The Working NRA Majority

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 15:10


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.

Chris Bowers :: The Working NRA Majority

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"preventing D.C. lawmakers from passing gun control legislation" (4.00 / 2)
What about State rights? The hypocrisy is stinking to heavens!

Voting Records (0.00 / 0)
20 Democrats voted for both.  10 more Democrats voted for one or the other, but not both. (Who's ready to primary Russ Feingold?)

Democratic Senators voting for Coburn amendment to credit card legislation (joined by Bernie Sanders):

Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Byrd (D-WV)
Casey (D-PA)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Feingold (D-WI)
Hagan (D-NC)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Merkley (D-OR)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reid (D-NV)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Specter (D-PA)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Warner (D-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Wyden (D-OR)

Democratic Senators voting for Ensign amendment to DC voting rights bill (not joined by Sanders):

Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Byrd (D-WV)
Casey (D-PA)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Feingold (D-WI)
Hagan (D-NC)
Johnson (D-SD)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lincoln (D-AR)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reid (D-NV)
Specter (R-PA) (now a Dem)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Webb (D-VA)

Democrats voting for both:

Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Byrd (D-WV)
Casey (D-PA)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Feingold (D-WI)
Hagan (D-NC)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reid (D-NV)
Specter (D-PA)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Warner (D-VA)
Webb (D-VA)

Democrats voting for one but not the other:
Johnson (D-SD)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Leahy (D-VT)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Merkley (D-OR)
Nelson (D-FL)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Udall (D-NM)
Wyden (D-OR)

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both


Is the NRA ready for more than 10 fronts to fight on? (0.00 / 0)
Sure they can fight for gun rights, and hunter rights, and because so many sportsmen are members, they sometimes for for conservation causes.
But if they have to foment policy on health care and banking reform and voting rights, aren't they vulnerable to fracture, cross fighting, and possibly the same problems the big(?) GOP now faces?

Hasn't hurt htem so far (4.00 / 1)
I guess we shall see, but working on credit caard legislation and voting rights legislation hasn't fractured them yet.

[ Parent ]
NRA fund-raising (0.00 / 0)
The NRA is working hard to raise money, although they seem to have run out of likely supporters.

Last week I fielded a fund-raising call for my late husband, who was never in his life a gun supporter, and he died 6 years ago.

This week my current husband got a letter with "Your New NRA Membership Card" on the outside. He threw it in our paper-recycling bin without opening it. He's never been interested in guns either.

I'm delighted that they're wasting all that money contacting every male in the country. I hope they're desperate.


[ Parent ]
Most of their money comes from (4.00 / 1)
the gun manufacturers and dealers. And there is no end in sight to that cash flow, because they have a genius plan -- sell guns to criminals, then sell guns to people who are afraid of criminals, repeat ad nauseum.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
I'm not sure. Most gun nuts are Jon Voigt types. (4.00 / 1)
I'd really like to see some stats, but from my experience, the gun nut who would be a Dem if not for that issue seems not to exist, which makes Obama's and Congress's cowardice even worse. Sure, there are Dems who hunt and have guns, but most would support some reasonable level of control.

[ Parent ]
We have a ways to go (0.00 / 0)
I saw that actor John Voight thanked a long list of right-wing commenters yesterday:

Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, William Bennett, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Dennis Miller, Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, John Kasich, Michael Steele, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Thomas Sowell, Victor Davis Hanson, Shelby Steele, Charles Krauthammer, Michelle Malkin, Fred Barnes and so many others.

Our list of nationally broadcast progressives who appear daily looks like:

Rachel Maddow and Amy Goodman.

Actually, it is not quite that bad, but clearly the Right has a lot more money and a lot more infrastructure than the left.

Still, there are a lot of progressives working for change. For example, here's a list of 500 leading national progressive organizations. And we also have truth, reality, and humanity on our side. Still, we have a ways to go.


I still don't understand (0.00 / 0)
why politicians can openly take money from a group that advocates for the armed overthrow of United States government and get away with it.

Montani semper liberi

NRA as media outlet (4.00 / 1)
Disclaimer: anecdote of one story... :-)

I was amazed one day talking with a local contractor to find his sole source of news and information for politics / public policy was reading the magazines from the NRA.

I say amazed because this was someone who generally had liberal views and was definitely a persuadable Democratic voter.

Looking back, I'd guess he typically voted Republican based on thinking he was "better informed" from reading the NRA magazine and his wife voted Democratic based on their shared values.

