Wednesday, October 04, 2017


Bill Scher wonders why no one on the left is trying to "go big" on gun control:
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders knows his extraordinarily ambitious proposal to supplant the private health insurance industry with a single government plan won’t become law anytime soon. Yet, as he told HBO’s Vice News, he proposed it anyway, “because that’s the way change always happens ... Things don’t happen overnight. And especially when you’re taking on the entire political establishment, you have to begin someplace.”

So if that’s the way change always happens, where’s the big, bold, politically unrealistic but conservation-changing proposal to stop the epidemic of gun deaths?

... There’s an opening for a Democrat willing to ignore the polling data, dismiss the fretting about gun-happy white working-class voters, suffer the wrath of the National Rifle Association and stake a claim as the champion of sweeping gun control. But there’s no guarantee anyone will take it.

... Democrats in general are already being tagged as “gun grabbers” for merely raising the issue of guns, even if their main proposals would not touch the guns of most people. For one or two Democrats to go big on guns helps expand the parameters of the debate and position relatively modest ideas as centrist compromises, without damaging the Democratic brand among the white working-class ... at least, not much more than it already has been damaged.

... The years of Democratic timidity on gun control present an enormous opening for a politician to claim the mantle of boldness.
To start with, I'm not sure what a "big" gun control proposal would look like. On health care, single payer is an obvious progressive aspiration, just as legalization of same-sex marriage was for the cause of LBGT rights. The choice of $15 an hour as a target minimum wage was arbitrary, but the goal was a big boost.

What's the obvious "big" gun goal, a moonshot way beyond universal background checks or even another assault weapons ban? Gun registration? Confiscation of some weapons? The repeal of the 2nd Amendment? What does the left actually want?

I think wary liberals like me resist boldness on guns not just because we fear electoral failure, but because we expect blood in the streets -- literally. I think there'd be civil war if serious restrictions on guns were imminent (and certainly if there was a serious possibility that the 2nd Amendment could be repealed). I think a lot of conservatives (and moderates and left-centrists) oppose single payer and the $15 minimum wage, but those battles are fought at the legislator/lobbyist level -- no ordinary citizen is going to grab a rifle and take to the streets to defend the status quo. That didn't even happen with same-sex marriage. But guns are different.

I think many on the Sandersite and democratic-socialist left don't even see gun control as particularly left-wing, in part because Bernie Sanders has downplayed the issue, and also because being anti-gun seems incompatible with the notion of revolution. I think even those who don't embrace Antifa violence (or even Nazi-punching) want to reserve the right to take up arms if absolutely necessary.

And it's harder to sell gun control to the unconvinced than it has been to sell other ideas that once seemed radical. People in the middle have come around to the idea that health care is a right because they want to keep themselves safe from harm -- but a lot of middle-of-the-road Americans want guns to keep themselves safe from harm. The increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships and marriage came about because straight Americans also want self-fulfillment, and understood why gay people wanted it too -- but owning guns is part of self-fulfillment for a lot of Americans. Many down-the-middle Americans now understand that when Republicans call for tax cuts, they really mean tax cuts for the rich, and they reject those cuts as giving more to the powerful -- but many of these same Americans think owning guns protects them against the powerful as well.

It's a hard fight, probably the hardest in American politics. I can't imagine how a "go big" approach would make it any easier. I think only time and a lot more massacres will do that.


UPDATE: Well, here's Michael Moore with a proposed replacement for the 2nd Amendment. Discuss.

No comments: