WASHINGTON – Want to show that you’re out of touch with a core constituency for which your political party is in dire need of in future elections? Cite Lady Gaga as a reason NOT to be for something.
Last week, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Mobile — a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee – expressed his disapproval of President Barack Obama’s stance on marijuana use during an oversight hearing on the Justice Department.
Obama had explained in an interview with the New Yorker magazine’s David Remnick that he saw marijuana as something not good but not terrible at the same time.
“I have to tell you, I’m heartbroken to see what the president said just a few days ago. It’s stunning to me. I find it beyond comprehension,” Sessions said to hearing witness Attorney General Eric Holder. “This is just difficult for me to conceive how the president of the United States could make such a statement as that. Did the president conduct any medical or scientific survey before he waltzed into The New Yorker and opined contrary to the positions of attorneys general and presidents universally prior to that?”
Sessions went on to point to pop singer Lady Gaga, who at 27-years-old has a net worth of $190 million and is a seen as a success in the music industry, as the poster child for marijuana addiction gone wrong.
“Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to it and it is not harmless,” Sessions added.
Sessions, who seems to be right 90 percent of the time, seems to be wrong side of this — at least in the way he is attacking this issue.
As someone who has long dismissed getting high on weed because it ruins your beer buzz and who lacks any sort of passion on the issue of drug legalization/decriminalization, I would tell the anti-pot crowd it is time to concede defeat. As of February 2014, the political upside of being an anti-marijuana hawk is less than the political downside.
Polling backs this up. An October Gallup poll and a CNN/ORC poll from last month both showed for the first times a majority of Americans on the side for legalization. That also seems to be the way the Republican Party is trending, from the less-socially conservative political party to a more libertarian-leaning political party.
Things are trending against government. People hassled by the TSA at the airport, the IRS, over-regulation, ObamaCare follies – there are a number of ways average Americans disconnected from politics have had negative experiences with the government. Thus, airing on the side of less government, even when it comes to something as mundane as pot, is a step in the right direction.
Another problem for the GOP is that pushing against marijuana legalization is not appealing to young people. In the last election, Obama won over young voters by a convincing 67 percent to 30 percent margin over Mitt Romney in 2012. Although young voters don’t come out to the polls like older voters, eventually these will be older voters.
There is also an emotional aspect to this — the so-called empathy gap. Taking hardcore stances for marijuana prohibition feeds the narrative that the Republican Party is out of touch and doesn’t understand the coveted key 25-54 demographic. And that, for better or worse, is where we’re at in our society within that age group.
If you want more evidence of this, look at the rise of figures like former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., and his son, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. They’re popularity – which, to be sure, hasn’t quite manifested itself yet in a national election – can be traced back to their “live and let live” ethos.
Conservatives would be better served to either line up on the side of those looking to loosen the rules on marijuana or not take bold definitive stands against it. Granted, it’s still a potentially hazardous substance and should be regulated to some degree.
Ideally, the marijuana issue would be left up the states to decide. I wouldn’t hold my breath, however, thinking Alabama would be the vanguard on drugs. But just as it took the state a few generations to loosen its restrictions on alcohol after prohibition ended, perhaps Alabama’s grandchildren will be hitting their bong pipes without the fear of law enforcement hauling them down to the city jail.
In the meantime, calling marijuana “the devil” and casting scorn upon Lady Gaga – it might get you a few “heck yeahs” from the talk radio crowd if you’re a Republican politician.
Bill Maher, the host of “Real Time” on HBO who is set to visit Mobile this weekend and is wrong about almost everything, raises an interesting point. He recently pointed out the divide on this issue isn’t as great as it is on other social issues, particularly same-sex marriage.
“The issue of marijuana, I feel, is heading on a faster track than even gay marriage,” Maher said last week. “Because gay marriage still has Bible thumpers who will always be against that. But, pot has no one against it, really. Because it is the one thing that unites hippie and hillbilly.”
But it’s time for the anti-drug folks to take the hit on this one and look at the bigger picture, which is to promote the message of personal responsibility and not to rely on the government to be the lone adjudicator.
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