When You’re Not Holding Any Cards …

what do you have to lose by bluffing?  Larry Pratt talks a great game, but it’s mostly talk:

Pratt said the NRA may not want go all out against Sotomayor because her confirmation seems assured.

At least three Senate Republicans have said they would vote for her: Sens. Dick Lugar (Ind.), Mel Martinez (Fla.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine). Democrats control 60 seats in the Senate and leading Republicans have promised not to filibuster Sotomayor’s nomination.

“I don’t think they want to be seen as having lost a battle,” Pratt said of the NRA.

“Their philosophy seems to be nothing ventured, nothing lost,” he said. “Normally, we can-do Americans say ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’

Remember a while back we examined the sources of NRA’s political power.  We also examined GOA’s fund raising.  Now can someone explain to me how an organization that has 20,000 to 40,000 members, and who’s PAC only spent $147,000 dollars in 2008, has anything at all they can use to threaten a Senator’s seat?

Once you start thinking about that, GOA can score the Sotomayor vote however they want because they have nothing they are putting at risk by doing so.  GOA only needs to be concerned about how they look to the people who send them money.  They have no concern about the relationships they have on Capitol Hill, because they don’t have much to be concerned about.

Is it really smart politics to tell a representative “You’ve been with us on most everything we’ve wanted for all these years you’ve been in the Senate.  And you’ve been with us on most of what we’re asking for this term, but if you vote to confirm Sotomayor, we’re going to flunk you.”  Because this is essentially what GOA is doing.  What incentive does the failing or low graded Senator have to care a whit about your agenda for the rest of his term?  And if you’re GOA, what grassroots army are you going to send to vote him out when he’s next up before the voters?  Where’s their electoral ground game?  Their network of volunteers?  Their well financed PAC?  These are important questions. Because if a Senator crosses you, and you can’t defeat him, you’re done.  He called your bluff.  Do that times twenty, and pretty soon, you’re up the creek without a paddle.  You will not have the votes to get the rest of your agenda, and you might end up weak enough for the opposition groups to run a bill against you.

The reason politicians pay attention to NRA is because they aren’t sure NRA can’t move enough votes and money to actually defeat them.  But that uncertainty cuts both ways.  Anyone who’s had any experience in working in or following electoral politics knows how many variables go into winning or losing an election.  It is the political equivalent of war.  Everything that happens between elections is diplomacy.  We engage in diplomacy because war is risky, and outcomes can be unpredictable.  It’s risky for both sides.  What GOA proposes is to declare war on the Democratic Congress.  A Democratic Congress that, so far, is willing to pass pro-gun measures, and is wary of running gun control.  This is foolish beyond belief.

NRA’s grading system is like an axe.  Every time you chop a piece of wood with it, it gets a little more dull.  So far, we’ve successfully split some pretty tough logs, but we’re only about halfway through this wood pile.  The only opportunity to sharpen the axe comes at election time, and we’re still more than a year away from that.  In the mean time, there are people demanding that we swing wildly at the marble pillars, in hopes that we’ll split them.  Well, maybe we will, and sometimes you do have to take a swing, and risk it all.  But you should understand what you’re risking.  We have to keep the axe sharp.  We still have ATF reform we’d like to move.  We have D.C. gun rights to restore.  We have National Reciprocity to try to pass.  There’s a lot on the agenda.  We may also face a situation where Obama replaces one of the Heller five, and in that instance, we will need to swing the axe at marble.  NRA would be irresponsible if they did not keep an eye on the overall agenda, and instead engaged in the kind of brash grandstanding that is a particular proclivity of Gun Owners of America.

14 thoughts on “When You’re Not Holding Any Cards …”

  1. Of course they never say what they will do to republicans who support Sotomayor. Martinez has always been pro gun, but even more he has been pro Latino. However, the fact that he isn’t running for re-election must have escaped GOA’s notice. He’s immuned to the NRA’s lobbying efforts. I guarantee GOA can’t do anything.

    1. Oh, yes they do, Greg. And it’s juicy. I saved the quote just because I thought it was so damn funny when talking politics.

      The group’s president, Larry Pratt, said a vote to confirm her would cancel out any previous pro-gun-rights votes cast by congressional lawmakers.

      “She’s very hostile to the Second Amendment,” he said. “A vote for her says you don’t really support the Second Amendment. … It nullifies all we have achieved and hope to achieve.”

