It seems to me that if a person is old enough to go to war, vote & get elected, buy guns, and legally do all sorts of things like other adults, then he/she should be able to have a drink as well. Unfortunately, this is one issue that reason does not prevail when we're talking about it.
In the New Hampshire Democratic debate (9/26), six of the 8 presidential candidates want the federal government to apply pressure on the states not to let young people under 21 to legally consume alcohol. I think this is stupid, not only on the grounds I mentioned above, but also because it doesn't stop anyone from using or abusing alcohol--a readily available legal product--that, by the way, kills more that, say, marijuana.
The federal government gives money to the states for their transportation needs, such as highway maintenance & construction, so Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Biden, Richardson, and Dodd all want to deny federal funds to states that don't have a 21 years old restriction! Only Kusinich and Gravel basically said that such policy is ridiculous. These two got the applause, as most people in the audience approved.
In the 2006 ground-shaking election--when the control of Congress changed back to the Democrats after 12 years of Republican rule--the younger voters (those under 25) participated in record numbers. I was elated to see this and I hope the trend continues. Presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004, and the Democratic party in 2006, received the majority of the young people's votes. This voting block was solidly Democratic, much more than other groups. A reasonable question is, why the Democratic presidential candidates--with the exception of the two least popular ones--don't feel the pressure to reverse such a discriminatory policy? Which pressure groups or what popular sentiment prevents them from accepting that an 18 year old that has all sorts of rights should also be able to consume alcohol?
However, young people are also rather marginal when it comes to voting. Even though there's been a 20% increase in participation lately, 76% of young Americans do not vote! Yes, this is not a misprint. Yes, it went down from 80% of non-voters, but the abstention rate is way too high.
Of course, sane and practical public policy should be the standard, but we all know it doesn't work like this. Right? Emotions, and, more often, misinformation rule the day. Why shouldn't we have a discussion whether this particular federal policy has a measurable effect on public safety. If it does, and we see that the mix of driving and alcohol is a deadly one, then why limit the restrictions to only one particular group?