The discussion surrounding guns, Bennet fears, is symptomatic of a broader illness in today’s political climate. “This is becoming a competition to out-do each other in the Twitterverse, instead of actually addressing the problem,” he says. Noting how he’s held 10 years’ worth of town hall meetings and talked with thousands of gun-control activists, he says “90 percent of them” are focused on passing universal background checks—a readily attainable goal that has enormous public support. But now, because of the confiscation talk, “Trump can just say, ‘They’re all going to take your guns away,’” Bennet says, turning the discussion into a zero-sum game. “And the labor guys in Iowa and New Hampshire, that’s what they say. I just heard the same thing in Reno: ‘You’re going to take our guns away.’”
This, Bennet fears, is how Trump might luck into a second term. Oh, sure, the president will continue to scare moderates and independents with his erratic behavior. But Bennet wonders if Democrats might scare them even more—what with talk of seizing guns, banning fracking, guaranteeing health coverage to undocumented immigrants, raising taxes across the board, imposing political litmus tests on churches, and of course, eliminating private insurance for more than 150 million people.
“Just listen to this debate,” Bennet says, motioning toward the television. “Medicare for All shouldn’t even have made it to the debate stage. I mean, we’re a free country, and that’s fine. But of the Democrats who won in 2018, in those suburban districts, all but one person won their primary running on the public option—against candidates who supported Medicare for All. I understand this has been Bernie’s thing forever. But for some of the leading candidates to sign on to his bill gave it legitimacy. It’s just…”