce and distribute far more opioids like fentanyl and oxycontin then the legitimate market calls for and who offer incentives to doctors for prescribing increasing amounts of their products.
Instead, the increase in enforcement actions that Trump is demanding will most likely avoid indicting wealthy corporate executives, no matter what their complicity in the opioid crisis may be and instead target the street level dealers who are the middlemen in the illicit drug trade.
Trump famously singled out immigrants as drug dealers during his campaign, and rather than send rich white men to death row, you can expect this latest escalation in the failed drug war will give his administration the excuse to further profile anyone who doesn’t fit their idea of what a citizen should look like.
Meanwhile, if you want to see what an effective anti-drug program looks like, visit Portugal, which decriminalized all drugs in 2001 and subsequently experienced dramatic drops in overdoses, HIV infection and drug-related crime.
If Trump was actually interested in finding a solution to the opioid epidemic rather than grandstanding for his base, the nation would employ a strategy that has been proven to be successful, rather than one that has failed time and time again.