On marijuana, get ahead of the inevitable

I’m not saying we should blaze up at fundraisers, or that candidates need to start offering elephant bongs to donors, or that the campaign van needs a Phish sticker. But we should at least be talking about reducing the penalties, danger, and illegality for a drug that society decided a long time ago it likes.

It’s a mirror image of the tough-on-crime strategy of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. Rock-hard anti-crime policies were a classic marriage of the right politics and the right policy at the right time; liberalism’s 30-year misreading of middle-class anxiety about crime and violence yielded political victories for Republicans at every level. Crime really was a national crisis for decades, and Democrats derided concern over it as nothing more than crude polemics.

But conservative Democrats needed permission to accept voting for the other party. Being tough on crime gave them the latitude to vote Republican. For example, Rudy Giuliani’s 1997 campaign was about giving New York Democrats permission to vote for Giuliani because he’d cleaned up the streets, cut crime, and closed the porn palaces. Manhattan’s elites hated it, but those policies gave a permission slip to people who wouldn’t normally vote GOP.