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The Principle of Politics

For most politicians, there is only one principle: keeping your seat.  Everything else is subordinate to that.  There are a handful of politicians who will offer you support even at risk to their seat, because they legitimately share your interest, but those are very rarely going to number even close to a majority needed to pass or block legislation, and if they did, we wouldn’t really need an interest group twisting arms and representing us in Washington.

In keeping with the politicians principle of having no principle other than keeping his seat, when considing your one interest, which is competing among many for his attention, he will ask himself two questions.  “Can you bring money?” and “Can you bring votes?”  No two other things factor more in politics than those two things.  If you can’t bring those two things in any substantial number, he has no reason to weigh your interest very heavily.

I would encourage everyone to read Dave Kopel’s excellent article on the extent of NRA’s ability to bring votes to the table.  It turns out the number is roughly 3% for every 10,000 NRA members that reside in the district.  That’s actually pretty good.  No other interest group can claim anything like that.  But that number has its limits, and it’s not hard and fast.  When a politician doesn’t heed your interest, and you remove support, or even worse from his point of view, back opposition, you are basically taking a gamble.  If you unseat him, you greatly enhance your political reputation, and your influence over that seat.  If you lose, the politician who hangs on to the seat will likely tell you to get lost, both out of spite, and because you’ve demonstrated to him that you’re no threat.  You gave it your all, and he kept his seat.

Folks are giving a lot of crap both to me and NRA, because NRA does not take high risk gambles it doesn’t have to, and I have suggested that’s reasonable, rather than cowardly.  I suspect a lot of the disagreement also stems from differences in opinion on the urgency of defeating Holder.  I do think Holder will be bad for gun owners, but I’m reminded of something Glenn Reynolds mentioned a few days ago: “Just remember, conservatives — Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood got knocked off during the appointment process, only to be replaced by . . . Janet Reno.”  I am not optimistic there is a positive outcome to be had for a very high risk gamble.  Like a commenter said a few posts ago, this a far better fight for the “milita” to undertake, than for the “standing army” of the NRA.  We will need to preserve the standing army for what’s undoubtedly coming in the form of gun control bills in Congress.

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