I enjoyed Jonah’s piece on the home page highlighting the cultural reasons for the Left’s failure. Over at the Los Angeles Times, my good friend Ken White (of Popehat fame) sounds a similar theme — noting that “culture bundling” is blocking meaningful debate over gun regulations. Here’s how Ken puts it:
We culture-bundle when we use one political issue as shorthand for a big group of cultural and social values. Our unproductive talk about guns is rife with this. Gun control advocates don’t just attack support for guns; they attack conservative, Republican, rural and religious values. Second Amendment advocates don’t just attack gun control advocates; they attack liberal, Democratic, urban and secular values. The gun control argument gets portrayed as the struggle against Bible-thumping, gay-bashing, NASCAR-watching hicks, and the gun rights argument gets portrayed as a struggle against godless, elitist, kale-chewing socialists.
Ken and Jonah have nailed the arc of the modern debate, and this is one culture war the Left is losing — badly. Public support for assault weapons bans has plunged since the 1990s, and only the bluest of enclaves are tightening gun regulations. The legal and political trend is towards greater protection for Second Amendment rights.
One product of increased polarization is that we’re often not even aware of when we’re not being persuasive. Arguments that sound magnificent to our own ears are repulsive to the other side. The fight is all about mobilizing the base, and — for now — there are simply more committed gun owners than dedicated gun controllers.