In the 1970’s one of my jobs as head of my union was to lobby the legislature on education bills. My first time out I met with the Oregon Speaker of the House, and she didn’t mince words. Instead of waiting for me to explain my legislation, she asked, “Who’s your opposition?”
My jaw dropped. I’d prepared a speech about how students would benefit from my proposal, but I’d given no thought to the opposition. That was my first political lesson. To affect changed, I need to know my enemies.
Mother Jones carried an article recently which illustrates this lesson further. For some time, law enforcement officials have struggled to stem the rising tide of Meth labs across the country. The problem is anyone can get into the business. All a person needs as a good supply of pseudoephedrine, a drug found in over the counter cold medications. Controlling the supply of the substance made sense but it required legislation. Each time a proposal was floated, however, it met with stiff opposition, not from the makers of Meth – they had no desire to step forward and identify themselves — but from large pharmaceutical companies. Selling cold medications is a lucrative business and anyone who proposed to regulate it was accused of mounting an assault upon the nation’s civil liberties. So far, except for two states, the industry has been successful in warding off attempts to regulate pseudoephedrine.
Oregon did succeed in passing a law, however. Since that time, the number of Meth labs in the state has fallen by 96%, ending an epidemic of drug addicted parents whose children were forced to live in foster care. (“Merchants of Meth,” by Jonah Engle, Mother Jones, July/August 2013 pg.32.)
Mississippi has followed suit, thanks to the Governor, a seasoned politician. Instead of sending his Meth bill to the committee on public health, where members are cozy with pharmaceutical companies, he sent it to an unrelated one and there, reason prevailed. Since that bill’s passage, Meth labs in Mississippi have fallen 70%. (Ibid, pg. 35.)
It been 500 years since the Jesuit Baltasar Gracián observed that a wise man knows his enemies. Human nature being little changed, it’s still true.
(Portrait of Baltasar Gracián courtesy of Wikipedia)