Despite the partisan bickering and gridlock in Washington, I am encouraged by the surprisingly bipartisan coalitions that backed recent state victories for marijuana legalization, gay marriage and prison sentencing reform. Maybe we can all get along.
What makes these coalitions so remarkable in their support of these issues is how much their members disagree on almost everything else.
That happy thought brought liberals together with libertarian tea party conservatives in Colorado and Washington to put marijuana legalization over the top by 55 percent to 45 percent in each state.
The Colorado cause benefited from vigorous fundraising and an endorsement by former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, a libertarian Republican and tea party favorite. Washington residents similarly won the backing of mainstream non-hippie figures like Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who has long fa-vored legalization, regulation and taxation over what he calls “nanny state laws.”
As a result, proponents proudly noted, the Colorado measure received more votes than President Obama, who carried the state by 5 percentage points.
Similarly, a slice of Republican Mitt Romney and libertarian Gary Johnson voters helped Maryland, Maine and Washington became the first states to legalize same-sex marriages by popular vote. They joined six other states, plus the District of Columbia, that legalized through legislation or court rulings.
Conservative support helped, even if groups like the new Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry were not easy to find amid the louder opposition from social conservatives.
In Maryland, for example, county-level results reveal that “across wide swathes” of Republican territory, “same-sex marriage actually ran well before Barack Obama and the Democratic ticket,” according to Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and a volunteer in Maryland's successful same-sex marriage vote. Without Romney voters, he wrote in the Huffington Post, “the measure would almost certainly have lost by a mile.”
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