      Clearly a vote for Sotomayor means that nothing pro-gun you’ve ever done in your entire political career counts for anything. It cancels out absolutely everything. And if you think that the first sentence was a reporter putting words into Pratt’s mouth, I give you this.

      “We’re communicating to the Senate that you may have cast some pro-Second Amendment votes, but those are all going to be canceled out if you vote for her, because when she gets (to the Supreme Court), she’s just going to cancel out everything you’ve voted for anyway,” Pratt said.

      In other words, I look forward to him grading every single GOP senator who does ultimately vote for her an F. It’s rather comical.

  2. The absolutists will never learn or understand why they have no power…and nobody really takes them seriously.

  3. On the flip side, way to fail, Dick Lugar. My friggin’ “Republican” Senator is more a lefty than some of the left these days.

  4. May I suggest that we aren’t talking about a single aspect of gun rights, like full cap mag bans, or shoulder things going up, little compromises that the statists use to chip away at the People’s rights, we’re talking about a woman who fundamentally denies the entire 2A. In my opinion that makes this particular vote a core vote. There are times when taking an “absolutist” view is appropriate, and many of us think this is one of those times and this is one of those candidates.

    The bit-by-bit pragmatic approach is appropriate most of the time, but not every time.
    McCain, Specter, Gillibrand, Lugar… I could go back 40 years and list a bunch more, but these are names you’ll know from today. We didn’t just get here because of Nov 4, 2008… we got here one tiny little giveaway at a time over the past 40 years.

  5. agreed, but throw the eric holder silence and the national park carry opposition on top of this “capitulation”…its a lot to swallow (or sharpen) :)

  6. I didn’t just explain that they were weak, I stated that their position on Sotomayor is utterly foolish, and the only reason they can undertake a move, which would be near suicidal for NRA, is because they have nothing to risk. You don’t have to worry about destroying political capital that you don’t have in the first place. They will get to give 70% of the Senate failing grades, and their membership and donors will beat their chests and proclaim how principled GOA is, and how the NRA are sell outs. And in 2010, when 90% of those Senators get re-elected, then what? Even if GOA had NRA’s political clout, you’re still stuck with a bunch of Senators that you flunked, couldn’t unseat, and now don’t want to deal with you. You’ll be principled, but you’ll also be ripe for getting steamrolled by the opposition.

  7. See, what drives me utterly up the wall here is the lack of compromise. Not between the GOA position and the status quo, but between the NRA position and the sort of people who normally support the GOA approach.

    A lot of people probably like/endorse the GOA sort of suicidal approach, because if you’re a guy who wants machineguns to be legal or maybe GCA-1968 to go away, then all he gets from NRA is “You have to adjust to it, John.” Even something as mild as the numerous Second Amendment Protection Acts is laughed off.

    So for people like that, the GOA and groups like this is the only way to go because the NRA et al utterly ignore them – maybe because they have to ignore them, that’s not my point here.

  8. MB:

    I would argue that people who think that way have absolutely no room to say shit about “Elmer Fudds” who are members of Duck Unlimited or Wild Turkey Federation, and who are primarily interested in hunting, and do or care little about preserving their gun rights. Both viewpoints are valid, but both are myopic.

  9. I also have to admit I have difficulty understanding why people would want to pay money to a group to tell people what they want to hear. Hell, it makes me think of starting a gun rights group that continuously rails against the evils of the National Firearms Act, and does much of the other things GOA does. It’s a good gig. But that they are doing anything for NFA rights is an illusion. It’s true that NRA is not either, but it’s mostly that there’s not much they can do.

    That’s not to say there couldn’t be a useful advocacy group that specialized in defending the interests of people who want to own NFA stuff without all the hubub, but any group promising legislative relief is selling you snake oil. At least for now.

  10. I don’t have any problem with people who don’t care about gun rights – except to think that if you have a hobby that involves guns and shooting, then not caring about gun rights may cause you to lose your hobby. I have a problem with people who claim to be pro-gun, but only to the extent of supporting their right to own whatever guns they like owning.

    Note I am not saying that joining GOA is a good idea. I’m just explaining why I think people who share my political views sympathize with GOA – though it’d be interesting to see what GOA would be like with ten times their current membership. And the reason they do is because they feel entirely ignored by mainstream pro-gun effort. And maybe that’s even justifiable to ignore them – if indeed it is true legislative relief is impossible.

    Though your last comment is interesting – what should the group do if not attempt to change the law?

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