There is national consensus that the Hillary Clinton is a sure thing to win the Democratic nomination, but the latest CBS/YouGov poll shows that Bernie Sanders isn’t out of the race yet. Even among progressives, there is a lot of “I wish Bernie could win” sentiment and I must say that I have found the most support and confidence in Sanders from the cannabis community. Granted, marijuana law reformers, especially those that consider themselves progressives or Democrats, are likely to rally behind the candidate calling for an end to cannabis prohibition and major Drug War reforms, but I think that something else is in play here: the cannabis community is used to being the underdog and surprising the political establishment.
It wasn’t that long ago that many of us were told by many friends, family and pundits that we were wasting our time trying to legalize marijuana. Marijuana legalization then lost a few times at the ballot box and prohibitionists and naysayers were further emboldened. But legalization experienced victory in 2012 and 2014 by outperforming most of the polls and the we proved the naysayers wrong, but we still have plenty of naysayers.
At the beginning of this year, I was pulled aside at the airport and thoroughly frisked and searched (and I don’t want to compare my experience to people who have gone through much worse, but basically fondled and groped) at the Portland International Airport after being selected for extra scrutiny. The TSA agent asked me where I was travelling and why and I explained that I was going to Oakland, California, to speak at a conference about marijuana legalization. The agent asked me when I thought that marijuana would be legal federally, and I told him within the next 10 years. The agent responded, “Never!” I retorted with a smile and, “We’ll see.”
The dismissive attitude of the cannabis community and our political efforts are very similar, in my opinion, to the dismissive attitude towards supporters of Bernie Sanders. It is also similar to the experience that early supporters of Barack Obama, of which I was one, felt in the lead up to the 2008 Democratic nomination. It is interesting to see that people now feel that Obama was such a shoo-in, but that isn’t the case. Electing a black candidate with the middle name “Hussein” wasn’t a given by any means. But Barack Obama won the Iowa caucus, with frontrunner Hillary Clinton finishing third, and the rest is history, despite the fact that Clinton went on to win the New Hampshire primary.
The latest CBS/YouGov poll has Sanders just 5 points down from Hillary Clinton in Iowa, a great position for the insurgent candidate as his support is likely to be under-polled. Sanders is backed by many voters who are less likely to be polled, such as young people and first-time and infrequent voters of all ages. If you look at the polling throughout the 2008 Democratic race in Iowa, Obama, who also relied upon infrequent voters, was under-polled virtually throughout the process. When you look at the Real Clear Politics average of Iowa polls in 2008, the polls under-polled the support of Barack Obama by nearly 7% as the poll of polls showed Obama with 30.8% support when he actually garnered 37.5% of the vote. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was polled rather accurately, as the polling average had her support at 29.2% and she actually won the votes of 29.4%
New Hampshire, the second state casting votes in 2016, has been a strong state for Bernie Sanders as he vies from neighboring Vermont and the independent-minded voters of a state with the motto “Live Free or Die” favor Senator Sanders by 14%, 56% to 42%. Secretary Clinton maintains a strong lead in South Carolina, but I expect that to change a bit if Sanders manages to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. Americans love a winner and right now, it is rather amazing that Sanders has the support he has when so many national pundits have been dismissing his candidacy all along. The political narrative changes, really with just a strong victory in New Hampshire, but very dramatically if Sanders shocks the world and wins in Iowa. Many in the cannabis community, will be working hard and hoping for a Hoosiers-like political upset.