Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Because This"

This is part of a conversation over at TPM about whether it's a political mistake for Obama to push guns.

One point no one has made, is that the idea that guns are a losing issue is likely not true.

The conventional wisdom is that after Democrats passed the assault weapons ban, the NRA came out in 1994 and put a beat-down on the Democrats.

In fact, 1994 was probably the culminating event in the loss of the cultural South to Democrats that had a lot more to do with Teddy Kennedy and Hillary Clinton trying to pass health care reform than it had to do about guns.  It had to do with a weak economy and tax increases.  It had to do with the demographics of midterm elections.

Put another way, Obama did nothing on guns in his first two years in office and the Democrats still got creamed in 2010.

What the NRA has done is like a rooster taking credit for the dawn.  They took credit for a wave election in 1994 that was only tangentially about guns, and the degree that it was about guns was that it was part of a cultural gap between former Southern Democrats and what they perceived to be a cultural war on the Southern way of life.

Those former Southern Democrats are now staunch Republicans.  There are no votes to lose on this issue for the national Democratic Party.

The red state Senators that have differentiated themselves from the national party on guns are often more purple state senators - Mark Warner comes to mind.  Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly are the only true Senators that can probably say they HAVE to distance themselves from Obama in order to win at home.

Because the ground on guns and public safety was ceded to the NRA for so long, a certain resignation has crept over people on guns.  And as a result, some gun measures polled poorly prior to Newtown.

But if the debate is vigorously joined, the terrain could shift on assault weapons.

Won't make a lick of difference in the House, but public sentiment - combined with debt limit hostage taking, Medicare and Social Security cutting and immigration reform sabotage - could move really far away from the GOP on this.

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