It’s no secret that the Democrats want to retake the White House. It’s the mission of every political party not in the White House. Of course, third parties don’t have a shot in hell at it, but the Democrats do. At least in theory.
Unsurprisingly, they seem to believe gun control is an issue they can win with.
In the wake of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas — the latter of which was tied to a suspect whose anti-immigrant sentiments led to the killing of 22 people — candidates are road-testing a withering argument that draws a direct line between gun violence and the president’s racist rhetoric.
Note the lack of bias in that last sentence? [/sarcasm] Anyway…
But Democrats this year, more so than during the last presidential election, have been buoyed on gun control by gains in statehouses last year, by an internal weakening of the NRA and by a groundswell of youth activism following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018.
“To me, the tipping point was first of all Parkland, and you could see those results in the midterm, where those kids didn’t just march, they actually voted,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar told reporters here. “And then now, with these horrendous massacres in Dayton and El Paso.”
Sanders told gun control activists in Des Moines that they had “for the first time put the NRA on the defensive, and that is no small thing.”
Several Democrats are promising to take executive action on gun control if Congress does not pass stricter gun laws. Sen. Kamala Harris told POLITICO that while “history has shown us that these tragedies do not inspire Congress to have the courage to act … I also know that action can be taken. And I plan on taking it.”
The problem is, they’re pushing anti-gun rhetoric in a fairly pro-gun state.
That fact has some Democrats concerned.
Some Democrats in early primary states worry about the risks of pushing the subject too hard.
“There’s a pretty heavy gun culture out here in Iowa, even among Democrats,” said Tom Courtney, a former Iowa state senator now co-chairman of the Des Moines County Democrats.
He said it’s “good politics to be talking about the instantaneous background checks and all that.” However, he feared a movement within the Democratic Party to push even further left after the Texas and Ohio shootings, including with a discussion of mandatory buy-back programs, could be harmful to the eventual nominee.
All in all, it really looks like the Democrats are believing that gun control is a winning issue for them, that the American people are absolutely and unequivocally demanding gun control. To be fair, polling suggests that they’re right.
However, what they’re not seeing is that gun control isn’t a winning issue because it’s not a primary issue for most voters. Even in the wake of mass shootings, gun control isn’t a driving issue for the electorate. They’re more interested in things like the economy, health care, and things that directly impact their daily lives.
They may want gun control too, but not badly enough that they’ll vote for it when they prefer the other side’s positions on other issues.
Gun rights advocates, on the other hand, have a history of using the Second Amendment as a litmus test. They’ll side with pro-gun candidates and abandon anti-gun candidates, often even if they like the other policy positions of the anti-gun candidates. We tend to figure things like if we can’t trust you on the Second Amendment, we can’t trust you to protect any rights.
Democrats are welcome to keep pushing gun control, particularly the extremely radical anti-gun rhetoric they’ve been pushing. The Trump campaign will thank them for it come November.