How We Got Here, Part II: The Political Struggle

This is the second part of my “How We Got Here” here series. You can read part one here. The first series covered the cultural reasons we find ourselves in the present situation. While the cultural situation goes in-part with the political situation, the two are distinct enough I thought they warranted separate posts.

The gun movement went into the 1990s weak. Despite having won a major overhaul of the Gun Control Act in 1986, the movement suffered a number of setbacks on the cultural front and suffered from internal divisions. It emerged out of the 1990s much stronger and more unified, in large part because of spending most of the decade under unrelenting attack. But being attacked has a way of sharpening people’s focus, and giving them clarity. Bill Clinton acknowledged the assault weapons ban cost him Congress. The Democrats believed, with merit, that Al Gore lost in part because of his calls for even more draconian gun control. Then John Kerry, despite actually being a lifelong hunter (though in favor of gun control), became the dog that don’t hunt. The 2004 victory convinced many Democrats that gun control was a lost cause and a losing issue.

The Democrats would crawl their way back to a majority in 2006 using the Blue Dog strategy; the idea of running candidates that were suited for their local districts, which included being pro-gun if that was a necessary factor. The Democratic takeover in 2006 did not become an immediate harbinger of gun control because the progressives had Blue Dogs at the right flank of their majority that needed protection. As long as this was the case, progressives were going to lay off gun control. The Heller victory only added to the momentum. I think the Blue Dog strategy would have held, and been a viable means of keeping their majority. But then came the 2008 elections.

I think not turning out for McCain was probably the biggest mistake gun owners have ever made politically. Was McCain with us 100%? No. But he was consistent with where he wasn’t with us and as much as I might have disagreed with his stance on private sales and gun shows, he was far and away better than Mitt Romney. McCain has consistently opposed gun bans. McCain’s defeat got us Mitt Romney in 2012, and it also got us Barack Obama, who is indeed the transformative figure he claimed to be. McCain’s defeat also ensured that we failed to pick up two more votes for the Second Amendment on the Supreme Court.

The first act of Barack Obama was not gun control. In fact, Obama signed two easements of gun control, though they were attached to “must pass” pieces of legislation. We achieved this because the Blue Dog strategy was working for us. With a Democratic Congress, we were getting around an anti-gun Democratic President. But unfortunately, Obama decided to start spending the country into bankruptcy, decided that the middle of all this debt, coupled with a financial crisis, it was a great time to ram a massive new, and highly unpopular entitlement through Congress. This pissed off enough people that the Blue Dog strategy was doomed, an outcome I think the President was fine with as long as he got his bill. In 2010, despite NRA endorsements for many pro-gun Democrats, most of them got taken down on other issues. Harry Reid didn’t receive an endorsement, despite helping us legislatively, largely because of pressure from members who were angry at Democrats for reasons completely unrelated to guns. The tidal wave that came crashing down on Blue Dogs was beyond NRA’s ability to stop. Obama had eaten the Blue Dogs to get health care.

After 2010, with Blue Dogs an endangered species, the dynamic changed, but not greatly. We suddenly ran into trouble getting pro-gun legislation through the Senate, but that was it. We still did not see gun control because Obama was well aware of our political clout, and he would soon face re-election. The 2012 election was a watershed event because not only did Obama win re-election, but he won with a coalition that was composed mostly of the progressive left. He didn’t need moderates anymore. With the Blue Dog Democrats largely extinct, Obama was, and is, counting on having built a winning progressive-left coalition that can openly embrace gun control and not have to fear NRA at the polls. But is Obama correct?

Well, Bill Clinton, whose political instincts I think are keener than Obama’s, certainly isn’t sure. If NRA was weakened, it was weakened by politicians largely ignoring the gun issue, and also by having two lackluster candidates (on guns, at least) at the top of the ticket the last two elections. There wasn’t a whole lot of reasons for gun owners to get excited, or worried, until now. But is Obama only awakening a sleeping giant? It’s my opinion that he is, and he might be crazy, but is he crazy like a fox?

