Here’s why politicians sway to the NRA

     

    Let’s pause in our ponderings of the violence in Syria, and focus today on the defenders of gun violence closer to home, in Colorado.

    In yet another triumph for the American weaponocracy, two state lawmakers were yanked from office Tuesday night in the middle of their tenures – victims of a recall campaign, the first such effort in state history – for one reason only: They had voted for modest gun reforms, making it a teensy weensy bit tougher for gun lovers to flex their unfettered freedom.

    The Senate President, John Morse, and a fellow state senator, Angela Giron, had the temerity to help enact state laws that now require universal background checks and restrict gun magazines to 15 rounds – hoping that perhaps these laws might reduce the odds of another massacre (a la the Aurora movie theater) or, at the very least, reduce the body count. Morse, a former police chief, even had the audacity to stand on the Senate floor and denounce gun violence. The reforms, he said, would hopefully reduce that violence, thereby “cleansing a sickness from our souls.”

    Well. Certain people just can’t abide that kind of wacky talk.

    And so, in a low-turnout recall election dominated by highly-motivated, single-issue, gun-owning voters, Morse and Giron were disappeared. The political message is obvious: Even after Aurora and Newtown, and despite the certainty that many more massacres await us, politicians everywhere are forewarned that doom awaits them if they dare fiddle with the freedom to bang bang.

    As Colorado gun-rights guy Jon Caldara declared in a pre-election video, the goal was to create “a shudder, a wave of fear that runs across every state legislator across the country….That’s how big this is.” Rest assured, politicians are now feeling the fear.

    On recall election eve, the liberal magazine Mother Jones had suggested that gun-reform voters would save Morse and Giron: “The idea that bucking the NRA meant an almost-certain political death has always been a myth.” Well, it’s not a myth. The NRA actually spent less money in Colorado than the gun-reform proponents (Michael Bloomberg, liberal philanthropist Eli Broad, the Washington-based Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee), but here’s what matters most:

    The NRA’s voters are far more committed to casting their ballots; the NRA is still on the winning side of the so-called “intensity gap.” That’s what continues to power the weaponocracy. That’s why gun reform got buried five months ago in the U.S. Senate, with four red-state Democrats (three of them up for re-election in 2014) helping to shovel the dirt.

    In a poll this summer, Colorado’s citizens declared, by a 2-1 margin, that recalls are wrong, that politicians shouldn’t be summarily yanked over a policy disagreement, that that’s what normal elections are for. But this landslide majority didn’t show up on Tuesday night. Advantage, NRA.

    Indeed, the recall tactic further imperils the gun reformers. Nineteen states (including New Jersey) permit voters to oust politicians in mid-tenure, and, in most of those states, there need not be any evidence of fraud, criminal wrongdoing, or official misconduct. Typically, a mere policy dispute qualifies as grounds for an ouster. One Colorado guy who voted to oust Morse reportedly showed up at the polls with his man-piece holstered on his hip, and said “I love my country” – thereby suggesting that Morse, by dint of his reforms, lacked sufficient patriotic ardor.

    It’s a rotten tactic. A wise man recently wrote: “Ejecting a public official midway through his tenure, solely because of policy disagreements, is inherently destabilizing. That’s the big problem with recalls….If they become a routine weapon in this era of politics as permanent warfare, a weapon to be wielded by whichever side is unhappy with whoever has the power, then normal elections will lose their meaning. Normal elections will have no finality. Normal elections will be viewed by the losing side as a mere speed bump.”

    Actually, that was no wise man. That was me. I wrote that 15 months ago, while defending conservative Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Liberal forces tried unsuccessfully to oust him in mid-tenure. The recall tactic was wrong then, and it was wrong on Tuesday night. But, thanks to Colorado, it will be a potent weapon for the weaponocracy. Fear is a fabulous motivator.

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    On Tuesday night, we also bade farewell to scandal celebs Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer, both of whom lost their New York City primary races. Which prompts a question: How to explain the fact that Weiner, Spitzer and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner all got the boot in blue states for sex-related behavior…while Mark Sanford and hooker devotee David Vitter have survived and thrived in red states? Discuss.

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    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

     

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