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Hysterics and Cheap Theatrics

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What’s worse than a boring election in which the candidates can’t separate themselves on the issues and the voting public just doesn’t seem to care?

Faced with that proposition, Nancy Workman and Karen Crompton set out recently to scare people into paying attention to the race for Salt Lake County mayor. So Workman, the Republican, and Crompton, the Democrat, got out the bogeyman and shook it at the public.

Workman’s ploy was to tee off on Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson for a speech he delivered in Los Angeles condemning the federal War on Drugs as a dismal failure. Anderson correctly noted that the War on Drugs is costing billions, incarcerating drug users for too long, and that illegal drugs are more prevalent now than they were a decade ago. Decriminalizing the use of marijuana could be an option, he offered.

Workman tried to enlist Sheriff Aaron Kennard for a press conference damning Anderson and what she wanted to label as the soft-on-drugs stance of the opposing party. But Kennard wouldn’t go along, and Workman was forced to beat the bush for law enforcement officers who would stand beside her for a photo-op. This get-tough-on-drugs electioneering is exactly the sort of hysteria that led to the mandatory-minimum prison sentences currently shackling judges and giving prosecutors too much power.

In the meantime, Crompton’s clan got wind of Workman’s plan. In a quick bit of one-upmanship, the Democrat threw her own press conference with a shrill warning that the youngsters of Salt Lake Valley were falling prey to a new drug epidemic that could only be compared to the horrors of methamphetamine. That new “danger” is the feel-good drug known as ecstasy, which was originally developed to make patients comfortable with their psychoanalysts. Young adults take the drug at all-night raves, and before you know it they’re touching each other, Crompton exclaimed.

To say that neither candidate knows her derriere from third base when it comes to drugs is, of course, obvious. No doubt methamphetamine production and use is a huge and dangerous problem. But ecstasy? Give us a break.

Crompton’s call to arms to fight an epidemic that doesn’t exist for a substance that does nothing more than raise blood pressure and give a warm, fuzzy feeling is nothing short of irresponsible. Workman’s pronouncements that rethinking the War on Drugs will drag us into a hellhole are almost as ludicrous.

Campaigning on fear is nothing new. The candidates for the county mayor’s post have demonstrated that they aren’t above the cheap-shot artists we normally refer to as politicians.

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