Another View on Chicago Senator Trotter’s Gun Oops

I meant to get this up yesterday, but my workstation died, and John Richardson beat me to it. We had reported a bit tongue-in-cheek about State Senator Donne Trotter getting caught with a pistol at an airport checkpoint a few days ago, and noted he was a C-, which for Chicago is to say he’s not a raving gun hater. CCRKBA jumped immediately though, which in light of this from NRA’s lobbyist in IL, may have been ill advised. A lot of people on our side are very black and white in how they approach political actors: either they are with us or against us. In the actual mechanics of passing bills, it’s never that clear, and a vote for your immediate legislative priority is a vote whether it comes from an A rated politician or a C- rated politician. Politics can sometimes make for strange bed fellows.

15 Responses to “Another View on Chicago Senator Trotter’s Gun Oops”

  1. Andy B. says:

    “either they are with us or against us.”

    I would argue that our job is to make things exactly that simple for them, and to work harder to define more starkly what “being against us” means — e.g., ever casting a vote that could be considered anti-gun by any stretch of the imagination. As it is, day-in, day-out we send messages that they can vote against us, and they still have plenty of hope for wiggle-room in the future as long as someone (not necessarily them, themselves) can cook up a handwaving argument that it was a subtle political maneuver that the average gun owner can’t understand because he or she just doesn’t “understand the political process.” Perhaps some of those C- legislators would spend a little more time “understanding” our position and giving their supposed political maneuvers more careful analysis if they knew their actions would be taken as black or white.

    It seems like Grover Norquist may be running out of rope right now, but what could have been more black-and-white than getting the majority of congress to sign a pledge that they would never, for the balance of all human history, vote to raise taxes? And how long of a run did that have? The better question is, why has no one ever attempted it with the gun rights issue? The simple answer is because we are willing to accept the excuse that “politics is subtle,” and there are some things going on that are so nuanced only the most sophisticated among us could possibly understand them. Well, there was nothing nuanced about a no-new-taxes pledge, and Norquist got a nearly several-decade run out of it. Meanwhile we endorsed a gun-grabber for the last presidential election, and that will not pass unnoticed.

    • Patrick says:

      Everyone understands the political process well enough. It’s just our human process, writ public.

      I see your points, but the simple truth is if we were to follow your advice in all places, then we would have no friends – half friend or otherwise – in most urban or coastal areas. You could wash away any legislative gains in NY, MD, IL, CA…and so on.

      Politics – like the human condition – is relative to the cultures and the people involved. Going True Believer(tm) gun-nut on a Chicago pol who only votes for us sometimes suggests that we’d rather have Chicago pols who votes against us all the time. Because despite what you read in our echo chambers and blogs, the fact is most of Chicago could care less one way or the other. And among those who do, more disagree than disagree with us. In other words, “black or white” decisions will work against us in the largest population centers in the nation.

      This Chicago pol voted to push through the mail-order ammo bill, and helped override the governor’s veto. That makes this “half friend” someone who had a large role in making sure hundreds of thousands of gun owners in IL could do what most of us do daily. Of course, we cannot look beyond his past votes against us, or the fact that those votes were contradictory to his actual lifestyle choices. We can educate accordingly.

      We take our wins where we can. I don’t advocate trading a loss for the potential of a bigger win down the road – I think history has demonstrated that does not work for us. But at the same time, I would not advocate that strategies that work in Tennessee (NRA successful primary push against wishy-washy Maggart) will work in Illinois. This is a big nation – a huge field that requires focus in all corners – and we cannot treat every inch of it the same.

      I’d like to get to the day when we can B&W politicians everywhere. Accepting that we cannot do that today is not acceptance of failure. It’s a realization of where things need to go. It’s a goal.

      As for Norquist…he’s already lost. If there is any truth to the old saw that the only two absolutes are death and taxes, I suspect he’d have had better luck signing up against the Grim Reaper, rather than this Congress and our current financial baggage. Sad but true.

      • Patrick says:

        By way of additional explanation, the “wins” we get in many of the places I talk of above are frequently the ability to hold ground. Maryland has not passed an overt gun-control law in many moons, and even took a few steps forward in the last two years. Small measure feel big in such places.

        Talk to groups like Maryland Shall Issue or CalGuns and see what we go through in unfriendly territory. Then understand that a win for gun control in any of those places can have ripple effects elsewhere. CA mail-order bans don’t affect you in (insert friendly state of choice)…until they do. The Feds use the states as test kitchens, and I fear the CA recipe is something we’re going to see on all of our plates soon.

      • Andy B. says:

        This is offered as food for thought, more so than to argue, but doesn’t the “taxes” analogy continue to apply to your points?

