Pignanelli and Webb: Marijuana, Kavanaugh & the Reagan Roundtable – Oh my!

As the 2018 election gets closer, everything in the political world becomes more intense. We address some of the issues becoming more contentious as the stakes get higher.

After strong church opposition and a pledge by Gov. Gary Herbertto enact a more suitable law, support for the medical marijuana ballot proposal is declining a little. Will it still pass?

Pignanelli: “The mere fact of its being on the ballot has elevated and legitimized public discourse about marijuana and marijuana policy in ways I could not have imagined.” — George Soros

One of the few talents I possess is the ability to over-dramatize anything, no matter how trivial or mundane. But flamboyant animation (another skill I frequently flaunt) is needed when describing how the popular backing of the medical marijuana initiative reflects changing demographics, politics and societal norms in the state. Regardless of how one stands on the issue, these elements cannot be dismissed.

Proposition 2 garnered large contributions from entities from out of state, but also collected hundreds of small donations from residents along the Wasatch Front. The initiative was originally supported by 76 percent of polled Utahns. The opposition (religious institutions, government officials, law enforcement and medical organizations) then launched a full-scale effort, dropping the number to 64 percent in a most recent survey. Utahns have affection and respect for these entities, but compassion for friends, co-workers, neighbors and family members is overwhelming. Social media bombards them with real life experiences. Further, the information flood in the internet continually creates opportunities for voters to learn, analyze and judge.

Opponents have yet to develop an effective message with compelling emotion (waving arms while speaking could help). So, Prop 2 likely passes.

Webb: Most Utahns strongly believe, as do I, that legitimate patients should have access to legitimate medicine derived from the marijuana plant. Opponents of Prop. 2 have the burden to convince voters that while Prop. 2 is a slippery slope to recreational marijuana, they support, and will provide access to, legitimate cannabis medicine. If they can make that case, perhaps the initiative can be defeated.

Either way, the Legislature is going to act on this issue and eliminate the “recreational” aspects of the initiative, while dealing with federal law and creating the opportunity for legitimate medical marijuana.

The confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have created partisan sparks. Utah’s two senators are in the middle of it. Will Kavanaugh become a Supreme Court justice?

Pignanelli: After watching hours of confirmation hearings (yep, I'm a nerd), several observations are worth mentioning. Kavanaugh is a machine who sticks to his talking points, providing few holes for Democrat senators to punch through. Continuing legal education credit should be provided to us who slept through constitutional law and are now caught up, thanks to these televised debates. Hulu program "The Handmaiden’s Tale” is fostering costume ideas for protesters, matching references to HBO's "Game of Thrones." Amidst this confusion and circus, Kavanagh is confirmed.

Webb I watched some of the confirmation hearings and I’ve decided I have a man-crush on Brett Kavanaugh. The guy is brilliant. Had I been there, I would have stood and cheered (and probably been thrown out by the Capitol police) at his response to Sen. Ted Cruz’s question about federalism. It was downright inspiring. Kavanaugh really understands the role of states in the federal system. He’s a veritable legal and constitutional walking encyclopedia, continually referring to the Federalist Papers and his tattered pocket copy of the Constitution.

Kavanaugh handled the Democratic grandstanding with graceful aplomb. They couldn’t touch him. I couldn’t have been prouder of a court nominee. He will be easily confirmed and will be a terrific Supreme Court justice.

Mainstream Republicans have organized the Reagan Roundtable to replace the Elephant Club. Money raised will not go to the Republican Party. Is this another blow to the party?

Pignanelli: The charter founders of this "Reagan Roundtable" are universally respected and admired. Thus, their willingness to openly establish an alternative to the Utah GOP illustrates the death grip the small strident “Gang of 51” has on the entire party and how they are doomed. The extremists do not enjoy broad support or resources and will eventually collapse.

Webb: One of the organizers of the Reagan Roundtable, Lew Cramer, has noted that Ronald Reagan was a strong proponent of the "Big Tent" — he proclaimed that the GOP was big enough to embrace a wide variety of political viewpoints and was open to all that believe in free markets, individual liberty and limited government. The Reagan Roundtable is designed to help elect such broad-based, mainstream conservative candidates.

The far-right GOP activists who control the party’s Central Committee reject Reagan’s Big Tent philosophy, so it makes no sense for traditional GOP donors to support them.

Gov. Herbert is still valiantly trying to bring the party factions together, and is trying to raise money so the party can at least keep the lights on. I wish him luck.