Democrats debate drinking age

At last night’s debate at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College the field of Democratic candidates were asked whether they supported removing the federal highway penalty that has forced states to adopt a 21 year-old drinking age. Delaware senator Joe Biden claimed such a measure would be counter-productive given the rates of fetal alcohol syndrome in America. Chris Dodd (D-CT), agreeing with Biden, stated that the law shouldn’t change considering that 50,000 people die on the roads each year, a significant portion of which are related to alcohol. Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson went on at some length about education. When moderator Tim Russert asked if any of the candidates favored lowering the age, only Mike Gravel (former Alaska senator) and Dennis Kucinich spoke up. Both took the position that if you can fight for your country then you should be able to have a beer. See the video for a full run down:

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]Though it is disappointing to find that no major candidate is willing to take issue with the status quo, it is even more disheartening to see the level of discussion on this issue to be so simple and uninformed. The general tone of those not in favor of lowering the age (or in this case simply removing the federal highway fund penalty) seems to be that since there are a host of negative outcomes associated with irresponsible alcohol use the best policy is to make alcohol illegal until 21. And what of those older than 21? Does fetal alcohol syndrome afflict only those children whose mothers are younger than 21? For those in support of the status quo I wonder how many realize that the US has both one of the highest drinking ages, but also one of the highest drunk driving rates in the modernized world. The disconnect between the problems the candidates are referencing and the purposes and effects of the law at hand is frightening.

And sadly, those who voiced support for lowering the age have very little interest in the substantive changes it would have. The age of majority issue is an important one but ultimately should play second fiddle to the environment Legal Age 21 breeds. The candidates must begin to inform their positions on the drinking age with the facts. Only then can we begin to talk seriously about the urgency of changing the status quo.

One Response to “Democrats debate drinking age”

  1. Christopher Airey Says:

    Such candidates would expect me to vote for them when they don’t even recognize me as an adult in our modern society? Let’s see them try to prevent those 65+ fro drinking because it may be damaging to their health.