Last night, Scott Brown (R-Mass.) beat Democrat Martha Coakley in a special election to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy, becoming the first Republican to hold a Senate seat in Massachusetts since the 1970s. So what happened up there?
To state it simply, the Democrats chose a bad candidate. They backed one of the most vocal and public opponents of the MPP-funded ballot initiative, Question 2, which decriminalized marijuana possession in Massachusetts in 2008. Question 2 was more popular than President Obama on Election Day, garnering 65% of the vote compared with the president’s 62%. All but three towns in the state supported the initiative.
There is a lesson here for Democrats and Republicans alike: Support for marijuana reform will help, not hurt, a candidate in elections. Public support is surging forward. Polls on legalization are moving quickly toward majority approval nationwide — in the west, it’s already passed the 50% mark — and medical marijuana enjoys 81% support. Politicians on both sides of the aisle must recognize that it’s time to use this populist platform as a tool for winning elections.
Scott Brown is not a card-carrying member of the marijuana reform movement by any stretch of the imagination. As a state senator, he proposed that possession of marijuana in a vehicle remain a criminal offense, attempting to pull back parts of Question 2. But Brown was not a leading opponent of the measure nor was he publicly associated with the issue, as Coakley was. The lesson here, however, is of the could have should have variety: Democrats could have backed a candidate that supported Question 2, and they should have used marijuana reform as a tool in the campaign. Had they, today’s election results may have looked a lot different.