Guns, Election Day,
Wherefore the Democrats?
Tomorrow’s gubernatorial election in Virginia is being heralded as some kind of crucial bellwether regarding the future of the Democratic Party as well as the ominous specter of “Trumpism” completing its hostile takeover of the Republican Party. The momentum, we’re being told, is shifting toward the newly minted “save our statues” Ed Gillespie and away from Ralph “could I be more Bland?” Northam. The bigger story, of course, is this week’s mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in which at least 26 people (many of them children) were killed. And, in the background, is the “President’s” visit to Asia, with Air Force One touching down in Seoul just this evening. Thank god for that 24/7 news cycle and all the cable/streaming outlets we can plug into, eh?
I’d like to use this space and time to focus on two particular items: a) the shooting with the renewed “debate” about gun laws and b) the morass that is the Democratic Party in 2017. As far as the gun “debate” goes --- there is no debate! Watching the news, we once again hear the arguments about the man having “mental problems” (thereby possibly making him ineligible to purchase firearms) and an outcry, particularly from coastal Blue states, for “stricter” gun laws. This just in: it’s not going to happen. And, even if it did, would it make any difference?
Here’s the point I’ve reached about “gun laws.” Much to the chagrin of my left-leaning friends, I will say that I agree with the NRA, to an extent, that there are plenty of “gun laws” on the books. The fact is, “gun laws” are the bailiwick of the states and, even if there are Federal laws passed (unlikely as that may be) a majority of states will find ways to skirt or negate them. A Pew Research study in 2013 found:
More than a third of Americans say they or someone in their household owns a gun. There are by various estimates anywhere from 270 million to 310 million guns in the United States — close to one firearm for every man, woman and child.
How and where, at this point in history, do we even begin to “control” guns in this country? As with issues of race, we live in a country where a significant percentage of our population is not invested in even entertaining the notion of progressive reform or change. Gun owners are not a monolithic bloc, though it’s easy to simply say “the NRA,” picture Wayne LaPierre, and see them as such.
There are a significant percentage of gun owners who are hunters and quite responsible regarding their firearms. As of 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified 276 “militia” groups in the United States, most of which are composed of heavily armed and strongly anti-government members. These are the people who believe the government is “interfering” in their lives and “wants to take our guns away.” While there is no substance to that charge, the conspiracy-believing and paranoid members of these groups are staunch NRA supporters. There is also a percentage of the population who own guns for target shooting at the range, home protection, or are “collectors” of one stripe or another. 270 to 310 million gun owners! We also see that the majority of these gun owners apparently accept that the “trade-off” for having a Second Amendment is mass shootings --- and they can “live with that” (unless they’re in the wrong place/wrong time, of course).
So, while I am not at all satisfied with the state of guns & gun laws --- their ownership, sale, background checks, concealed carry permits, etc. etc. etc. --- we’ve reached a point where we need to honestly look at our fellow citizens and simply recognize that we are living in a dangerous world. Like our fellow citizens in much of the nation, “liberals” need to accept that going to nightclubs, concerts, churches --- from this time forward --- will not insure the safety of you or your loved ones. And that leads to the state of the Democratic Party.
The Democrats. What a mess. Even before Donna Brazile started hawking her book and throwing Hillary and the DNC under the bus this week, the Democrats have been satisfied to simply be “that Anti-Trump” group. You may recall Chuck & Nancy’s attempt at a “program” (remember “A Better Deal?” No? That’s okay, neither does anyone else). Mass shootings let the Dems roll out their “stricter gun laws” chorus and reinforces the notion they are a bi-coastal Elite who “don’t get” the folks in the flyover states --- and that appears to be true. Jeffrey Toobin, in the upcoming issue of the New Yorker, has written “Is Tom Cotton the Future of Trumpism?, a profile of the Arkansas junior Senator. There is a quote from Cotton that strikes me as the heart of the problem Democrats face moving toward the 2018 and 2020 elections. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, last August, Toobin observed this Cotton speech:
“Go home tonight and turn on one of the nighttime comedy shows. Tomorrow morning, turn on one of the cable morning-news shows. This Saturday, watch ‘Saturday Night Live,’ ” he said. “All the high wardens of popular culture in this country, they love to make fun of Donald Trump, to mock him, to ridicule him. They make fun of his hair, they make fun of the color of his skin, they make fun of the way he talks—he’s from Queens, not from Manhattan. They make fun of that long tie he wears, they make fun of his taste for McDonald’s.” He went on, “What I don’t think they realize is that out here in Arkansas and the heartland and the places that made a difference in that election, like Michigan and Wisconsin, when we hear that kind of ridicule, we hear them making fun of the way we look, and the way we talk, and the way we think.”
Tom Cotton was speaking in what used to be “Clinton Country.” But the country has changed since Slick Willy ran for President in 1992 and the Democratic Party seems to have lost its ability to speak to “those people,” the ones who used to be the core of the Democratic Party. It doesn’t seem that Tom Perez or Keith Ellison know how to begin a dialogue with those voters, either. And we have to recognize, too, that the flight from the Democratic Party was a slow leak that started with Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 and the rejection of (and audacity of the party to nominate) a Black President.
Trump’s white backlash has its solid 35% but surely the Democrats can find a way to “re-patriate” that white working class, the old New Deal heart and soul. The issues are there: health care, infrastructure, reasonable immigration policies, and so on. But presently the embers of Hillary’s defeat are still hot and the Bernie Bro’s are still chafing, particularly with Donna Brazile’s ill-timed bookselling. The Democrats need to figure out a way to re-group, articulate a clear platform that speaks to the voters who deserted the party for Trump in 2016 --- and they need to become a vibrant, exciting political party that has important things to say to all Americans, breaking away from the “culture warrior” persona and remember what a “people’s party” looks like.