2012 US Election

Another Argument Against Legalizing Pot Goes Up In Smoke

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 US Election, Federal Politics, Policy, US Politics | 14 Comments

The stoned slacker vote is up for grabs

In the midst of a largely status-quo election, several groundbreaking ballot initiatives passed last night. Puerto Rico voted to apply for statehood. Same sex marriage was legalized in Maine and Maryland, and was upheld in Washington State, snapping a 32 vote losing streak for equal marriage proponents. And both Washington State and Colorado voted for complete marijuana legalization and regulation. The implications of this in Canada could be far reaching, and I’m not just talking about a spike in “road trips” from Vancouver to Seattle over reading week. I expect what happened last night will lead to some sober reflection on Canadian drug laws.

At least it should, because on the very same day marijuana laws in these two states became more liberal than Amsterdam, an omnibus bill imposing mandatory sentencing for drug crimes in Canada came into effect. So while ganja may be coming to a store near you in Denver, a student who grows 6 marijuana plants in his UBC dorm room and shares them with his friends could be looking at 9 months in jail.

While the NDP and Liberals have spoken against these “tough on crime” measures, both parties have been rather timid on the drug file in recent years. In March, Thomas Mulcair said he was against decriminalization because marijuana leads to mental illness. He later backtracked, saying he was confused between decriminalization and legalization; in either event, it’s safe to say we won’t see much movement from the NDP on this issue anytime soon. When asked about marijuana by High School students in 2010, Michael Ignatieff showed his deft ability to relate to youth by telling them he’d rather see them “digging ditches” than smoking “marijuana cigarettes”.

Ignatieff elaborated on his position by pointing to border problems legalizing the drug in Canada would create. Indeed, supporters of the current prohibition laws are quick to claim legalizing a product in Canada that is illegal in the US would lead to everything from chilled diplomatic relations to 10-hour lineups and full car searches at the border. But thanks to voters in Washington and Colorado, these arguments have now gone up in smoke. After all, no one’s going to risk smuggling joints across the border when you can just as easily buy American.

Most importantly, should these ballot measures withstand almost-certain legal challenges, there will now be two trials to cite when making the case for or against legalization. For better or wose, we’re about to find out what legalization really means; I imagine social scientists are already giddy with excitement at the prospect of crunching the crime data. If unintended consequences or logistical nightmares rear their head, no one will look at legalization in Canada for another 30 years – But if the results are largely positive and the tax dollars roll in, the case for legalization will no longer be theoretical. Suddenly, the risk won’t look quite so big and the change won’t seem quite as scary.

Regardless of what the courts say, yesterday’s votes will serve to embolden legalization activists on both sides of the border. Washington and Colorado may be blue states, but Obama only carried them with slim majorities – surely us public-healthcare-gay-marriage-loving socialists in Canada are at least as supportive of marijuana legalization, eh? These results should therefore give everyone pause to rethink the common wisdom that being labelled “soft on drugs” is campaign kryptonite. After all, the most basic rule of politics is that if the public supports something, it doesn’t hurt a politician to also support it.

Despite that, I can’t see Harper or Mulcair changing their positions – they’ve both stated their opposition to legalization and both are timid risk-averse politicians. But what about the Liberals, whose members voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana at their convention earlier this year? As I wrote at the time, there are many below-the-surface electoral implications to consider before running on a pro-pot platform. Who feels strong enough about this issue to change their vote over it? Does this help Liberal fundraising efforts? Does this play to the larger narrative of the Liberals as the party of “evidence-based” policy? Does it detract from the rest of the platform? If Justin Trudeau is the next Liberal leader, does this show he’s gutsy and stands for something, or does it play into the “airhead” narrative? Would this, combined with Justin’s youth appeal, actually get young Canadians out to the polls?

It’s a complex electoral calculus, but what happened south of the border last night might very well be the tipping point that prompts the Liberals to light up and run on legalization in 2015.

The Most Entertaining Moment of this Election

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 US Election, US Politics | 6 Comments

Watching Donald Trump’s head explode on Twitter:

My favourite part of this is that Donald appears to have deleted the following tweet out of shame for mixing up “one” and “won” – but has left up the ones calling for revolution.

Election Day in Ohio

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 US Election, US Politics | 8 Comments

Who will win? “Not Obama” or “Not Romney”?

While I may not be as overdosed on hope and change as I was four years ago, I’ll be rooting for Barack Obama tonight. I could write a lengthy treatise comparing policy positions and promises, but the short of it is I like the guy and I think he’d make a better President than Mitt Romney. I suspect that’s what it boils down to for most voters, so I’ll leave the deep analysis to those who follow US politics more closely.

Intrade has Obama with a 73.5% chance of winning tonight, and I’d still place my bet on the President with those odds. Nate Silver has Obama at a 90.9% chance of re-election, and recent polls have shown momentum swinging in Obama’s favour – likely, but not necessarily, because of his perceived strong response to Hurricane Sandy.

In the end though, the result may have little to do with gaffes, attack ads, debate performances, or even acts of God. Distilling this election down to its simplest terms, the economy isn’t great but it shows signs of life and Obama, despite a disappointing term in office, is still a better politician than Mitt Romney. Sometimes it’s best not to overthink these things.

Consider this an open thread to discuss the results as they roll in.

Meanwhile, South of the Border

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 US Election | Leave a comment

Despite a pair of humiliating set-backs in Alabama and Mississippi last week, Mitt Romney is still on course to stumble over the finish line in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Despite an overwhelming desire to find anyone else up to the job, the Anybody But Romney options have imploded one by one – first Bachman, then Perry, then Cain, then Gingrich. When Rick Santorum is the only alternative left standing, you know you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. So it’s no surprise that the delegate math is still heavily in Romney’s favour, and that the election stock markets still peg him as an 89% favourite to win the nomination.

But his odds of taking the White House are far less than that, despite Obama’s lackluster approval ratings. Although Romney is routinely described as the most “electable” Republican in the field, he has two glaring flaws that should ensure Obama’s re-election.

Flaw 1. Romney reminds me of John Kerry v 2.0 – he flips, he flops, he lacks convictions. Voters want a leader who stands for something and, unlike the rest of the Republican field, it’s unclear what Romney believes in. Just as Kerry’s past made it difficult for him to attack Bush on Iraq, Romney’s past makes it difficult for him to criticize Obamacare. It’s going to be very difficult to attack Obama’s Health Care model during debates, when Obama just needs to smile and thank Mitt for providing the Massachusetts model it was based on.

Romney’s wishy washineness has allowed him to get pulled into issues that are better left dormant. The only thing making contraception a major election issue accomplishes, is energizing Democrats who were otherwise indifferent to this election after being let down by Obama.

Flaw 2. The one issue Romney may be able to ride to the White House is the economy, but Romney’s business background only highlights his second fatal flaw – his inability to relate. Say what you will about them, but the one thing Barack Obama, George W Bush, and Bill Clinton were all able to do was connect with voters. So while Obama is sinking three pointers and cracking jokes this fall, expect more awkwardness from Romney, in line with his “$10,000 bet”, “I’m not concerned about the very poor” and “some of my friends own NASCAR teams” Richie Rich moments.

If Obama wants to take on Wall Street and the top 1% this election, he couldn’t have designed a better opponent. After all, you can’t spell Romney without “money”.

So while Democrats may be hoping for divine intervention to deliver them a Santorum nomination, they really should be counting their blessings that Romney will be the nominee. He may look like a formidable opponent, but Romney is the perfect foil for Obama to be up against.

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