        Clearly (at least according to conventional wisdom) the “urban” [insert dog-whistle here] vote is about as unmotivated by tax-cutting as they are by gun rights; in theory they are the recipients of the benefits of tax increases. A Norquist pledge essentially was saying “Forget about those people, they are lost to us anyway, so don’t worry about what few nuanced votes come from among them.” And, that strategy prevailed among Republicans in congress since 1986.

        Again, I’m just throwing that out for discussion purposes. I’m not even saying some of the assumptions I stated can stand close inspection (which perhaps should be part of the discussion). What I’m saying is, that is how a “black-or-white” approach to an issue appears to have functioned for over a quarter of a century.

        • Patrick says:

          More food for thought from you, for sure.

          I’ve always wondered what these pledges do for representative democracy. In essence, the pledge says that forever more, the oath taker will not modify their position regardless of situation. So political philosophy rises to religious dogma.

          Some oaths make sense. I am not one enamored with moral relativism. But representatives are hired to represent the people and conditions of the present. I think pledges on nuanced financial policy are basically a promise to ignore the future for sake of the present.

          Your larger point is well taken. I agree – these pledges essentially write off those who do not agree. I don’t think that is what our founders envisioned in their construction of a representative republic.

          I don’t want taxes raised, for the most selfish of reasons. So it’s an odd vantage point I find myself in.

          • Andy B. says:

            So in essence we agree. Even I don’t think “No Compromise” will always work, though tactically I lean that way. Still sticking with the tax example, situations will arise where you just run out of rope and circumstances overtake your issue. On the other hand, if you walk into the room wearing a sign saying “I’m always prepared to compromise” you are certain to be taken at your word.

            My attitude is guided in part by, having spent years as a political activist at various levels, when I watched associates who believed they were extraordinarily sophisticated “chess players” in the political arena, while getting walked over repeatedly; and not wanting to acknowledge that they’d just been walked over, try to explain what happened in terms of arcane political maneuver. Usually the explanation was that they had just been suckered and didn’t want to admit it.

            Quite often they had “friends” in government who praised them for their political acumen, before, during, and after the suckering process.

  2. Carl from Chicago says:

    Thanks for this blog, Sebastian. These are among the things that folks should try to keep in their minds, and consider from time to time.

  3. Carl from Chicago says:

    Another way to look at it is this: People like Todd Vandermyde usually choose to take someone like Trotter by the hand, and take them where they need to go. Todd could also choose to shake his fist in Trotter’s face. Believe me when I say he is capable of that. But Todd knows that we gain more ground by making friends rather than enemies.

    It is unreasonable and unproductive to force a multichromatic world into a dichromatic view of the world. As simple as it is to wish this was a world comprised of only “us” and “them”, it just isn’t that simple. Thus is the basis of the folly of fundamentalism.

  4. ChrisJ says:

    Except that we’re not just dancing in the misfortune of one of our ‘enemies,’ we are acutely aware that the law is unjust. That’s why we’re unhappy with the law(s).

    Though taking Mr. Vandermyde’s comment to heart I can see that we need to do a better job of making it clear that our glee is not just taking pleasure in some unrelated misery, it’s the repayment of karmic debt that has us up and dancing.

    Furthermore, if anything I think these type of legislators need to be run through the meatgrinder without any special consideration to their status, so that they can better understand the injustices inherent in THEIR laws. Any special consideration with respect to their status as legislator will only undermine the lesson learned.

    • ChrisJ says:

      And to highlight my own inability to communicate I forgot to connect how this karmic debt repayment and hypocrisy highlights the injustices in these laws. I think the issue is that it’s self-evident to the gun community, but we need to do better communicating it clearly.

  5. Andy B. says:

    All of the above comments have been causing me to think.

    While I have been advocating a black-or-white approach to anyone who ever crossed us at all, in this case, if “friendship” is as valuable as many contend, shouldn’t we be leaping to the guy’s defense, like we would be for any regular gunnie or ordinary citizen?

    • Patrick says:

      You mean stand up and say that this man should not face the prosecutorial meat grinder, life destroying stress, financial ruin and criminal sanctions for doing nothing wrong?

      That would require we stop dancing in his misery, raise our hands and say, “when we say every man, we mean even those who disagree with us.”

      It would mean we take the high road and use this event to educate both the public and legislators about what we all face daily. Of course, that also means we gotta stop calling him bad names and hoping for Bad Things to happen to him via a prosecutor hell bent on making a point.

      Taking his side would mean admitting he is one of us, now.

      • Andy B. says:

        So you get it. . . :-)

      • Rob Crawford says:

        Why should I care that a politician from the most corrupt political body in the country has run afoul of laws he supports? Because he’s not quite as bad on a single issue as others in his same body?

        Sorry, no. He supported these laws, and now they’re hoisting him. He shouldn’t have lit the petard.

  6. Rob Crawford says:

    He’s a Chicago pol. If there’s one of them that isn’t corrupt, it’s one who hasn’t won an election yet.