"What do Abraham Lincoln, John. F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama have in common?"
- Joke told by NRA member that journalist Alexander Zaitchik overheard on way to organization's 2012 annual convention
It's long past time to ask one simple question: How can any member of the Democratic Party take money from the National Rifle Association (NRA) or accept their endorsement in good conscience? It's bad enough that the NRA has been completely in bed with the Republican Party for decades (the NRA leadership is an unholy alliance of movement conservative political operatives like Grover Norquist, David Keene and Joe Allbaugh and insurrectionist folk heroes like Ted Nugent and Chuck Norris). They might endorse a few Democrats from time to time, but an overwhelming percentage of their campaign contributions go to the GOP (a whopping 89% in the current election cycle). What should be even more revolting to Democrats is that Ted Nugent is now leveraging his position as an NRA board member/spokesperson to incite violence against them and their president.
Saturday, April 14, 2012 wasn't the first time that Nugent had threatened the use of political violence against the Obama administration and Democrats. But when Nugent conducted a live interview with NRANews host Cam Edwards at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, he made national headlines by declaring, "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year."
That wasn't all he said, of course. In a long, rambling diatribe conducted right in front of NRA members milling about the convention center, Nugent remarked:
If you don't know that our government is wiping its ass with the Constitution, you're living under a rock someplace ... We got four Supreme Court Justices who don't believe in the Constitution ... Our president and attorney general, our vice president, Hillary Clinton, they're criminals. They're criminals ... Remember we're Americans because we defied the king, we didn't negotiate and compromise with the king, we defied the emperors. We are patriots. We are Braveheart. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop [Democrats'] heads off in November. Any questions?
In the wake of Nugent's comments, the Secret Service investigated him and the military canceled his upcoming performance at Fort Knox. It didn't faze Nugent. Just three days later, he went on a similar tear in an interview with conservative radio host Dana Loesch. "The Nazis and the Klan hate me," he told Loesch. "There are some power-abusing, corrupt monsters in our federal government that despise me because I have the audacity to speak the truth, to identify the violations of our government ... And I spoke at the NRA and I will stand by my speech." He also referred to Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz as "a brain-dead, soulless, heartless idiot" and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as "a sub-human scoundrel." "They're monsters, said Nugent. "They hate America."
And it wasn't like Nugent was the only speaker at the NRA Convention engaging in such scathing attacks against Democrats. Every single one of the 13 featured speakers at the NRA's "Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum" was a male Republican, and they all lit into the president and his party. Smelling blood in the water, movement conservatives then giddily joined in the attack. Ann Coulter even told Bill O'Riley that "negroes" need more guns in order to arm themselves against the "Democratic KKK."
But a funny thing happened. Just two days after the NRA convention concluded, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) announced that the organization was disbanding its Public Safety and Elections task force. This task force, which had been co-chaired for years by the NRA, was responsible for adopting the NRA's "Stand Your Ground "legislation as a model law for the states. It did the same thing with another NRA bill that would force colleges and universities to allow the carrying of loaded guns into dormitories and classrooms.
These pro-gun policies have became so politically toxic -- particularly after the killing of Trayvon Martin by concealed handgun permit holder George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida -- that 12 corporations have resigned from ALEC in the past few months. As the New York Times put it, "Many [corporations] joined [ALEC] for narrower reasons, like fighting taxes on soda or snacks, and clearly have little interested in voter ID requirements or the NRA's vision of a society where anyone can fire a concealed weapon at the slightest hint of a threat ... Big business is beginning to realize that Stand Your Ground laws are indefensible."
While ALEC was divorcing the NRA via press release, Republican Governor Jan Brewer was vetoing an NRA bill that would have allowed Arizona residents to carry loaded guns into libraries, city halls and other public buildings in the state (Brewer doesn't care too much for the NRA effort to push guns onto college campuses, either).
Too radical for ALEC and Jan Brewer?! Someone please tell me why a single Democrat would want to take the blood money the NRA has to offer?
In the post-Citizens United world, it's not even like NRA money is particularly important. And this mythological notion that if you're on the "wrong" side of the gun issue you will suddenly cease to exist as a viable political candidate? It's wrong. Studies have actually examined the data on these claims and found that Republican and Democratic incumbents get no help from an NRA endorsement, and Republican challengers receive only a modest boost. Paul Waldman's detailed analysis of the last four federal elections concluded that, "The NRA has virtually no impact on congressional elections." As Waldman notes, "Every election follows a pattern ... If Republicans win, as they did in 1994 and 2000, the [NRA] says: See, we told you everything depends on us and our issue. If Democrats win, as they did in 2008 and 2006, the NRA is quiet."
And Steve Kornacki of Salon was exactly right when he noted in a recent column, "He could get reelected and sit on his hands [on the gun issue] for four more years and Obama will still be a gun confiscator to the 2nd Amendment crowd ... If the NRA is going to pretend that you're aggressively pursuing gun control anyway, then why not actually do it? ... For all their efforts, [Democrats have] failed to win over gun owners for the last decade, and there's no reason to think they're about to. If Obama and the national party were to embrace gun control anew, would it really affect pro-gun Democrats like [Montana Senator John] Tester? They'd be swimming against the same tide they're already swimming against."
Last year, Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords narrowly survived an assassination attempt by a severely mentally ill young man that bought wholly into far-right-wing rhetoric ("You don't have to accept the federalist laws"). How many exceptionally well-armed and mentally unbalanced individuals do you think heard Nugent's rant?
So let me ask this question of Congressmen like Michigan's John Dingell, California's Joe Baca, Texas' Henry Cuellar, Pennsylvania's Jason Altmire and Mark Critz, New York's Kathleen Hochul and Bill Owens, and all the other federal and state legislators taking NRA cash...
How do you sleep at night knowing you're doing business with a money-making hate machine targeting your own?