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The Politics of Pot

Despite the government’s efforts, marijuana has grown quasi-acceptable in some regions of the country and in some segments of society. For the most part, it is young people who use ‘pot’ (though Paul McCartney is in his seventies…). This is why I want to talk about marijuana.

One of the key demographics being talked about in the wake of Obama’s resounding victory is the young vote. Not only did the young people break with tradition and actually vote in large numbers, but they voted overwhelmingly for Obama. Regardless of whether young people continue to vote in elections (I remain skeptical), the young of today will be the middle aged of tomorrow. The Republicans need to make inroads on some demographic somewhere, since old white people can’t be used as an election winning crutch for much longer. To rebrand itself is going to be a multi-faceted process, but there remains the crucial question of who should the GOP be selling Conservatism to?

I say they should make their bid at the youth vote. The people under thirty today will be here for the foreseeable future, they will vote in increasing numbers, and, in theory, the Republicans have a much stronger chance of winning their allegiance than do the Democrats. Here’s why:

  1. Debt. At $16 trillion and counting, it is the young people of today who will be paying for it tomorrow, and if the Democrats have their way, the young will be paying for it in higher taxes. If the GOP can stress this point and offer different (hopefully better) solutions, I think the youth will jump onto the GOP bandwagon. The GOP can even take a page out of the Obama handbook and play a little ‘class-warfare’ game by saying “the old people are screwing you, screw them instead!”
  2. Ron Paul incurred a significant (albeit a cult-like) following of mostly young people. The GOP should take this as a sign that young people are willing to embrace a Republican, but only if the Republicans embrace the Libertarian wing of their own party.
  3. Debt. Specifically the kind incurred by getting a college education. If after 4 more years of Obama we have the same economic situation as we do now (anemic job growth and a perceived lack of “good” jobs) then many young people will feel angry by this seeming betrayal of the American Promise: “Get a college degree and prosperity will follow”. If the GOP can get “ahead of the narrative” and make young people realize that the shitty economic circumstances are the cause of Liberal/Democratic policies, the young will again, I think, drift into the Republican camp.

All of this is, however, nothing more than idle speculation unless the Republicans actually go out and get the young people to listen to the message of Conservatism and Libertarianism. What a lot of conservative pundits assume is meant when it is said “the Republican Party needs to modernize” is that the Republican Party needs to do a better job of selling Conservatism. “The Republican Party needs to rebrand itself” is a phrase that is bandied about quite a bit.

I recognize though that the young people are by their nature skewed to the Left and the Democrats. I think that to get the young people to listen to the Republicans (and not just immediately in their mind think “Four legs good, two legs bad”…“Democrat good, Republican bad”) is for the GOP to become The Party of Pot.

They should also pipe down about abortion, gay marriage, and illegal immigration. That does not mean giving up those fights; it merely means not talking about them. I think this is a fine strategy since in American Politics: out of sight+out of sound=out of mind. Obama managed to get re-elected despite not talking about what little he has accomplished, despite not talking about the notable failures of his administration, or even what he plans to do with a 2nd term.

If the Republicans do a good job of “rebranding themselves”, it might not only put them back in power, it might introduce new swing states. California, for instance, is the pot capital of the country, and could possibly be turned Republican if the issue of pot is emphasized. I do not think California will go Republican in a presidential race, rather I think fewer Democrat representatives or senators will be elected to Congress from California.

Furthermore, if the Republicans adopt the simple message and repeat it often enough of “We are for legalizing pot”, the young people will be attracted to that message. They will likely turn out in droves just for that issue (to rallies anyway). And, just like any good salesman, that’s when the Republicans say “Come for the pot, stay for the low taxes!”

They then sell the other aspects of libertarianism, promote its many benefits, and tell the young people the truth of how screwed they (we) are and imply the partial truth that to unscrew themselves, the Republicans need to be elected. This strategy could establish a strong, right-leaning electorate for the next twenty or thirty years. Or it might do nothing. Either way, the Republicans have little to lose.

-SL

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