A New Argument Against the 21 Drinking Age and Mothers Against Drunk Driving

He comes to bury Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and to praise them.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

One rarely hears something new in as debated a topic as whether to move the drinking age from 21 back to 18, so I raised an eyebrow when Choose Responsibility's John McCardell praised Mothers Against Drunk Driving in his Colbert Report appearance the other night.

(Truth be told, as readers here know, I was at Middlebury College when McCardell was president, so seeing him trading witticisms with Colbert caused both of my eyebrows to go north.)

The biggest opponent in McCardell's crusade against the drinking age is Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which was a force behind the original move to 21. So I thought McCardell handled them deftly on Colbert.

McCardell: Mothers Against Drunk Driving deserves enormous credit ... less for raising the drinking age—that's not the way you take drunks off the highways, there are more effective ways to do that. What Mothers Against Drunk Driving has done is make it uncool to drink and drive. The designated driver wasn't part of our vocabulary 25 years ago.

Colbert: That's a good point—Mothers Against Drunk Driving are the ones who popularized the idea of the designated driver.

McCardell: They did, and they deserve enormous credit for that. But it's not 1984 any more. And yet the law that was passed 25 years ago is still on the books. And the issues surrounding alcohol and young people these days are very different. By far the greater loss of life, for example, in alcohol-related incidents for those under 21, occurs off the highways.

It's a textbook brush-off of an unassailable opponent: Simultaneously praise them and say that their day has passed. (Think about Barack Obama versus John McCain or Bill Clinton versus Bob Dole: I honor my opponent's service to our country, which is another way of saying: He was a hero once, but golly he's old.)

McCardell and Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD, debated the drinking age issue in the magazine last year. Read their pieces and then, of course, check out Colbert:

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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