Via the Free Beacon. “What’s puzzling,” wrote Reihan Salam last month, “is that Rubio seems more intensely disliked on the left than politicians well to his right, who don’t share his zeal for making the tax code more generous towards the working poor.” Why would progressives disdain a centrist, with whom they share some common ground on ends if not means, more intensely than they do doctrinaire right-wingers? Why would David Hogg and the adult gun-grabbers hiding behind him want to make an example of Rubio, who’s offered multiple bills aimed at curbing gun violence over the past month, more so than a red-stater from gun country like Ted Cruz or Ben Sasse or Jim Inhofe?
I’ll re-up the point I made yesterday:
Rubio may also be stuck as the hate object here *because* he’s been the Republican most open to compromise on gun control lately. That seems counterintuitive: Why punish the guy who’s willing to work with you? By definition, though, the guy willing to work with you is more susceptible to pressure than the guy who isn’t. It’d do them no good to attack a Republican who’s adamantly pro-gun and won’t compromise. And why would they credit Rubio for his proposals when those proposals are way, way short of their ambitions? It’s not just lunatics whom they want to disarm, it’s the law-abiding. They don’t want “gun-violence restraining orders” to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people, they want a ban on assault weapons at a minimum and ideally something much more far-reaching. Agreeing to Rubio’s proposals might actually damage the cause of banning guns since it might sate the public’s appetite for greater regulation, at least for a good long while. They want all the guns, and increasingly they’re not shy about saying so.
The problem with a guy like Rubio is that if his proposals are implemented and they work, the air goes out of the balloon for the other side. If “gun-violence restraining orders” prove popular and effective in keeping weapons out of the hands of nuts while leaving law-abiding gun owners in peace, the political energy needed to impose a sweeping ban on popular types of guns collapses. The left will still be gung ho for it because they’re the left but the ocean of persuadeables who don’t feel strongly one way or another will be satisfied that Rubio’s solution has made a bad situation better and accept the new status quo. Having Cruz or Inhofe intone on the Senate floor about the Second Amendment poses no threat to gun-controllers because everyone understands that that core group of strong-form gun-rights supporters exists. Persuadeables have heard their arguments for years. Ask a gun-grabber and they’ll tell you that Second Amendment absolutism in the face of horrors are Parkland is among their best tools in recruiting people to the side of gun-grabbing. What Rubio’s trying to do is create a new group of gun-rights supporters that’s somewhat less strong, more willing to take weapons from a gun owner who presents “red flags” but unwilling to take them from average citizens.
That’s the guy who threatens to split your coalition if you’re a gun-controller, not the others.
And that’s why David Hogg, whatever his age, is shrewd to keep demagoging Rubio. If the goal really were to prevent mass shootings and not take guns out of Americans’ hands to the fullest extent possible politically, Rubio would be an ally. But the goal is what it is and therefore they have to keep marginalizing him as a figure every bit as radical as the most radical right-wing gun-rights supporters. He’s still supported by the NRA, Hogg notes here when asked why the students keep attacking him. The NRA is the central boogeyman in all of this, any contact with which taints one irretrievably regardless of the legislation one proposes. “They’re pathetic f***ers that want to keep killing our children,” Hogg said elsewhere of the NRA recently, and Rubio shares their baseline view about the average citizen’s right to own guns. What more do you need to know? He’s a child-killer by association. Don’t listen to him!
And to be doubly fair to Hogg, accepting a compromise right now really might mean squandering an unusual opportunity. Many a reporter surveying the data on public interest in gun control after Parkland has noted that Americans’ engagement with this issue has been much more durable than it’s been after other mass shootings. It’s *possible* that this will be an issue in the midterms. Even if it isn’t, galvanizing grassroots support on the left might frighten congressional Democrats sufficiently to make this a key agenda item when they’re back in charge of the House and Senate. Why would you cede any of that political momentum by agreeing to Rubio’s half-a-loaf solutions? The maximalist position is to press your advantage and aim for total victory. They can get that assault-weapons ban if only they refuse to compromise and keep flogging their opponents. And the more an opponent reaches for the political middle, the harder he should be flogged.
But this is all a truism. Of course maximalists hate centrists, in gun policy and every other kind of policy. What else is new?