If more Democrats vote with us in this current struggle, but lose anyway, well, that’s just another example that NRA is useless at protecting pro-gun Democrats. I don’t think Obama would object to that narrative. If more Democrats vote with us and win, well, he wins there too because his party’s majority might hold in the Senate. If he gets a few Republicans to join him on gun control? Those Republicans will be weakened by it. Win there too. If Republicans block all his measures? He’ll use that issue in swing districts in 2014 to try to pick up some house seats current occupied by GOP reps in Democratic leaning, liberal districts. Pressing the issue is easier when there’s money behind it, and many of us are about to find out for the first time what happens when there is.

Obama is betting his coalition will, long term, drive Democratic left-wing majorities that don’t have to give a crap about what the rednecks and rubes in flyover country think. The Blue Dog strategy is dead, and we are reliant on the Republicans to protect our rights. We would have been far better off with a bipartisan consensus on this issue, and I think it was within reach, but in the age of Barack Obama, it wasn’t going to be possible. Ultimately, we are here because the Blue Dog strategy was not going to work for where Barack Obama wants to take America, so he laid waste to it and then won re-election. Gun rights is the only coalition Barack Obama and his machine have not really tangled with seriously. Will he beat us too? That remains to be seen, and largely depends on us.

20 thoughts on “How We Got Here, Part II: The Political Struggle”

  1. Personally I dont think firearms were the issue that sank Romney. Government monopoly on marriage did.

    It also does not help that the low information voters are funded in their daily lives by this or that pork and program.

  2. There are still Blue Dog Senators, and at least some of them are sweating bullets, as it were.

    Bloomberg the new organization did a count on just an AW ban and doesn’t think these Democrats will vote for it, nor RINO Maine Senator Susan Collins who was for one in 2004:

    The five Democratic senators from traditionally pro-gun states who have recently expressed skepticism about the bill are Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Independent Senator Angus King of Maine, who is caucusing with Democrats, also said he opposes a ban.

    Manchin is a poser who no one is trusting right now, but counting him that’s enough to prevent even a 51-49 majority, let alone get past the filibuster margin of 60 (which Reid ended up not trashing). I suspect the first three are solid.

    The authors of the article do count more support for magazine limits, e.g. from Collins (surprise).

  3. Well, we are the only coalition who could get fed up and start shooting. It sure seems ominously close to that.

  4. The last six months — which I think of as our time’s “Powder Alarm” (google it) — have at least been highly clarifying. The battle’s still has to be won, but never has there been so many gun owners so aware of what’s happening.

  5. Regarding the 2008 election, when the average male life expectancy is 75 years and you run for president at age 72 your running mate should be somewhat more qualified than most to succeed you.

    1. I wouldn’t say that *any* of the candidates of the top two parties–for either president or vice president–were all that qualified to be president. Indeed, of the four, I’d probably consider Palin to be the most experienced for that position: she actually had experience being an Executive.

  6. People forget how incredibly inept Bush was, both as a person and as a leader. Couldn’t speak three syllables in a row, walked into glass doors, read that book upside down for several minutes when the country was under attack and presumably needed the “decider” (he didn’t want to alarm the kiddies; what about the other 300M of us?!?), draft dodger and deserter, huge medicare prescription entitlement sprung out of thin air, abandoned the righteous war in Afghanistan and let Osama bin Laden get away so he could gin up fake evidence to finish off daddy’s war in Iraq.

    People also forget that candidate Obama was like night and day. He had (and has) a terrible sing song delivery and loves him too much teleprompter, but he could actually speak intelligible sentences and answer questions. Senator Obama voted and spoke against raising the debt ceiling, said he would have voted against the war in Iraq, said he would pull the troops out of both wars, argued against Hillary’s health insurance mandate, mad all (or most, or at least some) of the right noises against massive spending and unbalanced budgets.

