Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Nothing Doing

Politico reports

Democratic lawmakers called for swift congressional action in response to the Las Vegas shooting that left at least 59 dead — the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history — with Sen. Chris Murphy saying it is “time for Congress to get off its ass and do something” on gun control.

Murphy, who led a filibuster on the Senate floor last June in protest of legislative inaction following the Pulse club shooting, called it “cruelly hollow” for politicians to not back up their words of sympathy with a governmental response.

“This must stop,” Murphy said in a statement Monday morning. “It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic.”

He added: “It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.”

Well, that won't happen, and there are two reasons, one well understood and one not.

Both the GOP popular base and the most powerful lobby in the USA would militantly oppose any effort to control firearms. Jonathan Swan 

asked Steve Bannon whether he could imagine Trump pivoting to the left on guns after the Las Vegas massacre. "Impossible: will be the end of everything," Bannon texted. When asked whether Trump's base would react worse to this than they would if he supported an immigration amnesty bill, Bannon replied: "as hard as it is to believe actually worse."

Swan points out that both of the President's sons are very pro-gun and- unlike mainstream Republicans and organizations- the National Rifle Association stayed loyal to Trump throughout the campaign.

Oddly enough, Swan still believes Trump might oppose congressional Republicans' efforts to loosen restrictions on silencers. However, a more realistic (and cynical) Steve M. recognizes

It's hard to imagine a more Trump-like political organization than the NRA. Both are relentlessly on offense. Both threaten their friends (who'd better not show any disloyalty) while brutalizing their enemies (who are deemed less than human because they dare to put up a challenge). Both claim they're the only bulwark against the apocalypse, which both claim is amok in the streets as we speak. ..

Of course, Trump has tossed aside people whose eagerness for a brawl resonates with his own -- Bannon, Mike Flynn. But they embarrassed him, or failed him, or tried to steal his spotlight. The NRA doesn't do that. It stays in its corner, pumping out propaganda to its loyalists -- and remaining loyal to Trump.

And what would Trump gain by breaking ranks with an organization that's more popular than he is? 

That's America's real shame -- no matter what the NRA does, it still has a remarkably high level of support. 

All of that is sad, but true.  Less well understood- and rarely if ever acknowledged- is that there simply is no constituency for gun safety legislation.

Senator Murphy cares. But he is from Connecticut, and memory of the Sandy Hook massacre focuses the attention. Additionally, Murphy is a Democrat and Connecticut is one of the few states where worship of  the Second Amendment is not a prerequisite for political survival. And despite efforts by Gabby Gifford and husband Mark Kelly, or Michael Bloomberg, there is no organization on the gun left to rival the NRA.

There are few if any other states in which the need to keep firearms away from dangerous individuals or to restrict weapons with no legitimate purpose other than to law enforcement is a salient issue. There also are very few individuals for whom gun control is a defining issue.

In the wake of Hillary Clinton's  stunning defeat, two factions dominate the quarrel over Democratic Party policy.  One group wants to strengthen the appeal to people who in recent years have been most enthusiastic about, and most faithful to, the Party's candidates. Such as Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the DNC emphasize the interests of blacks, hispanics, gays ("LGBT"), women without children, educated individuals in the knowledge/information sector, and others who have been traditionally disadvantaged in American society.

The other group, represented by the likes of Bernie Sanders, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Robert Reich, prefers an emphasis upon groups such as the lower middle class and working class (especially whites) whose support for the Democratic Party has been eroding for decades, as demonstrated by Donald Trump's dramatic victory.  These individuals generally have been left behind by privatization, outsourcing, "free" trade, and other hallmarks of globalization.

Except after a mass shooting, rarely does any prominent (or not prominent) member of either faction say anything about guns. Anything.  There is simply no Democratic interest group, whether organized labor, blacks, immigrants, women's rights  supporters, environmentalists, criminal justice reformers, students,or some other for whom the issue is dominant. None. Additionally, when someone such as Senator Joe Manchin invokes the interests of "rural" Americans, he's not talking about limiting access to dangerous weapons (a clueless Tom Perez avoiding the issue in April, below).

There are two obvious lessons. Chris Murphy is- courageousl-, spitting into the wind. And the best that can be expected of Donald Trump is nothing.

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