An update to yesterday’s post “How President Obama has been seriously harshing my mellow.” If you haven’t read that one yet, go read it. It’s a good one.
Apparently, various commentariat entities have been making the same point I made yesterday at the end of my post: which was to point out a gift-wrapped opportunity the GOP could use to appeal to younger voters by supporting the newfound right to get their smoke on in Colorado and Washington. You may notice, these first articles were produced by certain entities that are, uh, shall we say, not on my Christmas card list. But the enemy of my enemy is said to be my friend, and sometimes fighting the good fight for the right of Coloradans and Washingtonians to bake it out in their driveway makes for strange bedfellows.
Isn’t this a rather sweet political opportunity for the GOP? They’re desperate for ways to earn some goodwill with young voters and minorities. Opposing prosecutions for weed is an easy way to do it, and thanks to Washington and Colorado voters, they wouldn’t have to do it on the merits if they so chose. They could do it purely on federalism grounds — i.e. while opinions on marijuana may differ, it’s disgraceful that Congress would trump the considered judgment of a sovereign state on what its citizens should and shouldn’t be allowed to ingest. I doubt you’d lose many anti-marijuana seniors with a principled argument like that and it would change the framework of this debate enough that it might allow for a bolder decriminalization debate later.
Which is essentially what I said, though this article did a better job of specifically clarifying one advantage for the GOP, which is that they could argue purely “on federalism grounds,” making it an issue of democracy as opposed to drug regulation. Today they reinforced their point with another post, this time complete with Gallup poll numbers claiming that though slightly less than half of adults favor legalizing marijuana, 64% agree with leaving it to the states. And, perhaps most interestingly, even amongst those opposed to legalization, 43% believe “the feds shouldn’t meddle if a state decides to legalize it.” The article characterizes this as such:
That’s the opening for Republicans in trying to sell this to reluctant seniors. The party can remain officially anti-pot at the state level, but at the federal level, it’s hands off.
You don’t have to be pro-weed to be pro-democracy, a lesson borne out here by Gallup’s numbers.
In agreement from the other side of the aisle is Nate Cohn, who emphasizes what play Democrats could make to shift the issue back in their favor, with or without the president:
If Republicans don’t seize the middle ground on marijuana legalization, Democrats will eventually use the issue to their advantage. Not only will Democratic primary voters demand it, they will have a lot to gain. As more younger, pro-marijuana voters enter the electorate and replace their elders, support for marijuana legalization will continue to increase, absent intervening events that reshape public opinion, like a disastrous ending to the experiments in Colorado and Washington. If marijuana becomes another partisan social issue, like gay marriage or abortion, it will make it even more difficult for Republicans to appeal to millennial voters.
As has been widely reported, George Will said yesterday that the opposition to gay marriage is “quite literally dying” out. “It’s old people,” he said. Perhaps the same could be said of the opposition to marijuana legalization? The above article points out the age factor, and I think marijuana is very close to becoming the sort of partisan social issue that gay marriage is, particularly now that it is the subject of this increasingly hot-button situation that extends past drug laws and personal freedom all the way to the role of government and federalism.
And finally, Andrew Sullivan jumps on the bandwagon and sums up our argument thusly:
For the longest time, libertarians on the right were among the most anti-Prohibition of all our political factions. William F Buckley himself favored legalizing weed decades ago on the grounds of personal freedom and federalism. This really is an issue which Republicans could and should champion on federalism and freedom grounds, especially if the Obama administration foolishly decides to ramp up the drug war in this case. Go for it, GOP. You have an entire generation to win back.
UPDATE to the update:
It seems I missed Andrew Sullivan’s much stronger and more in-depth post on this topic, which he has been closely and consistently reporting on.
And, most importantly, Sullivan turned me on to Alex Pareene’s call to action:
If Obama is not persuadable, it should be every liberal’s job to ensure that the issue becomes a litmus test for the next candidate, and the one after that, as gay marriage has become. (We won’t see another anti-same sex marriage Democratic presidential candidate in our lifetimes, I promise you.) We should be making sure that the next generation of Democratic leaders is less awful on drug issues, and that means agitating at the local and state level. The money people — and money helped win legalization in Washington, just as money has funded so much of the marriage equality battle — should be convinced that the legalization fight is a good and just use of their money.
Let’s make his marijuana policy end up as Barack Obama’s DOMA, the thing he’ll most desperately wish he could take back.
If you read my post, you should definitely read his. We both made similar points but his is, you know, better. There are many other well-written, well-researched, and intelligently articulated articles and posts floating around out there advocating the same issue, from luminaries and laymen on both sides of the aisle. I can only hope we’ve made an impression.