In a recent “In the Loop” column, Al Kamen suggested that Mitt Romney should support the decriminalization of marijuana as a General Election sop to Ron Paul supporters.
First, Paul’s supporters could be quite valuable to the eventual GOP nominee. While they’ve been dismissed as the party’s fringe element, they’re young and enthusiastic, two characteristics the party badly needs in the general election. (After all, Romney’s managed to tick off Hispanics, so he needs any constituency he can get his hands on.)
And then there’s Colorado. With medical-marijuana shops on nearly every corner and a libertarian-leaning electorate — not to mention its status as a swing state — the Centennial State could tempt Romney to take a seemingly radical turn on drugs.
I think Kamen’s right. And there would be several other advantages to this approach for Romney.
It’s something that’s important to young voters, not just to Ron Paul supporters, as there are plenty of people who might have supported Congressman Paul had he not been in his Late 70s, or signed off on some racist newsletters in the 90s. A pro-decriminalization position can help cause a rift between the Democrats and a demographic that came out overwhelmingly for President Obama in 2008. That could help in the downticket races as well. Romney wouldn’t need to win the 18-29 vote, but getting the margin to be more favorable to the Republican party would make the ultimate goal more viable.
Plenty of economic arguments exist for decriminalizing weed, and these will remain valid regardless of the rate of recovery. There’s money to be made in taxing the stuff in the way most legal transactions are taxed, and it’s rather expensive to enforce the laws against it. So this would be something that simultaneously increases revenues and cuts costs.
It also forces the Democrats to be on the weaker side of the issue, arguing against something that a slight majority of Americans believe, resulting in some in-fighting on the left. It would be a bold economic plan that would get a lot of media coverage. In addition, the President could look like a hypocrite, due to his drug use in the past.
Romney’s also an ideal messenger. He’s a Mormon who doesn’t drink beer or coffee, so no one would think that he has any ulterior motives. The move could also reassure some voters worried that he might have an agenda against stuff they like (alcohol, hot chocolate, non-wacky tobacky) that his church does not approve of. So it would be a major signal that Governor Romney is not a closet prohibitionist.
With Romney’s current unfavorable rating, he’s also in need of some rebranding. This would be a way to reestablish himself as a sober moderate technocrat, which is just what the country needs right now.