Note: This is an updated version of a post published on June 21.
The Democrats in the House held a sit-in on June 22 to protest the lack of progress on gun control. Someone in their caucus should have spent time communicating with their brethren in the Senate a few days before, however. They could have made some progress on gun control there by voting for two Republican-sponsored gun control measures. Instead, Dem Senators voted lockstep against them.
That doesn’t really matter, though, does it? Democratic leadership is more interested in raising money off the gun control issue than voting for measures that advance it, one step at a time. To heck with saving even one life with incremental gun control if the Democratic leadership can raise even one buck from the gun control issue instead. The Hill reports they’re already raising money from the sit-in.
Here’s my advice to the Democratic leadership: Drop the charade and just get the money directly from the NRA. You’re not serious about gun control, so why bother with all those pesky fund-raiser mailings?
Here’s the evidence the Democratic leadership doesn’t really care about advancing gun control:
Four gun control amendments were proposed in the US Senate in the wake of the horrible Orlando nightclub shootings, two by Democrats and two by Republicans. Here’s a good roundup of the gun-control measures, at USA TODAY.
All four amendments went down to defeat, but the two GOP amendments failed because the Democrats filibustered the votes. In other words, the Republicans had a majority of votes (since they are in the majority in the Senate) in favor of those two amendments. But because the GOP doesn’t have a filibuster-proof majority, they would have needed Democratic votes –just a handful or so — to pass these measures. The Democrats blocked passage by using the filibuster. Not even a few broke ranks to support some gun control proposed by a gun-control-unfriendly caucus.
Let me repeat that: Democrats blocked passage of two gun control measures.
Let me repeat it again: Democrats blocked gun control.
Various news stories and memes on social media might have you believe that it was the GOP who stopped gun control measures from advancing because the GOP did vote against the Democratic amendments, which meant they didn’t even muster a majority of yeses.
But the Republican caucus is not a gun-control-friendly group. Those in that caucus who vote against gun control, even when it’s wildly popular, do so because of their strong beliefs in the necessity of a strong Second Amendment, in the right to bear arms.
So, the question for Democrats is: If this gun-rights caucus was persuaded to support some gun control measures (at least one of which was very similar to a proposal by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein), why on earth would you not vote for these measures? Why wouldn’t you think to yourself: These measures don’t go as far as I want, but they could save lives, so I’ll take this small step forward at least.
Why wouldn’t you do that?
Here’s the reason: gun control is too important to Democratic fund-raisers and tacticians to lose as an issue. After all, if they did vote for the GOP gun control measures, they can’t use the issue to run ads against GOP opponents, post memes on Facebook and other social media, and generally gin up outrage against those evil gun-loving Republicans who don’t care about children and gay people.
There was a whiff of this strategy back in 2013 when Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (WV) joined forces with Republican Senator Pat Toomey (PA) to propose a gun-control bill together, known as Manchin-Toomey. It was defeated, with four Democratic senators voting against it. Even with those four onboard, it still would have needed a couple more GOP votes to be filibuster-proof, but why should Sen. Toomey and the GOP have gone about twisting arms to find those two votes when Democratic whip Sen. Dick Durbin didn’t think it was important enough to whip the vote in his caucus? Think about that for a moment: A gun control measure proposed by a Republican and a Democratic senator, both of whom have had NRA endorsements, wasn’t important enough to Democratic leadership to even count votes and persuade caucus members to vote for it.
After the latest push for gun control, it’s clearer than ever: Democratic leadership only cares about gun control to raise money and campaign against Republicans. Let me repeat my advice for that leadership: Drop the charade and just take the money directly from the NRA. It’s not like you’re going to defeat Republicans in gun rights states anyway, and at least you’ll get the cash, which is what you’re after anyway.
Two other good articles on this topic:
Libby Sternberg is a novelist.