It’s doubtful that recreational marijuana will become legal in New Jersey anytime soon, with Senate President Steve Sweeney waving the white flag on passing cannabis legislation this year. The fractured Democratic Party in New Jersey is stemming from a fight between two people—George Norcross and Governor Phil Murphy—and not from two ideological points of view.
Unfortunately for the national Democratic Party, a family fight in New Jersey is taking an important state out of play when it is needed most for the 2020 election. New Jersey’s Democratic donors and centrist political leadership backed by strong primary numbers give the small state a lot of influence that could have been used to bring the national party together.
The struggle within the national Democratic Party is not between two or three people like it is in New Jersey. It is a national political party leadership hiccup. Simply stated, no one is telling the left-wing minority faction of the party that they are being used by Fox News to project the story line that all Democrats are socialists. Even worse, no one is telling the public that the left wing of the party has been, and remains, a minority faction since Bill Clinton was president.
If the national party’s mainstream leaders don’t start pushing back soon, it won’t just be New Jersey’s recreational cannabis revenue that will be lost. The national Democratic Party will lose the 2020 election for President of the United States.
Divisions Among Democrats
In New Jersey, Democrats’ inability to get the votes needed to pass the cannabis bill is shameful. After a year of negotiation and debate, the bill simply died. According to Sweeney, the question of whether the state should legalize recreational marijuana will likely be placed on the ballot in 2020. By timing the referendum with the presidential election, supporters are hopeful that millennials will turn up at the polls and provide the votes needed to finally push legal weed to the finish line.
Unfortunately, by the time cannabis becomes legal in New Jersey, New York will have captured the market. Moreover, if Pennsylvania acts now, it will also take tax revenue and jobs from New Jersey. This state will be squeezed because of its internal political bickering, and the result will be higher taxes on necessities, such as gas, to make up revenue shortfalls.
Murphy still stands tall as a visionary, but the voters need to know and remember the names of every Democrat who opposed him in this effort. Murphy would be less than a leader of his party if he did not make sure that they do.
Nationally, the Democrats aren’t faring much better. With a growing field of 2020 candidates, it is unclear if anyone can unite the party and close the growing divide between progressives and moderates. The party needs a united platform that appeals to socialist millennials, centrist baby boomers and independent voters. Without it, President Donald Trump will likely rise above the scandals plaguing his administration and win a second term.
Uniting Leaders Benefits the Public
When our political leaders can’t put aside their differences, the voters always lose. One of the best ideas to get New Jersey’s political leaders on the same page comes from a Republican.
Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) is sponsoring legislation that would require the governor, the State Senate president, the Senate minority leader, the Assembly speaker and the Assembly minority leader to meet at least once every quarter for at least two hours. The goal would be to keep the lines of communication open and to discuss how to do what’s best for the state.
“What we get now is separate press conferences. There’s antagonism between the branches of government and it’s not Democrat versus Republican—some of it is Democrat versus Democrat,” Bramnick stated. “People must be in that same room.”
As Bramnick highlighted, the requirement for the state’s political leaders to meet on a regular basis would be akin to what corporate leadership boards do. “We have to show unity both to the business community, to average citizens, that we’re working together. These quarterly meetings should be mandated, and they should be part of the Constitution,” he continued.
If Bramnick’s bill becomes law, cannabis should be the first agenda item.