Monday, August 31, 2009

The Tide is Turning

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, 30% of American adults believe that the drinking age should be lowered to 18, and 5% believe it should be lowered to 16. This combination, 35%, is a record high, and this is one of the few times in decades that we broke the 30% barrier. And only 51% believe it should remain at 21, a record low. Adults under 40 were fairly even on whether the drinking age should be 18 or 21 (last year it was about half of men and about a quarter of women under 40 who wanted the age to be 18), another sign of progress. (Now, if only we could get young people to vote more!)

Also, 50% of adults believe that drunk driving laws are too lenient, while only 8% think they're too tough. That's one thing we at 21 Debunked do agree with the majority on.

It appears we are fast approaching a critical mass, if we have not achieved one already. Remember that it does not always take a majority to prevail, as Samuel Adams so eloquently noted.

Forty years ago, it was 1969. Lots of great things happened in that fateful year (Woodstock, the moon landing, the first Earth Day, etc.), but most relevant to the debate is the fact that the first two states to lower the drinking age (the first time around) did so that year. From 1970-1976, 30 states would lower their drinking ages, chiefly in 1972-1973, after decades of it being 21 in most states (some were 18 since the 1930s or remained 21 throughout). This occurred because the voting age and age of majority were lowered, due to the hypocrisy that 18-20 year olds were dying in Vietnam but were not allowed to have full adult rights, leading to much protest from that age group. Sound familiar? There was a huge mass of young people at the time, whose numbers would decline to political impotence in the 1980s (when the drinking age was raised to 21) and rise again in the late 1990s and especially the 2000s. Forty years later, the children of the Baby Boomers have come of age. There are now at least as many young Millennials as there were young Boomers in 1969, and they are a force to be reckoned with as there is strength in numbers.

If the current groundswell continues, perhaps we can consider 2009 to be like the new 1969, and so on. Only now Vietnam is spelled "Iraq" (or perhaps "Afghanistan"). Thus, we may lay the events on a timeline and make a prediction that the first state or two to lower the drinking age will do so in 2009-2011. Those will be the "guinea pigs," and how the feds handle it in 2011 will be crucial to the movement's success--that will be the wild card. If a large number of states follow suit, that will likely occur in 2012-2013. If so, a few more may do so in 2014-2016, and hopefully the Millennials won't sell out like the Boomers did back in the day.

Of course, this is all just speculation, but it can happen. What better time than now?

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