Candidate Coors Handles a Hot Potato
Peter Coors, who’s taken a leave of absence from the family beer business to run for the United States Senate in Colorado, has sought to rekindle a long-smoldering issue: the 21-year-old minimum drinking age.
At a June 23 forum in Greenwood Village, Coors said, “We got along fine for years with the 18-year-old drinking age. We’re criminalizing our young people.”
Coors blasted the federal government for interfering in state matters. “I haven’t said that 18 is a better age. I’m saying that we should reopen the debate and let the citizens decide, without bureaucratic intervention.”
He was referring to the National Uniform 21 Minimum Drinking Age Act, passed in 1984, which withholds federal highway funds from states that don’t comply.
Coors was responding to a question by former Congressman Bob Schaffer, his opponent in the Republican primary set for August 10. Both men are seeking the seat being vacated by Colorado’s senior senator, Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
The remarks brought forth some heated criticism. “Mr. Coors wants to do legally what his company has been doing for years—targeting kids with promotions for beer,” charged Mark Pertschuk, executive director of the Marin Institute. “…Too bad it isn’t that easy to reclaim the thousands of young lives lost to alcohol-related homicide, suicide, motor vehicle and other injuries that occur in our country each year even with a national drinking age of 21.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, while not responding specifically to Coors’s statements, held a press conference on Capitol Hill on July 14 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Minimum Drinking Age Act. Estimating that raising the drinking age has saved 20,000 lives, MADD president Wendy Hamilton called the act “perhaps the single most effective anti-drunk-driving law enacted since MADD was founded in 1980.”
The beer industry hasn’t exactly rallied around Coors on this issue. Even the outspoken National Beer Wholesalers Association, which has reportedly donated $10,000 to Coors’s Senate campaign, has taken no position on the drinking age.
But Coors does have his supporters, who think it’s unfair to deny 18-year-olds the right to drink when they already can vote, marry, sign contracts, and serve in the military. “If you’re old enough to go to war, you ought to be able to have a drink if you want,” commented Joe Larkin, one of the attendees at the Greenwood Village debate (as quoted in the Washington Times).
Indeed, the Washington Post, since April 13, 2003, has printed the names of 810 American servicemen who have died in Iraq. At least 148 of these, or 18 percent, were under 21, which means they made the ultimate sacrifice for their country before they were legally able to enjoy a beer. The number may be a little higher, as the Post failed to list the age of 50 of the deceased soldiers.
John Edwards No Joe Six-Pack
Democratic presidential contenders John Kerry and John Edwards have asserted that incumbents George Bush and Richard Cheney have lost touch with the average American. However, MSNBC’s Don Imus decided to put the vice-presidential candidate to the test. He asked Edwards, who had just returned from a trip to Albuquerque, NM, if he knew what a gallon of milk or a six-pack of Budweiser costs in that city.
Edwards badly underestimated the price of milk and drew a complete blank on the beer. “I have to be honest with you,” he answered. “I haven’t drunk a six-pack of beer in a long time, so I don’t know the answer to that.”
“I know,” replied Imus, “But you’re going to try to get a bunch of those people who do drink it to vote for you.”
Edwards conceded that it was “a good question.”
They Also Run
The Prohibition Party, a fringe group that has been trying to outlaw the alcohol trade since 1869, has apparently split into two factions.
One group, at a private meeting held in June 2003, nominated Earl F. Dodge, a Colorado dealer in political memorabilia, for top spot on the party’s national ticket. Dodge has run as the dry party’s president or vice president every year since 1976.
Dodge’s nomination was rendered null and void, however, at the 34th quadrennial meeting of the Prohibition Party, held last September in Fairfield Glade, TN. Delegates there instead chose Gene Amondson, described as an “evangelist and artist,” to head the Prohibition ticket.
There aren’t a lot of votes to split. According to the website, www.prohibitionists.org, the party got on one state ballot in 2000 and drew 208 votes.
Greg Kitsock is editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, a long-time resident of Washington, DC, and a frequent contributor to beer-related publications.