There were an awful lot of A-rated Democrats and Republicans who voted to confirm Eric Holder, and there’s some suggestion that this bodes ill for coming fights on anti-gun legislation that’s likely to appear in this Congress.Â The current political climate is certainly not good for us, and one thing is for certain — if President Obama and the anti-gun forces in Congress commit themselves to rolling us in the 111th Congress, they likely have the votes to do so.Â But the odds on defeating anti-gun legislation are higher than they are for a confirmation because the political dynamics are different.Â Here are some of the factors that are present in a confirmation vote.
One, whether it’s right or wrong, there is a sense that a President should be able to choose his cabinet, and unless there’s some issue of qualification or gross malfeasance, the President should get his man (or woman).
Two, If the President and Senate are of the same party, there’s an expectation among party leadership that they will deliver their President his nominees.Â Party leadership will tend to be sensitive toward a member’s situation in his own state when it comes to legislation, and will often give the nod to vote against legislation the leadership wants, because it puts him at risk in his home state.Â There are times when that’s not the case, but a party that wants to stay in power will typically not ask a member to vote their way on too many issues that will put his seat in danger.Â That dynamic is not typically present with confirmation votes, so consequences are more serious for bucking the leadership, and the White House, which is why no Democrats were willing to do it.
Conformations are one of those areas where far-reaching political ignorance comes into play.Â The vast majority of voters, including most gun owners, don’t pay attention to confirmations.Â NRA’s cover story on Holder didn’t hit people’s mailboxes until a few weeks before the Senate confirmed him.Â It’s hard to hold politicians accountable when most people aren’t paying close attention to what they are doing at great detail.Â This differs from legislation, where we’ve had a long time to educate gun owners on what could come down the pike.Â Most everyone, by now, knows the consequences of a new assault weapons ban.
Those who say if we held these A-rated Senators feet to the fire, we could have defeated Holder, I think give NRA too much credit.Â A thirty vote deficit on a confirmation is beyond NRA’s power to influence.Â If they had twisted arms, and counted it as a “key vote”, that might have gotten maybe a dozen lawmakers to switch sides, at great cost to NRA.Â You only get so many “key votes” in every legislative session, because you only get one shot every two years, or six years for Senators, to demonstrate your organizations electoral muscle.Â In short, you only get a few chances to screw with a politicians grade, and if you do that, you better be able to unseat him, or he will be forever lost as an ally.
Any strategy that proposes to count every vote, with no regard to the cost and relative imporance compared to other threats, overestimates our influence, and is the fast train into the political wilderness.Â We are an important interest group, but we do not rule Washington D.C.Â If we had 20 million Americans who were willing to vote like gun owners — if we had a quarter as many pro-gun activists, we could probably do it.Â But we don’t have that.Â Not even close.Â So we don’t have the luxury of spending ourselves on hopeless battles this early into Obama’s Administration.Â Eric Hodler’s confirmation as Attorney General is not, by any means, good news for gun owners, but we did not have it together enough to defeat Obama, and nor did we to defeat Holder.Â Gun owners are in the weakest political position we’ve been in for 15 years.Â We only have the resources for a few fights this Congress, and we had better spend them wisely.