They call me Clem, Clem Guttata. Come visit wild, wonderful West Virginia Blue


nra (0.00 / 0)
does the nra change the bills or do they just add riders to support their agenda? if it's the second, well that is how the game is played. btw, i'm the nra. i carry always. we do not have 24 hr policing. a lot of times the only cop is an hour away. it's like abortion if you don't want one great, just don't restrict my rights. i worked the whole 4 day gobama gotv. i'm a moveon not a democrat. we still have jefferson jackson day. the first guy was a slaver and the second was into genocide. not sayin nothin here, just askin, just askin.

Yep, former NRA member here too (0.00 / 0)
I'm a registered Democrat and former NRA member. I also volunteered for Obama and do consider myself a leftist.  I let my membership lapse for budgetary reasons.

What I did not like about the NRA (and still do not like) is the fact that it has made itself an arm of the GOP.  I got tired of reading about "more prisons" and the "war on drugs" in the NRA magazine.  The gun reviews and training tips were great, the punishment-centered public policy approach was not.   But, I don't regret being a member.  Whether anyone likes it or not, the 2nd Amendment does provide a right to keep and bear arms.  

If progressives are not comfortable with that , they should push for a constitutional amendment.

It bothers me that significant elements of the left in the United States appear to have little or no comprehension of exactly why a right to bear arms is fully consistent with both the republican (in the sense of a form of government) and leftist traditions.

In the first place, in the United States, the people at large are considered sovereign.  You can see this reflected quite clearly in the preamble to the Constitution, i.e.  "[w]e the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union..."

Before the Revolution, the sovereign was the King of England.  However afterwards the sovereign was the people-- the people elected an executive to execute the laws, and a legislature to write the laws.  

Since the people are sovereign, that means they have to have the power to control the military.  And this cannot happen in a situation where the military controls all the tools of violence.  Certainly there is the law as a restraint.  However, we know that a balance of power is important. We have a balance of power reflected in our legal system, in the sense of a separation of powers into the executive, legislative and judiciary.

There also have to be institutional checks and balances, and one of them is the 2nd Amendment.  Unfortunately how this played out is problematic.  Really, individual gun ownership is somewhat of a deterrent to the rise of tyrannical government. But, that is not really an institution, since, in practical terms, it does not provide enough training and organization to the citizenry. What should have happened, is something along the lines of what they have in Switzerland.  That is, universal conscription into the reserves, with weapons kept at home.  The founders of the US were very cognizant of the dangers of a professional military institution taking over a civilian government-- this is, after all, how the  Roman Republic fell.

Why would a compulsory reserve system be important?  It is important because a Swiss style system would distribute the power out amongst the people generally.  For one thing, a professional military always poses the risk of a rise of a military caste, or that one segment of the population will grow to dominate the military as an institution.  Since US civilian law enforcement draws heavily from former active duty servicepeople, then it stands to reason that a professional military that is predominantly made up of one social group could come to dominate civilian law enforcement as well. Dominance of the military by one particular social group is also how a coup happens.

In a situation where there was universal conscription into the reserves with widespread gun ownership, then it would be insurance against domination of the levers of power by one group in society.  Even if one group tried to monopolize the officer class and execute a coup, they would have to face the rest of the country that did not agree with their beliefs.  The rest of the country would also be armed and trained as well.

What we have with civilian gun ownership is a less-than-ideal situation, because of the lack of a compulsory reserve service.  I know that in the past some states had compulsory militia service, which is now no longer compulsory and now called the National Guard.  I'm not sure of the exact history there.  However, civilian gun ownership is still an important part of keeping the balance of power between the citizenry and the standing military and law enforcement establishment.  There are very troubling developments around youth violence and firearms to be sure, and of hateful people like the museum shooter.    But there are wider issues of self government and the protection of our civilian form of government as well.

It puzzles me, Chris, that you don't seem to understand this.  Over on Daily Kos, there have been a number of excellent diaries by Troutfishing regarding the rise of the extreme Christianist Right in the US military.  Would you really feel safer with sever civilian gun bans if the Christianist right were to monopolize law enforcement and the military?  I don't accept the argument that "it can't happen here."  If there is one thing we know , it's that people are fallible and that democratic republics are often victims of military coups.  We want to design a  resilient system that assumes failure and thus distributes power evenly. If you don't like the current gun laws and the culture in the United States, then work to implement something like a Swiss-style reserve system. Don't try to heavily restrict civilian gun ownership.



[ Parent ]
right on carson (0.00 / 0)
 Never could understand how adding more laws to cover an act that is already illegal would effect anything but law abiding people that were, by defination, not commiting  the act. However, the nra is a political organization with many right wing goals, and has been since at least the 60S when let my membership expire due to their opposition to a dam project that was desperately needed in western Montana.

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

[ Parent ]
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