I am not a member of the National Rifle Association but I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. They’re free to choose whomever they want to lead or speak for them but I can’t help but wonder whether they’re making decisions based on what is best for their cause or if they’re just embracing unnecessary controversy, a trend that seems increasingly popular on the right.
By all objective accounts, North is a patriotic American who has served his country proudly and with the best of intentions. He has a resume of both military and private sector experience showing he has the capacity to lead. But sadly those are not the only qualifications that need to be considered in the current political climate.
Anyone leading a group dedicated to preserving individual liberty today is fighting an uphill battle. Fighting for the right to keep and bear arms is a particularly steep hill. In my mind that would be reason to pick leaders with as little baggage as possible. I think leading an organization like the NRA involves bringing new people into the fold by persuading them of the rightness of your cause. That is a difficult task under most circumstances but how much harder is it if you’re someone about whom half the country has already decided not to trust.
It’s great that the NRA is standing by one of their big supporters by making him their president but would they be better served by choosing someone who wasn’t already a controversial figure? I’ve had similar questions about the NRA choosing Dana Loesch as their spokesperson. Dana is a fantastic voice for liberty because she is unabashed, passionate, and blunt. That’s what has made her a popular radio and television personality but like any successful right-leaning figure, anything she says can and will be used against her in the mainstream media.
The NRA gets the benefit of her name but they also take on the risk of their opponents seizing upon anything Loesch says on any topic, distorting it to fit their narrative, and then hanging it around the neck of the NRA. I think it must be a tough balancing act for Loesch and that perhaps the NRA might have been wiser to choose a spokesperson whose only public persona is being the NRA spokesperson. (None of that is a criticism of the job Dana has done there, by the way. It’s just an observation that there are pros and cons to any personnel choice like this.)
I think with Oliver North there may be a similar. How much of his time will be spent having to address old issues about himself, time that might otherwise have been devoted to pushing the 2A cause?
Or is the embrace of controversy an overt strategy? An embattled NRA president constantly under attack from the “fake news” media probably makes for effective email fundraising campaigns. But does it persuade anyone to support the 2A in a climate where prominent people can get away with calling a civil liberty organization a literal “terrorist organization” without fear of being asked tough questions about that utterly slanderous assertion?
It’s all a question of whether to look inward or outward. Looking inward is the tribal way, where the fight is an end in itself. It is rallying the forces you have at the expense of growing them. Looking outward would be focusing on educating people about the 2A and convincing them that the conventional wisdom that guns are the primary cause of violence is deeply flawed. Looking outward is difficult but it’s the only way you’ll ever gain ground.
Whatever the NRA’s reasons for choosing Oliver North to be their new president, it will be interesting to see how their strategy plays out.