Now that Democrats control the House of Representatives, they have three newly acquired powers. The first two are obvious: the ability to derail the entire legislative agenda the GOP had planned and the power of subpoena which they will surely use against President Trump as many times as they can without looking too foolish.
The third new power is passing symbolic legislation they know will never make it through the Senate. Even if it could, the President wouldn’t sign it. They don’t want him to, just as Republicans didn’t really want President Obama to sign the Obamacare repeal they put on his desk to veto.
What’s the point? Why put forth bills that won’t go anywhere? Answer: FEPO (For Election Purposes Only).
It worked for Republicans who gained seats on Capitol Hill every election after Obamacare was passed and could have won the White House in 2012 if they’d put up a candidate who wasn’t jokingly referred to as the original architect of Obamacare. Why anyone thought the man who brought Romneycare to Massachusetts could run on repealing Obamacare is beyond me, but I digress.
Republicans took the House in 2010 on the promise of repealing Obamacare. They won the Senate in 2014 by showing Americans they couldn’t put an Obamacare repeal on the President’s desk without a Senate majority. One of the biggest reasons Donald Trump won the White House in 2016 was so the Obamacare repeal bill vetoed by President Obama could be signed. Republicans were bluffing, of course, and didn’t even attempt to put the same bill on the President’s desk once they had Trump in the Oval Office. But again, I digress.
Democrats have a similar election trick up their sleeve. It’s gun control. Democrats in the House will send various gun control bills to the Senate for the singular purpose of getting Republicans on record as voting against them. They will use this to not only vie for Senate seats but also as ammunition (pun intended) against the President for his reelection bid.
They’ll tell Americans we need “common sense gun measures” but Republicans are preventing them from making it happen. Unfortunately, gun control is more popular at this point than Obamacare repeal was around this time in 2010. Republicans were able to convince more Americans that Obamacare was bad in the years that followed because what the people got wasn’t what they expected, but Democrats are starting their campaigns for gun control on better footing than Republicans had with Obamacare repeal.
Gallup polls showed Americans wanting gun control hit a 25-year high in March of this year with 67% saying gun laws should be more strict. Only 4% said they should be less strict. Compare that to Obamacare which didn’t break the 50% disapproval mark until the third quarter of 2013. It hit its peak of 56% disapproval just before the 2014 elections.
In other words, gun control is already more popular than Obamacare repeal ever was. If Republicans were able to use Obamacare repeal to help them win elections over a six-year period, how long will it take gun control to turn the tables on Republicans?
The only good news out of all this for Republicans is the universal influence of Obamacare versus the limited influence of gun control. The vast majority of Americans were directly affected by Obamacare in one way or another. Much fewer Americans are directly affected by gun control measures. It isn’t a top concern for most voters. Yet.
Democrats will do everything they can to increase concern. They’ll put forth gun control bills for the sole purpose of forcing Republicans to block them.
The big switch
Republicans are well aware of the Democrats’ plans. They’re stuck in a Catch-22. If they vote against gun control, Republicans in blue or purple states will become vulnerable. If they vote in favor of gun control, they’ll lose portions of their base and the wealth of endorsements, campaign dollars, and PAC support they currently receive from gun owners’ rights groups. Any Republican with poor ratings from the NRA and other conservative organizations is likely to get primaried, blacklisted, or both.
If the risk of losing the center becomes greater than the risk of losing the right, it’s very possible we could see a shift in many Republican lawmakers.
This poses the biggest threat to the 2nd Amendment. Fear drives policies. If Democrats are able to scare enough Republicans, including the President, into accepting their “common sense gun measures,” the dominoes will start to fall. I don’t trust moderate Republicans enough to draw the line now. If they give in to fear of losing elections, many will start “evolving” their views to match the electorate.
Lest we forget, President Trump has already “evolved” in his own views on gun owners’ rights. So far, that evolution has brought him further to the right, but if a strong majority of voters threaten to derail his reelection bid, it’s possible he could evolve in the other directions. I don’t think it will happen, but anyone who thinks they can predict President Trump’s future is foolish.
Democrats will push for gun control harder than they ever have now that they own the House. They want to win elections with it, but if they get gun control legislation passed instead, they’ll accept it as a nice consolation prize.