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Hullabaloo


Sunday, February 24, 2013

 
Authoritarian Freedom Fighters (yes, I'm talking about the NRA)

by digby

There's a lot of liberal crowing about the success of progressive activism, and not without merit. The world has changed for the better as a result of the long term pressure and confrontational politics of various civil rights groups, most recently the highly successful strategies of the gay rights movement. (Read this powerful, moving piece by Garance Franke-Ruta if you doubt it.)

But even with all that, I still think that the most successful single issue group of the last quarter century has to be the NRA:

It sounded like a throwaway line. Toward the end of a four-hour Senate hearing on gun violence last week, Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s executive vice president of over two decades, took a break from extolling the virtues of assault rifles and waded briefly into new territory: criminal justice reform. "We've supported prison building," LaPierre said. Then he hammered California for releasing tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders per a Supreme Court order—what he'd previously termed "the largest prison break in American history."

But California's overflowing prisons, which the Supreme Court had deemed "cruel and unusual punishment" in 2011 because of squalid conditions, were partly a product of the NRA's creation. Starting in 1992, as part of a now-defunct program called CrimeStrike, the NRA spent millions of dollars pushing a slate of supposedly anti-crime measures across the country that kept America's prisons full—and built new ones to meet the demand. CrimeStrike's legacy is everywhere these days.

CrimeStrike arose out of necessity. The NRA had come into its own as a political power during the Reagan era, but by the early 1990s, it was strapped for cash. The organization ran up a $9 million deficit in 1991 and was on pace for a $30 million shortfall in 1992, even as it was preparing to go to the mattresses over assault weapons and background checks. The NRA needed a shot in the arm.

LaPierre launched CrimeStrike that spring with $2 million in seed money from the parent organization and a simple platform: mandatory minimums, harsher parole standards, adult sentences for juveniles, and, critically, more prisons. "Our prisons are overcrowded. Our bail laws are atrocious. We'll be the bad guy," he announced.

The NRA took its case to the public. "Will you let criminals rape your rights?" asked a four-page ad in a 1994 issue of Field & Stream magazine. And the real culprit was in the White House: "The Clinton administration has already cut federal prison construction by $550 million in favor of 'community placement' and 'criminal rehabilitation programs.'" This was reviving an old conservative talking point: Democrats were soft on crime.

It worked like a charm.

This shows exactly what kind of people NRA followers really are. For all their talk of watering the tree of liberty with blood of tyrants, they are actually the worst kind of authoritarians. They're fine with government power when it comes to any police agency (not charged with gun regulation) and they cheer it enthusiastically when it imprisons large numbers of people they consider to be undesirable. The only powers they don't wish the government to have is the power to tax them for the cost of these authoritarian institutions or to regulate their personal firepower. And they downright love a man in uniform, whether a cop or a soldier. In fact, they don them themselves as often as possible:


If they had their way, the model for the US would be none other than Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which worked out very well indeed for the "right" people. (Not so good for the "wrong" ones though ...)

Read the whole story at Mojo about the NRA's prison plan. And then contemplate the fact that the Democrats decided after the 2000 election that they couldn't possibly go against them ever again. (And people wonder why so many of us find the Democratic Party's "strategies" so contemptible.)

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