Will Marijuana Reform Bring Young People To The Ballot Box In 2012?
In 2008, Barack Obama and the Democrats were able to do something that rarely, if ever happens - they got young people excited to vote. As a result, the Dems reaped the benefits of the turnout. If the youth vote stayed home, what would things have looked like for Mr. Obama? The Pew Research Center had this to say about the youth vote in 2008, "In the last three general elections - 2004, 2006, and 2008 -- young voters have given the Democratic Party a majority of their votes, and for all three cycles they have been the party's most supportive age group. This year, 66% of those under age 30 voted for Barack Obama making the disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972."
How do young voters feel about Obama in 2012? I was part of that 'under 30' that voted for Barack Obama in 2008. I was a non-traditional junior in college at the time, and I was FIRED UP for hope and change. I have to be honest, I'm not as fired up as I was four years ago. I am no longer in that 'under 30' demographic (I'm 31 now), so I'm perhaps not the best spokesperson. However, it's very hard for me to find someone under 30 that is excited about this Presidential Election.
A big reason for that is Barack Obama's stance on marijuana reform. When we voted for Obama in 2008, we thought we were voting for a candidate who had compassion for medical marijuana patients, and a willingness to talk about recreational marijuana law reform. What we ended up voting for was more of the same. We ended up voting for worse policies than the Bush administration in the area of mmj, and we ended up voting for a candidate that now smirks when asked about marijuana legalization. Marijuana reform is very important to young voters, and the epic flip flop that Obama pulled has left younger voters with a bad taste in their mouths.
Virtually every younger voter I know is planning on not only refraining from voting for Obama in November, they are refraining from voting altogether. If a mass boycott by younger voters becomes a reality, the fallout could be extensive. The youth vote isn't only needed at the White House; it's needed by Democrats at every level of government. On the surface Democrats try to paint marijuana voters as being insignificant. However, I guarantee when a number of local Democratic candidates lose their seats, and political analysts realize it's due in part to a lack of younger voter turnout, they will care more. Unfortunately, it will probably be too late.
Here in Oregon, expert Democratic political analysts have openly courted one of our marijuana reform initiatives, because they realize it might be the only issue that gets young people fired up to vote. Just as marijuana reform gets younger voters fired up to vote, an anti-marijuana incumbent running for re-election has the opposite effect. If I'm a state representative in a tight race, how pissed am I at the Obama Administration for alienating a large portion of my voter base? Every vote is needed in this election, and every voter that is missing in 2012 that was present in 2008 is likely to go against the Dems, as they are likely disillusioned by the last term that is wrapping up.
What do TWB readers think? Our main reader demographic (by far) is 18-24, and I know there are some Students for Sensible Drug Policy members reading this, what do you think? Are you planning on voting for Obama? Are you planning on voting in everything except the presidential race? Are you planning on skipping voting altogether? I look forward to your comments.