Thursday, June 13, 2013


Following up on a recent New York Times story, Gail Collins discusses Mike Bloomberg's efforts to punish four Democratic senators who voted against the gun background check bill:
... this week, Bloomberg wrote to the thousand biggest Democratic donors in New York and told them not to give the same senators any money....

The Democratic leaders are privately double-furious.... They argue, with absolute accuracy, that if the Democrats lose control of the Senate in 2014, there will be no gun bill to vote for, because Mitch McConnell, as majority leader, would never allow one to get to the floor.

And what's the point? The two senators in question who are up for re-election -- [Mark] Pryor [of Arkansas] and Mark Begich of Alaska -- are going to be opposed by Republicans who are even more averse to weapons regulation. Right now it looks as if Begich's opponent will be Joe Miller, a Tea Party stalwart who would be an improvement only to people who believe that the one thing this country needs is to bring back Sarah Palin.

There's one really good argument on Bloomberg's side. Maybe the only way to get serious gun reforms passed in Congress is to convince our elected officials that people who believe in reasonable gun control are as insane as the forces of the National Rifle Association.
Let's take that last point first. Collins is right that gun reforms might pass if politicians feared gun control supporters the way they fear NRA supporters. But they don't, because they know that even if background checks have 90% support, the 10% in opposition will cast a lot of one-issue votes, and the 90% will barely cast any.

And what Bloomberg is doing isn't going to change that. It's top-down -- it's putting pressure on politicians, while doing nothing, or at least nothing likely to be effective, to close the intensity gap.

We know that universal background checks have overwhelming support in red states, and even among NRA members. So why won't supporters reward elected officials who favor the background check bill and punish the bill's opponents?

I don't know. I have a pretty strong hunch that it has to do with tribal affinities and the sense among heartlanders that the NRA is part of their tribe, while the gun control community is alien.

But Bloomberg doesn't seem interested in the answer to this question. And he really doesn't seem interested in the answer to a question that baffles me: So, how do you get heartlanders who favors some gun regulations to question their sense of affinity with the NRA and pro-NRA pols? How do you change their minds?

Bloomberg has run ads chiding the senators -- but, as the Times reported yesterday, Senators Pryor and Begich think they can turn those ads to their advantage:
In response to Mr. Bloomberg's ad, Mr. Pryor filmed his own, in which he adopts a defiant tone. "The mayor of New York City is running ads against me because I opposed President Obama's gun control legislation," Mr. Pryor says in the ad.

In an interview, Mr. Begich, who, like Mr. Pryor, faces re-election next year, said he was unbowed by the threat of a Bloomberg-led attack. Indeed, he seemed to almost relish the thought of one.

"In Alaska, having a New York mayor tell us what to do? The guy who wants to ban Big Gulps?" Mr. Begich asked incredulously. "If anything, it might help me," he added.
Well, of course. Because Bloomberg has a massive ego, everyone who's paying attention to this knows that the ads are his work -- and to many heartlanders, rightly or wrongly, no one embodies what's offputting about urbane liberal culture more than Bloomberg.

I don't know what could change the current state of affairs. I'd say it would have to be a long, slow, patient campaign to reduce Middle Americans' distrust of the gun control community (and liberals in general -- yes, on this Bloomberg is seen as a liberal), while also trying to disrupt Middle Americans' sense that the NRA and the gun community are its cultural allies.

That's a hell of an undertaking -- if Wayne LaPierre's rantings since Newtown didn't hurt the NRA's public standing, then the heartland's trust of the gun community is strong. But if it can be done, someone like Mark Kelly is a probably a hell of a lot more likely to get it done than Mike Bloomberg.


Chris Andersen said...

I suspect it has a lot to do, as you suggest, with the psychology of single-issue voters. Single-issue voters are likely to work very intensely to elect single-issue legislators with whom they agree on that single-issue. But multiple-issue voters are just a lot more flexible in their assessment of multiple-issue legislators who happen to vote differently them on one particular issue. Just because they voted against background checks and the voter supports background checks is not sufficient reason to vote against the legislator, especially if the legislator happens to be a strong advocate on many other issues in common with the voter.

Those who are single-issue on gun control really have to keep this in mind when it comes to persuading voters and legislators to come to their side: It's not enough to convince them that this is an important issue, you have to convince them that this is *THE* important issue.

Anonymous said...


Democrats from rural areas tend to be more populus. They're old school New Deal types. I vastly prefer the NY/CA model of Democrat, socially liberal, anti union, neoliberal economics.

Bloombergs attack will help kill off the shitty old school Democrats and let the better ones have even more control over the Democratic party. Anything that takes out the populists is a plus in my book no matter the cost.

Victor said...

The "Real 'Murkans" in "The Heartland" hate New Yorkers.

Or, as I heard them referred to when I lived down South: Jew Yorkers.

Bloomie ain't helpin' his cause none.

BH said...

I think what all this comes down to is that Bloomberg has about the same grasp of political realities outside NYC as Rick Perry has of political realities outside Texas.

Oh, and by the way, piss off & go ogle your probably imaginary portfolio, overclock.

Anonymous said...


I'm just being honest. We are the party of the wealthiest urban areas and the educated elites in them. That's not changing. We should use the government to help us, champion our values, and wield against the dumb hicks in fly over country.

I'm all for Bloomberg, he's what we all are.

BH said...


I'll reciprocate your honesty. I'm one of those union-friendly, Great Society-type Dems in and from "fly over country", and so long as gents like you and Mayor Bloomberg maintain your condescension and urban provincialism, the "dumb hicks" by whom I'm surrounded will continue to elect shoals of Republicans to the Senate and House, thus indefinitely hamstringing any notions of "using the government" effectively to help anyone besides those whom the GOP chooses to help. That's not changing either.