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Should the GOP Push to Lower the Drinking Age


1.How the Vietnam War Redefined Adulthood
Photo credit: shannonpatrick17 / Flickr

Prior to Prohibition, only a handful of states actually had laws concerning the age, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Almost any regulation of alcohol consumption would have been difficult, if not impossible, to introduce during the American agricultural age because alcoholic beverages were widely produced in the homes.

Prohibition was largely the result of the expanded commercial production of alcohol and the resulting increased availability. When Prohibition ended in the year 1933, most states chose to restrict alcohol sales to those over 21 years of age.

How the Vietnam War Redefined Adulthood

According to a Boston University series exploring issues revolving around student drinking, many states began to lower the drinking age several years after the Vietnam war had caused American citizens to question the fairness of expecting 18 year olds to fight in a war while not granting them full rights as adults.

President Nixon signed legislation into law in July of 1971 that granted 18 year olds the right to vote in American elections. Democracy Day reports that the 26th Amendment passed faster than any other constitutional Amendment in the history of the country. Moreover, the amendment was ratified just in time for the presidential elections, and Richard Nixon won by a landslide.

Will Lowering the Drinking Age Help Republican Candidates at the Polls

On July 17, 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 was passed into law by Congress. The act restricted federal highway funding for states that allowed those under the age of 21 to legally purchase alcohol.

It’s no secret that Republicans have been losing ground at the polls in many parts of the country in recent years, and some political strategists are wondering if a strong showing of support for lowering the drinking age will be effective in gaining the younger vote.

What the Experts Say

According to Ruth C. Engs, an Indiana University professor in Applied Health Sciences, a lowered drinking age would be beneficial in introducing young adults to the consumption of alcoholic beverages in a more sane and more civilized manner.

Engs believes that adopting a more European approach to alcohol would result in increasingly realistic and responsible attitudes concerning alcohol consumption, that would ultimately lead to fewer alcohol related deaths, illnesses, and social problems.

On the other hand, anyone who decides to get behind the cause of lowering the drinking age is going to have a hard sell on their hands. Laura Dean-Mooney of the U.S. News and World Report wrote that alcohol related vehicular deaths have been cut in half since sales prohibiting those under 21 from purchasing alcohol became the law of the land. The powerful lobbying group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has proven to be a formidable opponent in issues regarding lowering the drinking age.

What the Polls Say

According to Hot Air, a political think tank, recent polls show that the American public in general isn’t supportive of lowering the drinking age, including those targeted. In a Gallup poll taken in the year 2010, more than a half of the young adults polled were against any decrease in the drinking age.

Lowering the drinking age probably isn’t the strategy that the GOP needs in order to nourish and retain the loyalty of that elusive younger voting bloc. Republicans also risk alienating older voters, if they should decided to adopt this strategy. There may be some valid reasons for rethinking our cultural approach to the consumption of alcohol, but buying votes isn’t one of them.

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