— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) June 22, 2016
I’m about to say something that I think will shock most of the world. Vox appears to have correctly noted that the Democrat Party isn’t pushing gun control right now because they believe it will have the effect of saving American lives.
They know for a fact that it won’t.
The political theater of a filibuster in the Senate and a sit-in in the House of Representatives, along with grandstanding by Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden is all calculated towards one cynical political end: protecting the candidacy of Hillary “Benghazi” Clinton from the possibility that Donald Trump’s “build a wall and stop Muslim immigration” rhetoric will resound with American voters, and topple down-ticket Democrats as well, deepening Republican control in the House and Senate.
Democrats have worried that terrorism will help Trump
The possibility that terrorist attacks might shift the electoral terrain in Donald Trump’s favor has been one of Democrats’ biggest worries since he emerged as the presumptive nominee.
In a dream world, of course, Democrats would like to think that focusing voters’ attention on the prospect of national peril would lead them to reject an inexperienced and unqualified nominee. But many GOP elites had just such dreams last winter, only to see them shattered when the San Bernardino shootings only boosted the appeal of Trump’s xenophobia.
More broadly, both experimental and real-world studies have tended to show that in the US and abroad, the major party with a more hawkish reputation usually benefits when international terror becomes a major concern.
For instance, Michael Koch, Laron Williams, and Jason Smith studied how quickly various parliamentary governments lost their majority coalitions after transnational terrorist attacks in a 2012 paper. What they found was that right-leaning governments had an easier time holding on to power than left-leaning governments did. It seems that the left gets more blame for terrorist attacks that occur under their watch.
Then there’s evidence from Israel that indicates that terror helps the right at the ballot box. Claude Berrebi and Esteban Klor found that a terror attack in an Israeli locality shortly before the election causes, on average, “an increase of 1.35 percentage points on that locality’s support for the right bloc of political parties.” And Anna Getmansky and Thomas Zeitzoff found that after rockets are fired into areas of Israel, even if there are no casualties, support for right-wing parties spikes in those areas by 2 to 6 percent.
Shifting the argument to guns is a strategic win
In that context, focusing the political argument on gun regulation rather than Omar Mateen’s admiration for ISIS or questions around Muslim immigration to the United States is a strategic win. Democrats may not win many votes with thin gruel, poll-tested gun control proposals, but they aren’t going to lose any.
Last fall, by contrast, the American political system found itself gripped with vague fears about Syrian refugees that led to state-level refugee bans and congressional legislation that scared vulnerable Democrats as part of a larger cultural trend toward Islamophobia.
That’s perilous political terrain for Democrats, and the basic facts of the Mateen case suggested the possibility that the conversation would shift back into that mode.
A couple of popular-but-doomed and not-very-important gun control bills that the NRA and the Republican Party will filibuster to death, by contrast, is very safe ground for Democrats. Something they can talk about until the next thing comes up and the news cycle shifts.
You see, my fellow Americans, the Democrat Party knows quite well that we have have the lowest homicide rate in 51 years right now, and that guns are not remotely a problem.
They do know, however, if they can’t make something a scapegoat for the failures of the Obama-politicized Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security that Donald Trump might start rising in the polls, and bring Republicans in the house and Senate along for the ride. If these Democrats can’t find a way to protect Hillary Clinton from Trump, they may be voted out of office, and will end up having to find real jobs in an economy that they helped wreck.
The Democrats aren’t attempting to save your lives, my fellow Americans.
They’re attempting to protect their jobs.