Some say the GOP pushed this ban to light a fire under family values voters. Others say their intent was more nefarious — to protect established gambling interests from online competitors. There may be some truth in both of those explanations, though I think the main motivation for the bill was simply the moral aversion to gambling held by its chief sponsors — Goodlatte, Kyl, and Leach — and a desire to impose that moral rectitude on the rest of the country. What does seem clear is that none of the people behind this bill were interested in thoughtful debate, any serious consideration of the bill’s implications or consequences, or the principle of a limited, “leave us alone” federal government. Polls show that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to a federal ban on Internet gambling. Industry experts estimate that some 15-20 million Americans wager online each year. The overwhelming majority do so responsibly. This largely apolitical group could well get politically motivated the first time they try to log on, and are told their small-stakes poker game has now been outlawed by the Republican leadership in Congress. If this was a political move, there’s a pretty good chance it’ll backfire, and cost the GOP more votes than it wins them.
Over at his website, Radley indicates that his e-mail intray is looking a lot like, well, mine:
I’ll share email reaction a bit later. So far, confirmation of my suspicions. Lots of Republicans promising that this issue alone will push them to vote for Democrats next month.
Again, to be clear, in my view it would be a mistake for a GOP voter to switch his or her vote on this issue (there are other, bigger, issues at stake), and it may be that the “leave us alone” coalition is, as big government conservatives in the Bush-Frist-Hastert mode seem to think, politically insignificant, but, if not, someone needs to reassure these voters that the Republicans still do believe that adults are usually capable of taking decisions for themselves.
After the last six years that will, of course, be something of a challenge.