If Democrats worked for gun safety reform, they’d split up the Republican/NRA embrace
By struggling for gun control, we help elect Democrats. Working for gun control legislation does both at the same time. It saves lives by preventing gun violence and gets Democrats elected. Since Democrats align with progressive issues, I am working for all these issues as I advocated for gun violence prevention.
Republican politicians and NRA political forces long ago gaged how to use each other for their own political gains. On the Democrat’s side, we don’t understand the power of special interest groups like Republicans do. We work to attract wide support by expanding popularity. Republicans work to attract single-issue supporters with deeply held beliefs.
Republicans cater to special interest groups
Republicans know how to target single-issue advocates. Their most effective strategy is to frighten gun proponents with claims of what Democrats would do if elected, like take their guns away. Republicans understand the power of single-issue voters, who advocate for the party.
Political candidates often change their own positions on issues to win elections. For example, President Trump didn’t care about abolishing abortion rights until he prepared to run for President. In fact, he believed in protecting abortion rights. He switched positions during his run for the 2016 presidential election.
Gun rights didn’t concern him either. Before running for office, he believed in outlawing assault weapons. This opinion switched, because he was glad to use the NRA to win the Presidential election.
The NRA placed big bets on the 2016 Election which resulted in success. In the 2016 election cycle, the NRA spent over $54 million to get gun advocates elected according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. NRA money boosted Republican candidates toward victory. But their real weapon was their members who advocated for pro-gun legislation and targeted their votes for Republicans. This leveraged the NRA candidate contributions.
Most people think of the NRA campaign contributions as being the source of their power. They are actually a small part of the total contributions a Republican candidate receives. Take for example, John Cornyn, a Republican Senator from Texas and a long time NRA ally against gun reform measures. Cornyn is one of the biggest recipients of NRA campaign contributions in Congress. According to Vox, the NRA contributed $30,000 over the last decade to Cornyn’s campaign. That may seem large, but his election received 100 times that much each time he runs. During the last decade, his overall contributions were $14 million.
The main NRA power source
The main source of NRA power is the advocacy of their members. A large number of them are single-issue voters. They make the calls to their legislators when asked to by the NRA. When legislative candidates hear from ten people, they think hundreds must believe the same thing.
The NRA rating system influences elections. Every candidate is conscience of their rating because many pro-gun voters compare candidates and target their election vote based on the one with the best rating.
NRA members confront their government representatives making office visits and attend rallies. They ask tough questions of candidates questioning the degree of their support for the Second Amendment.
Because they know how to leverage the contributions, the NRA play a significant role in the outcome of elections. Candidates receiving funds know NRA dollars are more significant than from other sources. Legislators pay attention to NRA contributions because NRA member support will follow. Republicans and the NRA know how to work their five million members to support candidates who will work for pro-gun legislation. Democrats underappreciate the significance of dedicated single-issue voters. (See my blog article, Why are single-issue voters so effective?).
Solution – Break the Republican/NRA power machine
Likely, you don’t have the money to break the Republican/NRA power machine. But we don’t need vast resources to weaken the Republican/NRA power machine. We can pester and complain to government officials about their inaction on gun safety reform. This is more powerful than contributing money.
Gun control enthusiasts feel frustration, yet they don’t call their legislators. NRA members make the calls. This gives the NRA tremendous power to sway elections. Legislators become frightened of pro-gun enthusiasts. Come election time, candidates fear branding as “anti-gun” which makes them electorally vulnerable.
If anything is to change, our elected officials need to hear from us. Polls show, the most Americans want better gun safety laws. A Pew Research Center Survey in October found that 60% of Americans say that gun laws should be stricter than they are today. They need to exercise a genuine passion for constructive change.
Barak Obama stated during his presidency, gun control advocates should become “single-issue voters.” For years, the gun lobby built a base of voters who put pro-gun legislation above all other issues. If proponents of sensible gun control want to match them, they’ll have to do the same.
“You have to make sure that anybody who you are voting for is on the right side of this issue,” Obama said. “And if they’re not, even if they’re great on other stuff, for a couple of election cycles you’ve got to vote against them, and let them know precisely why you’re voting against them. And you just have to, for a while, be a single-issue voter because that’s what is happening on the other side.”
Single-issue voters and the 2020 Presidential Race
Looking at the 2020 Democratic Primary, who should a single-issue gun control voter support? Taking a position of support for a mandatory buyback program takes a strong position on gun violence prevention. Five candidates took this risky position: Cory Booker, Bill de Blasio, Kirsten Gillibrand, Beto O’Rourke, and Eric Swalwell. At this point, all have dropped out but Cory Booker. He didn’t make the cutoff for the recent December debate.
This is clear evidence that Democrats fail to understand the significance of single-issue voting. On the other side, NRA member devotion to Republicans remains high. Until Democrats grasp the significance of single-issue voters, they risk continued election failure.
Repeated polls tell us that most Americans think gun control measures are a good idea. Unfortunately, they don’t care enough to do the work necessary to cause change. Pro-gun enthusiasts exercise their passion for gun rights. The NRA recently reassured and needled their members with: “We trust that when called upon, NRA Members will show Bloomberg and Northam why we are the most formidable political force in history.”
The Republican Party knows this and takes advantage of it. If Democrats cared as much for gun safety measures and advocated for them, they’d win elections.