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Hullabaloo


Sunday, January 20, 2013

 
A lot has changed since 1994, Mr. Clinton

by David Atkins

Bill Clinton:

“Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,” Clinton said.

“A lot of these people live in a world very different from the world lived in by the people proposing these things,” Clinton said. “I know because I come from this world."

“A lot of these people … all they’ve got is their hunting and their fishing,” he told the Democratic financiers. “Or they’re living in a place where they don’t have much police presence. Or they’ve been listening to this stuff for so long that they believe it all.”

Clinton closed his remarks with a warning to big Democratic donors that ultimately many Democratic lawmakers will be defeated if they choose to stand with the president.

“Do not be self-congratulatory about how brave you for being for this” gun control push, he said. “The only brave people are the people who are going to lose their jobs if they vote with you.”
Bill Clinton is a gifted politician, no doubt, but he overestimates the NRA's power, even in creating the 1994 midterm debacle. Also, even most NRA members don't oppose the most basic gun control measures under discussion.

Most candidates endorsed by the NRA win reelection; but most candidates endorsed by the group are safe Republicans in safe Republican seats.

Conventional wisdom has it that NRA members could be mobilized to vote against any politician who backs gun control.

But Republican pollster Frank Luntz is out with a new survey suggesting that the reforms being discussed lately are fine with most NRA members.

Luntz, working on behalf of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, found that large majorities of NRA members support background checks for all gun purchases, gun safety training for concealed-carry permits and the denial of permits for people with records of violent misdemeanors.
But the historical record and NRA member feelings aside, Mr. Clinton is still living in a different politically. The data isn't all compiled yet on presidential vote by Congressional district, but a preliminary skim of votes by congressional district shows that only three House Democrats are in a districts won by Mitt Romney, while ten House Republicans are in districts won by Barack Obama. There are precious few Democratic Congressmembers left whose electoral fortunes would be significantly impacted by a pro-gun control vote--partly because of Republican gerrymandering, but also partly because the 1994 and 2010 midterms had the effect of cleansing out most of the Blue Dogs and Dixiecrats who would be in a position to be affected.

The precious few in districts who have cause to fear an NRA backlash can be permitted to vote against gun control measures beyond the mental health provisions and gun registries supported even by at least half of Republicans. Besides, it's not as if any significant gun control is going to get through both the House and a Senate filibuster (presuming Reid caves on the filibuster as he is expected to.)

So in answer to Bill Clinton, it's not 1994 anymore. Congressional Democrats have been mostly routed out of places like Arkansas. True, it's a different world there, one in which a great many people have bought the rightwing rhetoric hook, line and sinker. But the doing the right thing is more important than votes, and politically speaking the Democratic Party no longer needs that old coalition anymore. There's no need to placate those folks anymore. All we need to do is outnumber them and defeat them.


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