And when the polls open on Election Day, the last hopes of so many nudgers, buttonholers and prodders will finally, irreversibly, be dashed. Ask the climate-change folks, the comprehensive immigration reform crowd, the Supreme Court appointment junkies, the drug-war fixaters, the gun-control crusaders.
In other cycles, some of them have been big players. Al Gore took up gun control during his 2000 presidential campaign and received the support of Sarah Brady, the advocate and wife of James Brady, the White House press secretary who was shot and severely injured in a 1981 attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. And Barack Obama promised during his 2008 campaign that he would deliver major immigration reform in his first year in office.
This time around, these nudgers tried, oh, yes, they tried. But they couldn’t get the presidential nominees from either major party to embrace their passions as election-season centerpieces — not in a cycle in which the economy so thoroughly dominated.
So Election Day is a day for them to lament, to rage, to self-criticize, just as it is a day for them to reassess, to regroup, to recommit.
“If” is the word Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, reaches for.
“If” only Gross and his colleagues had spent less time making their argument “behind closed doors with elected officials.”
“If” only they’d turned outward more.
“If” only they’d “started sooner.”
“If” only they’d been less reactive and more proactive.
Gross, whose organization is a leading advocate for gun control, is engaged in what he calls a “fundamental shift” drawn from the lessons of this presidential campaign and applied in its latter stages. Next time, they’ll be savvier with communications, they’ll look to stimulate a national conversation by capitalizing on polls that he says show an overwhelming majority of Americans want measures such as criminal background checks for gun buyers. Then, he reasons, the campaigns will have to listen.
And even now, he may have reasons to be optimistic. On the second-to-last day of campaign, President Obama held a rally in Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were killed in a movie-theater massacre in July. And although the president didn’t make a stirring call for gun control, the symbolism of the swing-state visit was unmistakable.
Said Gross: “Nobody wants to live in a country where 32 people are gunned down every day. Those of us who work on this issue need to do a better job on — and are now intensely focused on — really giving voice to the overwhelming majority of Americans who want to have this conversation.”