04.23.2010 0

A “Green” Strategy for the GOP’s Uncertain Future

By Chris Slavens

The Obama administration and Democratic Party are fond of labeling the GOP “the Party of No.” Republicans are correct to say “no” to an outrageous far-left agenda, but this might not be enough for voters, many of whom would like to see positive actions. It should not be forgotten that the nation voted for change in 2008; while voters are beginning to realize that they chose the wrong kind of change, this should not be interpreted as a mandate to return to Bush-era neo-conservatism.

If Republicans are to successfully lead the United States out of what history will remember as “the progressive years,” they must market themselves as opponents of big government of all kinds, and defend citizens’ personal liberties just as vigorously as they have stood up for their economic liberties. Unfortunately, conservatives are often viewed as religious fascists who want to impose their values upon others, even if they are not constitutionally (or morally) authorized to do so.

It is time to reverse this negative stereotype by seriously considering a conservative campaign to decriminalize marijuana. If there is to be a new generation of young Republicans, they must be offered a limited-government platform that is consistent. Arguing that the government does not have authority over a person’s body when it comes to health-insurance mandates, but can and should control which substances that person puts into his or her body, is anything but.

Of course, whenever a candidate brings up the issue, he is sneered at by social conservatives. “You’re just a pothead! Move to Amsterdam!” Ignored is the fact that one does not have to be a marijuana user to favor the plant’s decriminalization. How many people would support a return to alcohol prohibition? Not many, it is safe to assume. Does that make the rest alcoholics?

On the contrary, most conservatives would be opposed to the prohibition of substances like alcohol and tobacco, on the grounds that it is not the government’s role to restrict them, despite the risks associated with use. Is marijuana—which grows naturally—any different?

Adopting a more moderate stance towards marijuana is the single most effective way for a major party to attract voters under 40, as well as unaffiliated voters of all ages. It is to be expected that older Republicans, who lived through the “reefer madness” years when the federal government peddled myths and outright falsehoods about the plant, would strongly oppose any such change to the GOP’s platform, which is probably why elected conservatives are hesitant to discuss the topic.

Fast forward twenty years. Many of those older conservatives will have passed on, leaving behind an American population that is largely marijuana-friendly. In which party will they find a home?

If the Republican Party does not modify its stance on personal liberties issues, it might become a permanent minority party in less than twenty years. Many on the right have forgotten that it is not the government’s role to legislate morality, or to protect citizens from their own actions. They speak freely against big government when it is of the progressive variety, and raise their fists in defiance of the nanny state, but are less willing to admit that when it comes to the never-ending drug war, they are usually first in line to play “nanny.”

Limited government is what Americans need and want, and limited government is what they will get, eventually. Whether they get it as a result of the GOP, or in spite of it, will depend on the willingness of Republicans to be honest and open-minded about an issue that is, frankly, a no-brainer.

Chris Slavens, former contributor to the Wilmington News Journal, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

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