By Mike Tront
For as long as I can remember, libertarians have been jokingly referred to as “Republicans who smoke weed.” With Gary Johnson as the Libertarian Party presidential nominee, this image isn’t going to change anytime soon! Many, both in and outside the movement, think this image is bad for us.
NBC News just ran this, titled How Gary Johnson’s Marijuana Position Could Affect His Presidential Bid. The basic premise being that GOP voters and lawmakers are having a hard time getting behind Johnson due to his firm marijuana legalization position.
Even people within the movement, like Jack Hunter, editor of Rare, wrote this not too long ago: Gary Johnson Can’t Just Be The Weed Guy. Here his point is that Ron and Rand Paul have had success in using an overall message of smaller government in economics and foreign policy to attract people. These issues affect more people directly than the single issue of marijuana legalization.
Both of these articles definitely make great points and are not totally off base. But the attitude that libertarians should scale back our legalization zealotry is wrong.
The fact is, we’re up against an enormous monster of an enemy. We’re out numbered. In money, people, media, power, and in every other way you can imagine. The only thing we have on our side is the truth. We know that individual human freedom is the absolute best and only moral way for people to live. For this truth to eventually become reality, we need more people on our side.
Technology has done wonders in allowing us to get our message out to the world and to attract more people who otherwise didn’t know they were libertarian. But just as quickly as people are brought in, people also lose interest. Just look at the Ron Paul Revolution. Many were brought into the movement, but just four years later many of those people are now scattered away in many different directions. They see what we’re up against, and they see that we’ve largely been ineffective, so why stick around?
We Need a Victory To Keep People Interested
There’s an old saying: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Marijuana legalization is coming. No one can stop it. The individual states are legalizing marijuana. Poll after poll show that people are wanting marijuana to be legalized. And every year more breakthroughs are coming out about the medical benefits of marijuana. Since libertarians are known for this issue, perhaps more than any other issue that we believe in, why stop embracing it now?
When marijuana is finally legalized, the world should know that it was libertarians that fought longest and hardest for this cause. If we are directly associated with getting marijuana legalized, it could do wonders for our movement. People who consider themselves libertarian, but are pessimistic in their outlook for the movement, might actually see a glimmer of hope. People who don’t consider themselves libertarian, might take a closer look at what else we have to say when they see that marijuana legalization didn’t bring down Western Civilization.
The Libertarian Party Blew it With Gay Marriage
We did have an amazing opportunity recently. Last year the right of two consenting adults to get married, regardless of their sex, was finally recognized by the federal government. This was a huge deal for human freedom and an amazing leap forward for a government that has tried to control marriage with laws for over a century. The Libertarian Party has historically been a voice for gay rights. Their first presidential candidate, John Hospers in 1972, was openly gay in a very hostile time. They’ve supported the right for gays in the military way before it was politically fashionable to do so.
But as Slate pointed out in this 2013 article, the Libertarian Party, at that time, was basically silent on the issue of gay rights. In order to find any libertarian position or advocacy of gay rights, they had to scour the Party website. At a time when everyone was talking about gay rights, at a time when politicians like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were walking back their previous opposition to marriage equality, the Libertarian Party didn’t even have a tab on their website to point curious people to their firm and consistent support of marriage equality.
Perhaps they were trying to focus their branding to attract conservative leaning people from the Ron Paul revolution. I don’t know. But a few short years later victory was won for marriage equality and libertarians were left in the dust.
We can’t let the same thing happen to us when marijuana is finally legalized. Now that the tide is turning and legalization is inevitable, we need to make this a central issue for the movement and for the Libertarian Party.
Sometimes I see bumper stickers that say: “If you can read this, thank a teacher” Or “If you can read this in English, thank a veteran”
One day I want to see a bumper sticker that says “If you can legally consume marijuana and you don’t have to purchase it from a dangerous cartel or gang, thank a libertarian!”
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