Prior to reading Lisa McGirr’s The War on Alcohol, I thought Prohibition was, as the author described popular notions of the era, “an aberrant moment in the nation’s history, wrongheaded social policy waged by puritanical zealots of a bygone Victorian era, with few lasting consequences.” I expected a connection with the War on Drugs; it was noted but not explored in any detail. What surprised me is that the war on alcohol drove millions of voters into the arms of the Democratic Party and gave FDR’s New Deal a populist, revolutionary energy beyond what may have been justified on economics alone.
I knew Lincoln was a Republican and wondered how the party lost black voters; now I know. They merged church and state to enforce “good” behavior – a “perfect storm” of ill-conceived public policy that could only lead to punishment of defenseless citizens. The sad part of this experience is that Republicans seem to have few regrets (else we would not have the ATF, DEA, etc.). Apparently, they concluded the mistake was overreaching; outright prohibition created a hugely profitable black market. Today, “sin taxes” regulate the supply of tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and marijuana – splitting profits between government and business.
Democrats are far from blameless in perpetuating these wars. Evidently, they learned that being the Big Brother of oppressed minorities is a powerful negotiating tool. Republicans have been remarkably successful in expanding federal police powers (including the recent example of DHS) because Democrats have found limitation more profitable than prevention. As McGirr explained, law enforcement was a local matter before Prohibition, but it has been a subject of intense interest in Washington ever since. The lesson of her book is that there were lasting consequences to the 18th Amendment – institutional components of a police state.”
Steve Richardson is a founding member of the Virginia Independent Voters Association and serves on IndependentVoting.org’s national Election Reform Committee.
Independent Voting activists Natesha Oliver and June Hirsh (r) at the National Conference of Independents, March 2015
Just finished reading “Citizen Warriors”, ch.5 of The War on Alcohol by Lisa McGirr.
To be honest, I really don’t know what to say so I will start by saying Lisa McGirr’s account of enforcement during Prohibition by ordinary citizens is eye-opening, it’s like Citizens went on a self aggrandizing mission to “clean up” what they considered problem people. The reality that Prohibition was spearheaded by the church, more or less, isn’t shocking; Ththe fact that the church aligned their cause with the KKK to enforce the law is shocking…
I have not finished the book yet what I have read affirm my belief that racism still heavily exists in politics because politics was the platform people used to push their superiority agendas, be it the Church or otherwise… WTH!!”
Natesha Oliver is the founder of MIST, Missouri Independents Stand Together. She lives in Kansas City.