January 13, 2014

I MENTIONED THIS IN PASSING YESTERDAY, BUT REPUBLICANS really should get behind abolishing the national drinking age.

Republicans are supposed to stand for limited government, freedom and federalism, but it was under a Republican administration—and a Republican transportation secretary, Elizabeth Dole—that states were forced to raise their age limits or face financial penalties. That was before the tea party, though. Perhaps today, when Republican leaders across the board are singing the praises of limited government, it is time for them to put their money where their mouths are and support an end to the federal drinking-age mandate.

And if arguments based on fairness and principle aren’t enough, perhaps one based on politics will do the trick: This will get votes.

Democrats traditionally do well with the youth vote, and one reason is that they have been successful in portraying Republicans as fuddy-duddies who want to hold young people down. This may be unfair—college speech codes and the like don’t tend to come from Republicans—but the evidence suggests that it works. What’s more, the first few elections people vote in tend to set a long-term pattern. A move to repeal the federal drinking-age mandate might help Republicans turn this around.

Republicans are supposed to be against mandates aimed at the states, so this would demonstrate consistency. Second, it’s a pro-freedom move that younger voters—not yet confronted with the impact of, say, the capital-gains tax—can appreciate on a personal level. Third, it puts the Democrats in the position of having either to support the end of a federal mandate — something they tend to reflexively oppose — or to look like a bunch of old fuddy-duddies themselves.

It’s still true. Anyone interested? Rand Paul? Ted Cruz? Marco Rubio? Mike Lee? Anyone? Hey, Obama’s losing his grip on younger voters. Strike now!

The Democrats, meanwhile, have their own strategy for this.

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