As noted below, the NRA has released a new Web video labeling President Obama an “elitist hypocrite” because his daughters are protected by armed guards, even as he suggests more guns in schools are not the best way to protect our children.
“Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” a narrator intones. “Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools, when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?”
MSNBC’s First Read crew makes a great point about this:
Over the past 30 days since the Newtown shootings, the NRA has brought a sledgehammer to the debate, not even attempting nuance or persuasion. First the combative Wayne LaPierre press conference at the National Press Club. Then LaPierre’s uncompromising appearance on “Meet the Press.” And now this web video.
The NRA is acting as if this were 2001 — after beating Al Gore and facing a cowed Democratic Party. Instead, this is 2013 — after the NRA was unable to beat Obama and after Democrats expanded their majority in the U.S. Senate. The danger the NRA is facing, especially after releasing this new video, is that it’s potentially alienating the handful of Democratic allies it has. The Harry Reids, the Joe Manchins, the Jon Testers.
While the NRA has always had a deeper reach within the Republican Party, what has made it particularly powerful is its influence inside both parties (a la AIPAC). But how the NRA has reacted to Newtown may very well have reduced its influence to just one political party. And if they decide to keep their attacks focused on the president, they will end up alienating the rest of the Democratic Party.
To borrow a line from Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann, the NRA is an “insurgent outlier.” The NRA is ideologically extreme — it’s fully committed to blocking sensible gun reforms supported by large majorities of Americans. The NRA is deliberately, even strategically, committed to scuttling the possibility of any kind of meaningful dialog in Congress over how — and whether — government should respond to an epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans every year. Anyone familiar with the NRA’s tactics over the years knows that efforts such as this video — and the nonstop Second Amendment alarmism the group peddles — are all about whipping up hysteria, resentment, and paranoia among its followers for a very specific reason: Impassioned minorities who can be mobilized very rapidly around one issue can be very effective in cowing lawmakers.
Along these lines, here’s something to watch closely: If the NRA keeps this stuff up, how will Congressional and Senate Democrats allied with the organization react? As the First Read crew notes, there are Senators like Harry Reid, Jon Tester, and Joe Manchin. There’s also Heidi Heitkamp, who has an “A” rating from the NRA and initially labeled proposed reforms as “extreme” before reversing course under pressure and opening the door to action. There are also at least two dozen House Democrats who have received contributions from the NRA during this cycle alone. If the NRA continues resorting to tactics such as using the President’s daughters to whip up rage among its followers, it should — one hopes, anyway — alienate these Democrats and make them less responsive to NRA pressure, perhaps making the prospects for some sort of legislative action more likely.
UPDATE: White House press secretary Jay Carney responds to the ad:
Most Americans agree that a president’s children should not be used as pawns in a political fight. But to go so far as to make the safety of the President’s children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly.