I missed this yesterday, but I’m not sure how much of a miss this really is. Democrats have gone silent on gun control in the past to win elections, only to bide their time and go full throttle on it later. Mike Bloomberg has been a little less willing to go silent, in large part because he’s spending his own money and not running for office. According to Mark Halperin and Andrea Mitchell, leading Democrats have finally gotten Bloomberg to play ball on their usual strategy:
Mitchell observed that Bloomberg had previously appeared to be “single issue focused on guns at the risk of jeopardizing Senate for Democrats.” TIME Magazine reporter Mark Halperin confirmed that Bloomberg not only resisted pressure from the two highest ranking Democrats in the Senate, but also former President Bill Clinton, who asked Bloomberg to temper his enthusiasm for attacking politicians who oppose stricter gun laws if those politicians happen to be Democrats.
Halperin added that, while there are many Democrats in the Senate up for reelection this year, they all enjoy some advantages; including strong fundraising, weak Republican challengers, and incumbency itself. These incumbents, he insisted, may hang on in November in spite of six-year midterm headwinds, but attacking these Senate Democrats from the left could imperil them by reducing the base’s enthusiasm.
CNN reports that the Democratic Super PAC to which Bloomberg donated millions has already gone up with ads in support of some of this election cycle’s most embattled Senate Democrats, including Pryor, Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mark Begich (D-AK). Each voted “no” on a resolution that would have banned high-capacity magazines in April of last year. Thus, Bloomberg has financially rooted himself on both sides of the guns issue.
Message received: the most important public policy challenge of 2013 was not all that important after all, at least when directly balanced against Democratic control of the upper chamber of Congress. Furthermore, even the most principled among us can be moved to abandon their cause so long as the pressure is intense enough.
Sure, it can get cast that way, but I’d argue the reverse of Noah Rothman’s take. Anyone expecting Bloomberg to abandon this cause is fooling himself — and that’s true of the rest of the Democratic Party, too. They are just biding their time until they get an opportunity once again to exploit emotions to push the gun-control agenda, just as they have done for the past year. If Pryor, Hagan, and Begich end up winning re-election because of Bloomberg’s (indirect) largesse, that just puts them even more in debt to the party’s bosses on gun control, and they won’t be so quick to dissent the next time it comes up.
In other words, this isn’t surrender, not even on the part of Bloomberg. It’s just a tactical retreat.