    And the third side was a cranky old fart, Bush III it seemed, who would have been an older President than Reagan and yet had an idiot for vice-President whose experience consisted of two years as mayor of some podunk little town, who couldn’t even say what newspapers or magazines she read; how would someone that inexperienced handle real questions from real reporters, or dealt with Congressional leaders or world leaders?

    I figure the fact that Obama won by only 7% (?) was more an indication of how much racism still exists in te country than anything else. The fact that Obama lied about so much is beside the point. All politicians lie, we all know that, but so many people were so tired of Bush that McCain just looked like more of the same with the risk of getting a two-bit mayor in for additional ineptitude. Hillary or any other Democrat could have beaten McCain.

    1. … Senator Obama voted and spoke against raising the debt ceiling, said he would have voted against the war in Iraq, said he would pull the troops out of both wars, argued against Hillary’s health insurance mandate, mad[e] all (or most, or at least some) of the right noises against massive spending and unbalanced budgets.

      And because you despised W for what amounts to class-prejudice reasons, you bought all of BHO’s bullshit and voted for him, at least once (to judge by your comments) and maybe even twice.

      And of course any resistance to Obama’s manifest greatness is racism, pure racism.

      I didn’t vote for the old guy McCain; I voted for her.

      1. Show me where I said *I* voted for him.

        I’m talking about the electorate as a whole.

        Methinks you doth protest too much.

        1. I apologize for misreading you.

          However, your posting didn’t exactly make it clear that your caustic summary of W, McCain, and Palin reflected “the electorate as a whole” and not your own views. It was easy to misread you.

  7. When the ’94 AWB was enacted there were many Republicans and Gun Companies supporting it.

    The Great Gun Banner, Ronald Reagan, publicly pushed and privately lobbied for its passage.

    “While we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals. We urge you to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these weapons,” Ronald Reagan wrote that. Sen. Feinstein’s statements in support of her ban sounds very similar.

    The traitor Bill Ruger, who was concerned about his market share versus Glock, testified that 10 rounds is all that a person needs. Coincidentally, that was the maximum capacity that any of Ruger’s gun had at the time.

    This year is so much different. Only the truly stupid Republicans are talking about mag capacity (my moron Representative , Phil Gingrey who will be fired in the primary in 201).

    Ruger is finally one the side of the Bill of Rights.

    More NEW gun owners are being created everyday. As Nate Silver points out, nearly 60% of gun owners are single issue voters. This will be the climax of the gun control movement.

    1. Phil’s in the district next to me. I won’t miss him on many levels. I wouldn’t miss Price, either, except for our coming legislative battles.

  8. Sorry the lefties have a united front while the right is splintered. Either we unite or we will lose. I have no use for compassionate conservatives, neo-conservatives, fiscal conservatives, you are either a conservative or a RINO.

    The Left knows without the 2nd amendment the Constitution means zero.

    1. And bingo. This is why it was difficult for any conservative worth his salt to vote for Romney or McCain. Guns were not the primary motivator in the last few elections. They didn’t need to be since we didn’t see a challenge. Sure the NRA sounds off alarms, but to what end?

      The “gun culture” that Chuck Rangel talks about is more of what is in play. They just don’t like the culture, they despise the neighborhoods where we live in, and they despise our values. Listen to what he says. Sebastian even made note of this in Bill CLinton’s speech when, after Clinton laid out a solid set of reasons why Democrats need to tread lightly on guns, he proceeded to patronize us.

      I was in Washington, D.C. today. While I thoroughly enjoy visiting DC (and other cities) for many reasons, I always feel as though I’m in an alien culture. I look around and see a lot of “comfy” people who honestly fit into the “new” vision for Obama’s America: no one is allowed to own any “scary” guns because guns lead to mayhem and we can’t have that, there are lots of cops with more firepower than in most small towns, taxes are high to keep the sprawling metropolis lifestyle, public bureaucracies run deep and that’s A-OK. Most young people under 30 in these areas don’t own any property since the cost of living is prohibitive, nor have any stake other than a job that is accessible via train or bus.

