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Congress and the War on Drugs: An Exercise in Symbolic Politics

NCJ Number
B A Stolz
Date Published
24 pages
This paper analyzes the Congressional antidrug/anticrime policymaking process in the context of symbolic politics, i.e., political acts directed toward the public.
Enacting antidrug/crime legislation appears to have become an election year tradition in the US Congress. This paper examines the phenomenon, with primary focus on analysis of the 1986 and 1988 antidrug legislation in terms of three symbolic components of criminal law: reassurance, moral education, and model for the States. The paper includes a review of the literature; background information on the AntiDrug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988, and antidrug/anticrime legislation of 1990; and analysis of how all the legislation presented the three symbolic components described above. Congressional action on the antidrug/anticrime legislation can, in part, be explained from the perspective of symbolic politics. Findings have implications for general policymaking, drug policymaking, policy implementation, and for those who must implement the legislation. Footnotes