Republicans campaigned during the midterm elections on a variety of issues, but every would-be senator and congressman also ran on the official party platform that includes a respect for federalism and individual liberty. When all the votes were counted, Republicans padded their lead in the House of Representatives and took control of the Senate for the first time since 2007.
On the same day, Washington, D.C., residents overwhelmingly voted to pass Initiative 71, which will legalize marijuana in the nation's capital, assuming Congress doesn't exercise its power to veto the legislation. One Republican congressman has already threatened to do so.
Instead of immediately betraying the values that led them to victory, Republicans should allow marijuana legalization to move forward in the District of Columbia, even if they wouldn't support legalization in their home states.
Though many of the details have yet to be fleshed out, Initiative 71 could lead to a Colorado-style setup where any adult can purchase marijuana and marijuana-laced products, freely and legally, just as she would buy a case of beer or a pack of cigarettes.
A naïve spectator might assume that Initiative 71, which spurns federal interference in personal decisions and protects individual rights, would be popular with most Republican politicians, given their election rhetoric. Indeed, the Republican Party platform warns "the federal government has expanded its size and scope. ... Federalism is threatened and liberty retreats."
GOP supporters often complain about federal interference in healthcare, public education and economic issues. Even if federal laws claim to create better outcomes, Republicans say, it's not the federal government's place to override state and local laws in most cases.
The same logic applies to federal interference with local drug laws, of course, but that didn't stop Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., from vowing to repeal Initiative 71.
“I will consider using all resources available to a member of Congress to stop this action,” he said.
But Harris' threat doesn't just violate his own party's official platform and stated values. It's bad politics.
The Maryland Republican hails from one of the reddest — and safest — congressional districts in his state. He received more than 70 percent of votes cast in his latest re-election bid, and a Democrat has only won his seat once in the last thirteen election cycles. His constituents won't be affected by marijuana legalization in D.C., nor would they have noticed that he failed to block legalization unless he made it an issue to begin with.
He doesn't have much to gain from political grandstanding on this issue, but his eagerness to wield the federal government against D.C. voters could create plenty of fallout for his conservative colleagues during the 2016 races.
The White House, the Supreme Court, and Congress are located in Washington, which means an army of journalists working for local and national publications live in D.C. to cover public policy, politics, and elections. By vetoing Initiative 71 — which most of these journalists probably voted for — Harris will give every single one a personal lesson in Republican hypocrisy.
He couldn't have picked a more prominent venue to repudiate the Republican ideals of individual liberty and federalism if he tried.
If Republicans want their midterm victories to translate into broader public support before the 2016 presidential election, they should start to take the ideals enshrined in their official party platform — to say nothing of the U.S. Constitution — more seriously. GOP leadership should rein in Rep. Harris to prevent him from embarrassing the party further.
Instead, Republicans should demonstrate how much they really believe in small government by leaving us alone.Michael Hamilton writes about land-use and local regulation in Washington, D.C. at www.inmybackyarddc.com.Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions for editorials, available at this link.