Politics and Pot: After New Hampshire
If you support national cannabis reform and the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, New Hampshire was your night, on both sides of the race.
On the Democratic side, in cannabis politics, Big Change beat Small Change by nearly 22 points.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump lapped the field, more than doubling second place finisher Ohio Governor John Kasich. Third through sixth were Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie. Christie and Carly Fiorina quit the race Wednesday. Alluding to the New Jersey’ Governor’s brutal unmasking of Rubio in Saturday night’s debate that ultimately gained him nothing, Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch compared Christie to a suicide bomber.
My biases: I subscribe to the following theories regarding the Republican candidates, which undergirds my analysis. As of now, only Trump and Kasich can win a general election – in certain unlikely circumstances. Bush and Rubio were never ready, as people; their fatal flaws are and always were obvious. Cruz is an extremist, religious-right ideologue who is viscerally, personally loathed by nearly every human being who has ever come into contact with him. That’s a double non-starter for a general election.
Like Sanders, Trump and Kasich each have a core message and each is comfortable in his own skin. Another bias of mine is that political analysts have systematically underappreciated the hunger in America for a different narrative about how government can still work despite our deadlocked, do-nothing system. Only an authentic messenger will do.
Trump says: government can work, but the problem is you have to hire smart people, not stupid people. The government as we know it is a powerful tool being squandered. Trust my personal brand. I’m Trump. I’m smart. In my hands, you will feel like a winner.
Kasich says: government can meet human needs even with conservative values, and here are the concrete issues I care about which I have addressed in my state and throughout my career.
Sanders says: government can work as a force to reign in consequence-free late capitalism, but the influence of money in politics and structural wealth inequality has to be addressed first or nothing else matters.
Clinton says: government can work, my life’s work proves it does work, and I am by far the most qualified to continue to make it work, bit by bit.
There isn’t nearly as much “government is the problem and needs to continue to be eliminated, for the sake of freedom” rhetoric in the Republican Party these days. Not with Trump’s message ascendant. Romney ran on those original Ronald Reagan themes in 2012 and got toasted.
With Democrats, there has been relatively little internal rancor up until this point in the race because the debates have been mostly cordial and most Democratic voters agree with both what Sanders says and what Clinton says. Yes, Clinton has competently mastered the system, and yes, that system is broken. Essentially, while eyeballing the Republican race dynamics, the Democrats are having a referendum on how daring they want to be. And the split is profoundly generational.
Clinton admitted as such in her concession speech Tuesday, saying “I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people.”
If, however, part of that “work” involves throwing the kitchen sink at Sanders – which he said on Tuesday in his victory speech he anticipated next–it will signal that the candidate herself fundamentally misreads the electorate.
Here’s why you should be happy with last night’s results if you want to see cannabis reform happen more quickly. As debates and contests unfold, any policy area where there’s daylight that can matter to people will be raised. Cannabis is clearly one of those areas, and the longer the campaign goes, the more likely the issue will get closer scrutiny. We now have a serious contest where both Democratic candidates have the will and resources and constituency to compete to the end. The Sanders campaign announced in a fundraising email it had brought in $5.2 million in the first 18 hours after winning.
What makes the Republican race such a good outcome for cannabis reform advocates is that Trump is in a stronger position to win the nomination than he was after Iowa, and he is still likely to lose a general election. His only remaining rivals leave the Granite State hapless (Bush), happy-but-weakly-funded (Kasich), panicked (Rubio) and hated (Cruz). As an opportunist, Trump could consider cannabis reform if he were persuaded it helped him politically.
Moreover, it’s my belief Sanders would match up better than Clinton would against Trump in a general election. Like Clinton, Sanders would have a very large percentage of the Obama coalition supporting him, but unlike her, his appeal among independents would strongly compete with Trump’s. Then, it’s simply a question to Americans about which direction to take their anger at the current system.
On the schedule, next up is the Nevada caucus and South Carolina primary, although the parties contest those states in reverse order on Saturdays 20 and 27 of this month. March 1 is Super Tuesday, which features many states voting on the same day.
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