By "Radical" Russ Belville
Well, the Tea Partiers do seem to like a bunch of colonial hemp farmers a lot...
(The Atlantic) The issues at play happen to mesh perfectly with the Tea Party’s extant ideological divides. Beneath the movement’s strict focus on fiscal matters, libertarianism and social conservatism are the two dominant leanings that most readily oppose each other. The Tea Party is an amalgam of Ron Paul supporters and libertarians, mixed in with disaffected Bush voters whose personal views are grounded firmly in social conservatism.
Marijuana seems like as good an issue as any to bring these ideological poles into conflict. Libertarians support looser drug laws as an expression of their most basic principle–less government involvement in private lives; social conservatives and traditionalists react viscerally to drug legalization as a descent into societal depravity. In broad terms, libertarians and social conservatives couldn’t see marijuana more differently.
On top of that, marijuana is becoming a states’ rights issue. The Obama administration has enacted a policy of deference to state policies on medical marijuana, and if California’s Prop. 19 passes in 2010, or if a similar measure passes in California or elsewhere in 2012, the subsequent Obama/Holder decision over what to do about it will inevitably call into question whether the federal government should (constitutionally, it certainly can) supersede the decision of state voters.
Ron Paul Libertarians have always been staunch supporters of ending the (federal) drug war. The question is how much of the Tea Party is made up of these ideological allies and how much is just visceral reaction by those who hate Obama.
It’s another reason why I doubt that marijuana initiatives can be for Democrats what gay marriage was for Republicans. Marijuana may drive some otherwise reluctant women, minorities, and “surge” (Obama) voters to the polls, but these Tea Party types were already motivated to get to the polls for these midterm elections to repudiate (or, in Sarah Palin’s case, “refudiate“) Obama and the Democrats. Between Tea Partiers voting YES on 19 but Republican the rest of the ticket and tokers voting YES on 19 but ignoring the rest of the ballot, I think that will blunt any bump Democrats might see from younger/female/surge voters coming out to vote YES on 19.
Plus with yesterday’s federal court decision nullifying the anti-gay marriage equality Prop 8 in California, social conservatives will once again be railing about the votes of the majority (to discriminate against gay people) being overturned by “activist judges”. They may come out in great numbers once again to rebuke the government. But if Prop 19 passes, how can they demand states rights to decide whether two guys or two gals get married, but not whether they can share a joint on the honeymoon?