      Does all that man I absolutely abhor that lifestyle? Of course not. I like public transportation and well-run municipalities as much as the next guy, but we are look at two different worlds. I also think there is a need for an NRA “urban strategy”. I often wonder if we actually gave Philadelphia the chance to run their own city as they see fit if they wouldn’t leave the rest of the state alone.

      Point is the “culture war” is alive and well and part of the war is guns and the real meaning of political liberty.

      1. Wow. Please excuse my typos. It’s been a long day of walking for me and it’s time for bed.

      2. “I often wonder if we actually gave Philadelphia the chance to run their own city as they see fit if they wouldn’t leave the rest of the state alone.”

        If we left Philadelphia alone, they would simply continue to spread their toxicity, only we wouldn’t be there to counter it.

        We need to push this NJ-style nonsense back across the Delaware, and into the ocean if we can; The LAST thing we should condone is being complacent while evil builds a foothold on our shores.

  9. How wonderful it would be if law-abiding gun owners would be left in peace. Sadly, this will never happen. We must unite behind the party(republicans) that is far more likely to defend our natural rights. For better or for worse people. “Blue Dog democrats” who claim to be pro-gun to fool the legions of low-information voters in the red states and districts are not our friends. They support Harry Reid as majority leader who allows anti-second amendment legislation to come to the floor of the Senate. They support leftist judges at all levels of the federal bench who are certainly not our friends. We got this abomination known as Obamacare with all those pro-gun blue dogs in the house. How? well folks, they voted for Nancy Pelosi for speaker and she allowed it to come to the floor. Boehner would not have. Mcconnell would not allow Feinstein’s assault on our rights to even come up for a vote. They may claim to love guns, but their choice of friends (Reid, Pelosi and the like) say otherwise. Is there a risk with republicans in swing districts in the northeast? Sadly yes. They reflect the values of the people who elected them. However, we have a far greater chance of them coming to our side than if a democrat held the seat. I could be mistaken, and some of u may disagree. Whatever. I am telling u folks, it is time to pick a side, the liberals are playing for keeps and if we lose our freedoms, we wil never get them back

    1. We got this abomination known as Obamacare with all those pro-gun blue dogs in the house. How? well folks, they voted for Nancy Pelosi for speaker and she allowed it to come to the floor. Boehner would not have.

      To go from this very likely true statement to assuming Boehner will do the same for anti-gun legislation is quite a jump. McConnell has stated he’ll fight it, Boehner is equivocating and we know how poor his record is at this sort of thing.

      My bottom line is that almost NO Congresscritters truly care about the RKBA, and that we have more of a ruling class problem than a partisan problem.

  10. We seem to have this problem Harold, where u fail to understand my point. The republicans are our best chance of securing our natural rights. The democratic party is anti-second amendment at its core. The people and organizations who fund and help elect democrats hate guns and those of us who own them. This means we must choose the best available option, the republican party. There is no third party Rand Paul type savior who is going to help us. Third parties in this country, as it stands now, are a non-factor. They do not matter. Boehner may be wobbly, but I trust him infinitely more than the alternative.

    1. No, I see your points, I just disagree with how many of your correct observations play out in the real world of real people.

      I.e. I trust Reid more than I trust Boehner on this, because I believe the former to be a much better and smarter politician (my, is that a weak statement!) and to be a lot more concerned about keeping his position of power after the 2014 elections.

      Whereas e.g. Team Boehner has been purging conservatives from important positions; really, the Republican party is in a state of civil war, the establishment vs. the base/TEA party types. That’s a lot more important to the establishment, who don’t care very much at all for our cause. Remember Bob Dole waving through the Brady Act in 1993 because he was tired of fighting it?

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