Pot Legalization Picking Up Steam, Just in Time

(Bloomberg View) -- OK, I was wrong. 

Back in November, I wrote an item explaining all the reasons it wasn't surprising that marijuana legalization wasn't a popular policy position despite polls showing a massive voter shift in favor of it. 

About five minutes after I wrote that one, Democrats started aligning themselves more and more with legalization. It's even bipartisan: Former Republican Speaker John Boehner joined in, and Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner successfully pushed the Donald Trump administration to leave his state and other legalization states alone. And Thursday, Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joined them

It's still not certain how the fight will end. Serious implementation problems have not been fully solved. It's still likely there will be some sort of setback -- an unfortunate incident, a scientific report taken to indicate problems, or something else -- and there's no real way to predict how large or small the reaction will be. Despite Gardner and Boehner, it's still entirely possible the fight over legal weed will wind up being a partisan one, and if Democrats don't win enough elections, they could lose it. 

Still, legalization is well on its way to being the orthodox mainstream liberal Democratic position. It's even quite possible that it will be the consensus position among the party's presidential candidates in 2020. And if most Democrats support it and are joined by libertarian-leaning Republicans, Republicans from legalization states, and a few others looking to modernize the party's image? Well, that's a winning coalition. 

Either way, whatever happens from this point on, I got this one wrong. Harry Enten had suggested that politicians might be slow to react to the public opinion numbers; I gave several reasons they might choose not to act despite knowing those polling results. I hope you won't mind too much if I say now that my reasoning has gone, well, up in smoke. 

1. Julia Azari on the problems with invoking the 25th Amendment. Very good. It's worse than she thinks, however. For one thing, a president stripped of his duties by the 25th remains the president -- if this happened to President Trump, Mike Pence would only be an acting president. It's not even clear who would get to live in the White House. Moreover, there's no apparent limit to the number of times the sort-of deposed president could petition to be reinstated; theoretically, Trump could keep Congress voting on it over and over again. The bottom line about all this is that the 25th is entirely inadequate for getting rid of a president who believes he or she is capable of governing and is willing to fight hard for the presidency. 

2. Excellent Matt Glassman item on war powers, Congress and the presidency.

3. I've been increasingly convinced that there's nothing automatic about first-past-the-post elections and a two-party system. But regardless of why, the United States certainly has a two-party system -- and I think Scott Lemieux is correct that shifting to a multiparty system in the U.S. is very unlikely to solve any of the problems people think it would. He's talking to very liberal Democrats, but I think the same is true regardless of policy preferences.

4. Danielle Thomsen on House factions.

5. Scott R. Anderson and Molly E. Reynolds on how Congress is going about considering a new authorization for use of military force.

6. Conor Friedersdorf with a must-read about "Trump's" Republican Party. I'll keep saying the same thing: It's been Newt Gingrich's party for a long time now. 

7. The Washington Post's Paul Kane reports on how some senators have been using their leverage in close votes on executive-branch nominations to negotiate for things they want. Normal senator behavior, but since I bashed Republican senators for deferring to Mitch McConnell earlier this week, I should note that sometimes what looks like going along to get along can really be strong action.

8. Nice Jamelle Bouie item on the potential Eric Holder presidential campaign.

9. Philip Klein on how Republican failures on health care make further Democratic gains more likely. 

10. And Alison Frankel reports on the Federalist Society and going silent in the face of threats to the rule of law. 

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Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.

To contact the author of this story: Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.

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