Obama’s Cultural Transformation Of America

Marijuana Crime

[Re-posted from earlier today]

Support for marijuana legalization increases as crime goes down:

Eighty percent of the differences in support for marijuana legalization nationwide since 1975 is explained by the change in the overall crime rate through 2010 (the last year in which we have the crime rate and GSS data). Crime rates are currently at very low levels nationwide, which could explain why we saw the demonstrated upswing of marijuana legalization in all polling during the first decade of this century. If we were to see an increase in the crime rate in the future, there’s a pretty decent chance we’d see a decrease in support for marijuana.

Maybe so. But I’m still impressed by that sharp sudden uptick in the last few years. It looks a lot like the marriage equality graphs:

Screen shot 2013-04-09 at 1.21.32 PM

More and more, as the Obama re-election moves into the rear-view mirror, I think we are wrong to see the current fiscal stalemate or economic situation as the most dispositive aspects of Obama’s presidency.

I think what he may well be remembered for will not be his careful stewardship of a very sick economy back from intensive care. Given the nature of the economic collapse, he was never going to get a Reagan recovery anyway. All he needed was a recovery strong enough to get re-elected, and a winning coalition that remade America as a cultural entity. And that’s what we are now seeing. The 2012 election was a watershed for cultural change – and I suspect the sudden jump in support for marriage equality and marijuana legalization reflects a bandwagon effect in the wake of Obama’s overwhelming cultural victory.

Obama has presided over the moment when white America came to accept that it no longer has the demographic clout to ignore non-white America – a huge symbolic step in national self-understanding, literally epitomized by a multi-racial, multi-cultural president. It looks likely that his presidency will be the most significant one for gay rights in American history. He has established the principle of universal healthcare in America – another huge shift in the cultural identity of the country. He has harnessed the political power of American women to decimate the GOP’s coalition. If he presides over immigration reform, we will be a different country culturally than we were only a decade ago. And he will have ended – perhaps permanently – the entire idea of militarily occupying foreign countries to advance our geo-political goals, and, if the sequester continues, will have cut defense in ways even Clinton couldn’t dare to.

This is a cultural revolution. He did not create it. He organized it. And epitomized it. We are now looking very closely at various political, tactical moments – the budget, entitlement reform, taxes – exacerbated by the new instant and universal media. What we are missing is the strategic cultural revolution that has been occurring all the time, and that he has very carefully guided.

And he is quite happy for us to miss it. Because that stirs up less resistance. But the change goes on …