The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Please, Democrats, Take Bret Stephens’ Advice

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens — allegedly one of the right-of-center voices on the newspaper’s editorial page — is going to get a tsunami of grief for today’s column, which is not-too-subtly titled, “Repeal the Second Amendment.”

And if you take all of his arguments at face value, Stephens demonstrates an infuriatingly snobby contempt for his fellow citizens — “gun enthusiasts fantasizing that Red Dawn is the fate that soon awaits us” — and gets basic facts wrong. He declares, “from a personal-safety standpoint, more guns means less safety,” ignoring the fact that crime rates have steadily declined as gun ownership has increased.

But then we come to this section:

In fact, the more closely one looks at what passes for “common sense” gun laws, the more feckless they appear. Americans who claim to be outraged by gun crimes should want to do something more than tinker at the margins of a legal regime that most of the developed world rightly considers nuts. They should want to change it fundamentally and permanently.

There is only one way to do this: Repeal the Second Amendment.

Call me crazy, but I think Stephens’ proposal is a giant bear trap for liberals and Democrats.

We haven’t amended the Constitution since 1992, when we decreed any law affecting Congressional salaries cannot take effect until the next election — i.e., banning members of Congress from voting themselves a pay increase. We’ve never repealed a part of the Bill of Rights. And that’s just what Stephens is urging Democrats to openly embrace, promise, and campaign on.

Can you picture some Democratic candidate supporting the repeal of the Second Amendment? The attack ads would declare: “John Smith thinks the U.S. Constitution gives you have too many rights . . .  and he wants to cut the Bill of Rights by ten percent!”

Or even better: “If John Smith doesn’t think you deserve your Second Amendment rights . . .  how many more of your Constitutional rights does he want to take away?”

If the Democrats made a sustained push for a Constitutional amendment repealing the right to bear arms, Republicans would never have to worry about getting out the vote again. NRA membership would explode. Pro-gun Democrats would switch parties. Portions of key groups within the party could recoil, no pun intended. According to the most recent Pew Research Center survey, 32 percent of African-Americans say either they or someone else in their household owns a gun.

The most incendiary Republican accusation of Democrats — that they don’t really care about the Constitution, that they just want ever-expanding government power and the authority to micro-manage every little decision in your life — would be largely verified in many American minds.

(Democratic congressman Phil Hare of Illinois in 2010, when asked where in the Constitution it authorized Congress to make Americans purchase health insurance: “I don’t worry about the Constitution on this.” When pressed, he said, “I believe that it says we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” When informed that he has just quoted the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, he responded, “it doesn’t matter to me.”)

And when asked by Gallup in October 2016 “whether there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons?”, just 23 percent supported it, 76 percent of respondents opposed it.

The Democrats have 48 senators, 194 House members, 15 governors, and 3,114 members of state legislatures, their fewest number of elected offices held in generations. And now Bret Stephens wants them to spend the next few cycles campaigning for the repeal of America’s gun rights? This is some Iago-level manipulation right here.

New Ad Push Will Pressure Democrats to Support Tax Reform

Americans for Prosperity is launching a $4.5 million ad campaign, calling on Democratic senators to unify around the tax reform framework released recently by the “Big 6.” The ads, which will air on cable and local networks over the next three weeks, call on Senators Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), Tammy Baldwin (D., Wisc.) and Joe Donnelly (D., Ind.) to join with lawmakers working to advance tax reform that simplifies the tax code and provides relief to middle-income Americans.

You can watch the McCaskill version here, the Baldwin version here, and the Donnelly version here.

AFP is quick to point out that these three Democratic senators have all said in recent years that they want to overhaul and simplify the tax code:

Tammy Baldwin has said tax reform should level the playing field and bring stability. “At the heart of any comprehensive tax reform package,” Baldwin urged fellow lawmakers, “there needs to be recognition that the biggest gap facing America is the gap between the economic security Americans work so hard to achieve, and the economic uncertainty that they are asked to settle for.”

This year, Joe Donnelly has been calling for some of the same reforms AFP supports. “Hoosiers deserve a tax code that is fair, efficient, and encourages businesses to invest here at home,” his website reads. Donnelly says he will “work with members on both sides of the aisle to develop a tax code that is fair and encourages economic growth.” Now’s his chance to make good on that promise and un-rig the American economy.

In 2014, McCaskill called for an end to special-interest handouts. “We just want to level the playing field,” she said, noting that closing loopholes would allow Congress to cut tax rates for everyone. “I think we all want to lower corporate tax rates,” McCaskill added.

Why do I get the feeling that certain Democratic senators will treat tax reform the way certain Republican senators treated legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare? “Oh, I completely support the idea in theory and share the goal, but I just can’t support this particular legislation because argle-bargle blah blah blah hey look squirrel. I support perfect legislation that exists in theory but that I will never quite getting around to writing down and introducing myself.”

How Nervous Should Virginia Republicans Be Right Now?

Ugh. I thought I was seeing more ads for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam in Virginia on my local airwaves, and this new poll from the Washington Post suggests Northam’s ad blitz might be having an effect:

Northam leads [Republican Ed] Gillespie by 53 percent to 40 percent among likely voters, with 4 percent supporting Libertarian Cliff Hyra. The advantage is similar to a Post-Schar School poll this spring but larger than in other public polls of likely voters released over the past month, most of which found Northam up by single digits.

But the race is still fluid, with a sizable number of likely voters — one in four — saying they could change their mind before Nov. 7.

“There’s a lack of intensity right now,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, which co-sponsored the survey. “Many fewer people than typically at this stage are paying close attention, and the candidates at this point have really not excited the electorate. . . .  A lot can change in the next month. If I were the Northam campaign, I would not feel too comfortable right now.”

Then again, the last time the Washington Post surveyed Virginians about this race, way back in May, they had an 11-point margin; most polls in the interim showed a much closer race. Around this time four years ago, the Post poll found Republican Ken Cuccinelli trailing by 8 points; he lost on Election Day by 2.5 points. Maybe the Post’s samples overestimate Democratic turnout by a couple of points.

Four years ago, exit polls showed a Virginia electorate that was 37 percent Democratic, 32 percent Republican, and 47 percent independent or something else. (Keep in mind, Virginia does not register voters by party, so this is entirely self-identified.) The Post survey sample is 34 percent Democrat, 24 percent Republican, 32 percent independent, 6 percent “other,” and 5 percent said “no opinion” when asked “Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as a . . . ”

Maybe that last group meant, “none of your business”?

ADDENDA: The New Republic bothers to watch NRATV and is surprised to find my friend Cam Edwards is “mild-mannered.”  He could start a collection of these observations; the Los Angeles Times profiled him in 2016 and was surprised to find him “a calm, steady voice.”

Hey, guys, not every gun owner is Yosemite Sam.

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