My God. He’s admitting that the bill creates a slippery slope.
Actually, what I think he’s trying to do in this clip is sell a weak bill to Democratic voters. Admitting that he wants to “do more” to regulate guns in the future is a baaaad soundbite at a moment when Senate Republicans are being screamed at by gun-rights advocates, but Murphy has to worry about his own base too. His nightmare scenario isn’t that John Cornyn and the GOP get cold feet and walk away, as his consolation prize in that case would be getting to blame Republicans for being callous about school shootings.
His nightmare scenario is that the left figures out that the bill doesn’t do much and *they* end up tanking it. That would let the GOP have its cake and eat it too, touting their willingness to compromise to make schools safer and then blaming Democrats for choking on the eve of a deal.
My read on this, then, is that Murphy senses that progressives are underwhelmed and is reassuring them by insisting that the bill is a foot in the door towards bigger and better things. (It’s no coincidence that he was addressing an audience of liberals on MSNBC.) “What you will find, I think, is that Republicans will be more willing to engage [on guns going forward], because they will recognize that the sky doesn’t fall when you support these common sense measures,” he told Andrea Mitchell yesterday. “In fact, you get a lot of support from unlikely places back home.” Watch, then read on.
Is it true that Republicans who support the deal will find support from “unlikely places”? Maybe. Todd Young, the most surprising GOPer to advance the bill on Tuesday night, told WaPo that the reaction he’s seen has been surprisingly supportive. “The calls are about 10-to-1 in my office — 10 in favor of reasonable prohibitions” on letting dangerous people buy guns, he said “For me, it’s just listening to my constituents and being responsive, and occasionally government actually needs to do that — to be responsive.”
A new poll shows that Cornyn isn’t hurting in Texas either. His disapproval among Republicans is up a bit but that’s balanced by a small surge in approval among independents:
A 43% plurality of Texas voters approve of Senator John Cornyn’s job performance, unchanged from surveys conducted just before the May 24 mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that prompted the latest gun control push on Capitol Hill. https://t.co/RkFPP8qQxb pic.twitter.com/BEzVk8yPsZ
— Morning Consult (@MorningConsult) June 23, 2022
So, yeah, the sky isn’t falling on Republicans who support the bill. On the other hand:
I don’t mind naming names. These Republican Senators are helping Democrats confiscate your guns. pic.twitter.com/OsUGt5MGw5
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) June 22, 2022
Republican Senators who voted to back Red Flag Laws are traitors to the Constitution and our country. pic.twitter.com/x2KeB01RHm
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) June 22, 2022
There’s a reason only two of the 14 senators who voted to advance the bill are facing a primary this year, and of those two, one of them (Young) has already won his race and the other (Lisa Murkowski) is counting on strong Democratic support to get her over the hump in Alaska’s ranked-choice “jungle primary.” This bill is prime primary-challenge fodder.
On the other hand, there’s also a reason Greene and Gaetz felt the need to lie about the bill in their tweets. The legislation doesn’t do anything to enact red-flag laws; even the federal grant money that’s being made available to the states no longer requires them to pass a RFL to access it. The bill doesn’t confiscate anyone’s guns either. You might be barred from buying *new* guns if you had a criminal record as a juvenile or if you’ve been convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse of your girlfriend. But even in the latter case, you get your gun-buying rights back automatically after five years.
The molten core of crude populism is catastrophizing and demagoguery. For Gaetz and Greene to amass power, the sky has to forever be falling and their political enemies must be responsible. Ironically, it’s that same mindset that insists that every general election is a “Flight 93” election in which the Republican on the ballot is the last thing standing between us and the end of America. Which means, so long as Cornyn can get through his next primary in 2026, everyone screeching at him for selling out the Second Amendment will dutifully turn out and support him against the Democrat.
But getting through the primary? That’s the trick.
As for Murphy, the ugly truth for his party (which he knows) is that it’ll be a long, long time before they “do more” on guns. Some Washington Dems have begun to grudgingly admit to reporters that the slippery slope isn’t all that slippery:
“This almost fell apart three times over the weekend. We are barely getting this done. And so one of the things I struggle with is, this constant ‘it’s not enough!’ and ‘we’ll get more later’ is just rank bullshit,” said one Democratic senator who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “For the foreseeable future, I think this will be the high-water mark.”
Republicans, meanwhile, said the forthcoming gun safety package is about as far as their party will go, especially considering that four of the 15 Republicans likely to back the bill will retire at the end of this Congress. Then there’s the political consequences of bucking the hard-core conservative faction of their own party as well as gun-rights groups like the National Rifle Association…
“I predict [Democrats] will not be able to do more because we’ll barely get by with the Republicans they need to get this done,” [Mitt Romney] said. “So if they want to do something more than this, they’re not going to get 10” Republicans.
Consider the predicament Democrats are in. They’re on the verge of being annihilated in the House, probably leaving the GOP next year with something on the order of a 50-seat margin. Even if they hold on to a 50/50 Senate, which seems less likely by the day, they’re facing a brutal Senate cycle in 2024 that will almost certainly return control of the chamber to Republicans. The incumbent president is presiding over the worst inflation in 40 years and has at times dipped below 40 percent in the RCP average. His vice president and heir apparent is less popular than he is, and the party’s presidential “bench” beyond her is an inch thin.
It may be a decade or more before Dems have total control of government again. And even then, to take a ride down the slippery slope on guns, they’d need to abolish the filibuster to do it.
But let’s go further. One of the most dire electoral crises facing liberals right now is their increasingly disastrous performance in rural areas. Glenn Youngkin pulled the upset last fall in Virginia thanks to rural parts of the state delivering margins for him that outpaced even Trump’s. Dems can win statewide elections if they lose 60/40 in the countryside but run up the score in cities. They can’t win if they’re losing the countryside 80/20. One of the reasons John Fetterman is doing surprisingly well in Pennsylvania despite his hard-left agenda, in fact, is that rural Republican voters identify with him culturally to an unusual degree relative to other modern Democrats. Point being: A party that desperately needs to improve among voters outside major cities would be i-n-s-a-n-e to go hog wild in trying to grab guns once they’re back in power. If anything, I’d expect the centrist wing of the party to become modestly more pro-gun over the next decade to try to win those voters back.
Remember, Dems not only had total control of government during Obama’s first two years as president, they briefly had a filibuster-proof Senate majority. They did zippo on guns. Why? Because Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi understood that their beefy majorities depended on protecting centrist Dems who had won in purple and even red districts, and a big new gun package would have led to those Dems getting wrecked in 2010. That calculation will abide for years to come. The slippery slope is less slippery than we think.