Despite their current minority status, it appears that Republicans can still govern D.C. through the National Rifle Association. Allow me explain how.
In August of 2008, right-wing infrastructure analyst Rob Stein warned progressives that even though Republicans were discredited, and headed to overwhelming electoral defeat, the conservative institutions backing the American right-wing were still intact. From a Democracy Alliance presentation (twenty-page PDF, page 2, emphasis mine):
I want to have one moment of reality checking though. The machinery that the right has built, the 400-million dollars a year of policy institutions, the 50-million dollars a year of leadership training organizations, the nearly a billion-dollars a year worth of very targeted media, the half a billion dollars a year of civic engagement- the NRA, and the Focus on the Family. This machinery, as depleted, as the leadership and the Republican brand is right this minute
and it is their office holders are obviously discredited, as depleted as they are, this machinery is alive and well.
Stein's words are absolutely correct. Also, this passage includes some eye-popping numbers. Half a billion dollars for the NRA and Focus on the Family? These are amounts that dwarf any progressive political organization, with the possible exception of some of the larger labor unions.
Further, most of this money is actually the NRA. I once saw a chart related to Stein's famous Powerpoint presentation that listed the total funding of the various conservative issue advocacy organizations. Including most of the conservative groups that Stein describes as part of the right-wing's "policy institute consortium" and the "their mobilization arm," the NRA was about twice as large as any other group. Outside of the media realm, the NRA is by far the dominant conservative political institution.
Stein's warning has proved prophetic as, outside of the 60-vote rule in the Senate, the NRA is emerging as the right-wing's top weapon against progressive legislation. Earlier this year, Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn succeeded in attaching a concealed weapons amendment to the credit card legislation. Now, the D.C. Voting rights bill has been stalled indefinitely because the Senate attached a measure to the bill stripping current D.C. gun laws, and also preventing D.C. lawmakers from passing gun control legislation in the future.
So, while Republicans remain discredited and unpopular, their machinery is still able to prevent, or modify, progressive legislation from passing into law. Apropos, two people were shot at the D.C. Holocaust Museum today.
With this success, it is worth wondering what other legislation Republicans will attempt to kill via gun related amendments. The NRA is more than a single-issue advocacy group, it is the centerpiece of the entire right-wing policy infrastructure. Already, it is expanding into other areas beyond guns, working to block credit card reform and D.C. voting equality. Given that it still has a working majority in Congress, Republicans could theoretically use it to block, or at least modify, almost any legislation they wish.