Ever since the middle of Bill Clinton’s second term, the highest-profile issue that the American left has been unable to push in any major way has been gun regulations. That’s remarkable considering that during this time, Democrats have held the presidency for about four years and Democrats have had the presidency and the Congress for two.
Credit for some of this has to go to the National Rifle Association which has built up a powerful lobbying force and also been more than happy to endorse candidates who are Democrats but in favor of gun rights.
That position has rankled some conservatives over the years but especially so this year with Republicans hoping to retake the House and depose such liberal stalwarts as Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada). The NRA’s bipartisan stance is potentially harming those hopes as it’s endorsed 39 Democratic candidates in the House as blogger Daniel Horowitz notes:
Believe it or not, the only ones who might help Nancy Pelosi save her House majority are those who run legislative affairs at the NRA. So called Blue Dog Democrats across the nation are campaigning as red meat conservatives in their home districts, while running deceptive ads about their Republican opponents. They campaign as if they have nothing to do with the Democrat Party that they propelled to power and which passed all of the nefarious legislation that they purport to oppose. The sick irony is that the more successful these liars are in distancing themselves from Pelosi, the more likely it will be that Pelosi will remain Speaker. Here is my previous report on the need to expose the blue dogs. Also, check out the Club for Growth’s excellent report on the lie of the conservative Democrat.
Fortunately, as long as the conservative rhetoric is coming from the Democrat candidates themselves, the voters aren’t buying it. However, when the NRA parachutes in and endorses that Democrat for reelection over their 2nd amendment champion Republican opponents, people might give credence to their claims of being born again conservatives. The sad thing is that the NRA is endorsing Democrats in the very districts that we must win in order to obtain 39 seats.
As you might expect, the NRA has a response to these charges. National Review’s Jim Geraghty interviewed the group’s executive director for Legislative Action, Chris Cox, and asked him about this subject:
The political reality is that we have President Obama, who had at one point 60 Democratic votes in the Senate and a 39-vote margin in the House. If it weren’t for our pro-gun Democrats, we would be having a very different conversation. To not only have no bad legislation pass, we’ve gained ground despite those very real and very challenging numbers, [which] probably makes us one of the few right-of-center groups to have victories during this period. [...]
We are a non-partisan organization, and we don’t base any grade or any endorsement on a party affiliation. That’s how we have continued to succeed, by solely considering how a candidate stands on the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms. We send out candidate questionnaires to every candidate, and we look at public statements and the things they say in debates. We focus solely on the right to keep and bear arms, because that’s our issue. Now, there are a lot of other issues that voters have to address, particularly in a year like this; they’re looking at fiscal issues, they’re looking at the health-care issue.
We encourage our members to put it in the forefront of their decision-making, and that’s proven to be a very effective, a very fair, and credible way for NRA to be positioned to help the rights of our members.
Sometimes it can get a little more difficult from a political standpoint because we have a very incumbent-friendly policy. Our commitment is applied regardless of party, whether it’s Congress or the state legislature. It’s important for us to stand with those who stood with us.
Senator Reid has been very helpful on some longstanding, important issues. But President Obama made two Supreme Court picks who are anti–Second Amendment, and the two recent victories for gun owners at the Supreme Court were 5–4 decisions. So it is critical that we have Supreme Court justices that respect the Second Amendment. We were very disappointed not only with Obama’s picks, but with the lawmakers who voted to confirm them. We said at the time those votes would be important to gun owners and would be considered when making these decisions.
We do not take non–Second Amendment related issues into account. I may feel very strongly about health care, taxes, but that isn’t what I’m supposed to bring to this decision. But most of these decisions are pretty easy when you apply the longstanding policies that we have in place.
It would be interesting to see to what degree NRA critics are upset by the bipartisan strategy generally or whether it’s more about specific objections. Does an NRA endorsement actually mean that much? All questions that might be answered next month.