Last night, the battered and divided Republican Party was able to pull out a strong win on election night by taking the presidency and defending their majorities in the House and Senate. Although this election was a clear victory for Republicans, there were some big blows to conservatism across America.
Ballot measures that legalize recreational marijuana use were passed in four states- California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Measures to legalize medical marijuana were passed in three states- Arkansas Florida, and North Dakota- with voters in Montana deciding to expand the use of medical marijuana, which had already been legalized there. This should be particularly disappointing for conservatives given the problems Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, has been experiencing. Namely, law enforcement officers have no test for in the field that can quickly determine if someone is under the influence of marijuana. This makes it very difficult for officers to conclude that someone is publicly intoxicated or driving high. Additionally, incidents of children becoming ill from mistaking pot-infused treats like cookies or candy for normal treats are on the rise. Even adults in Colorado have become ill, and some have even died, because they are unaware of the potency of marijuana that is infused into food. Conservative movements in each of the states that voted to legalized marijuana should have focused more on explaining some of these issues that Colorado has faced.
Additionally, four states voted to raise the minimum wage- Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington- all of the states with the measure on the ballot. Conservatives failed to make the case that increasing the minimum wage does not translate to improvements in living standards. When the minimum wage rises, companies will either cut jobs or increase the price of their product to accommodate for its increased labor expenses, both of which disproportionally hurt those in lower wage jobs. This is ironic considering proponents of minimum wage hikes purport to be helping these same people.
This proves that the populist movement that Donald Trump led is already affecting policy. We can only hope that the Republican victories in Congress last night can temper these more liberal leanings of the Trump movement.