The Campaign Spot

Gun Control Rhetoric Is For Show Without Primary Challenges

Okay, gun control supporters, including President Obama. Let’s see if you’ll put your money where your mouth is.  If you’re so totally convinced by that 90 percent poll figure you keep throwing around, if you’re so utterly certain that your viewpoint represents the will of the American people, let’s see you back pro-gun-control challengers to the three Democrats who voted against the Toomey-Manchin compromise who are up for reelection in 2014: Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mark Begich of Alaska.

Because if you really believe that voting “no” on that proposal is the equivalent to voting for more dead children, you can’t say that it’s an utterly unforgivable act for the Republican senators but an understandable concession to public will for the Democrat senators.

(Well, you can, but that will just reveal that you’re partisan hacks, posturing opportunists who use the emotion of the Newtown horror as a cudgel against your Republican opponents, with no real principled opposition to their position, since it’s acceptable from a Red State Democrat.)

Here’s how Obama tried to thread the needle yesterday:

A  few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea. But it’s not going to happen, because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea…

It came down to politics. They worried that that vocal minority of gun-owners would come after them in future elections. They worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second Amendment. And obviously a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too. And so they caved to the pressure, and they started looking for an excuse, any excuse, to vote no.

If you really think that the only reason to not vote for the bill was shameless politics, you can’t later on tell us that Baucus, Pryor and Begich are good senators who deserve reelection. You can’t come to their states for fundraisers, and you can’t go to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee events where you know the cash will be used to try to keep them in office. You can’t mobilize Organizing for Action to pull out all the stops to keep them in office, because you prefer a ‘D’ who votes for more dead children (your rhetoric, not mine) over an ‘R’ who would cast the same vote.

Of course, there’s almost no chance Obama or the DSCC or OFA will take these steps. Bloomberg’s groups may throw money at pro-gun control challengers, but that’s because they’ve got oodles of money; in all likelihood, they’ll help some no-name gun control advocate go from single-digit support in a Red State Democratic primary to double digits.

What yesterday’s vote demonstrated is that nobody really believes that a vote against the Toomey-Manchin compromise is the moral equivalent to voting for more dead children. And that all of this hyperventilating on camera is empty rhetoric.