On Wednesday, supporters of legislation to limit gun violence failed to muster the 60 votes necessary to stop a Republican filibuster of the Toomey-Manchin compromise that would expand background checks to include all commercial gun sales in the United States.
Polls show that universal background checks are supported by 90 percent of Americans -- including a vast majority of gun owners and Republicans. A clear majority of senators are fully prepared to pass a background check measure. But no matter -- the Republican leadership decided to obstruct the democratic process in the Senate to prevent an up or down vote on the measure.
Conventional wisdom continues to hold that, while the vast majority of Americans support universal background checks, in many areas it is still smart politics not to antagonize the NRA and their relatively small number of very active -- very passionate -- supporters. Conventional wisdom is wrong. Here's why:
1). Wednesday's Washington Post poll shows that 70 percent of all voters and nearly half of Republicans already think the GOP is out of touch with the needs and interests of the majority of Americans. By opposing a common-sense measure like universal background checks, that is supported by nine of out ten Americans, the GOP leadership threatens to further tarnish the GOP brand by appearing to be way out of the mainstream and not on the side of ordinary voters.
2). It is no longer true that large number of voters who favor measures to limit gun violence are less "passionate" about their views. It is also no longer the case that those views will be less likely to affect their voting than opponents of restrictions on guns.
In a poll released Wednesday by Project New America, over 60 percent of voters in Arkansas, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Ohio said they strongly support background checks for gun purchasers.
And an overwhelming number of voters said they would be more likely to support candidates for Senate that supported background checks -- 70 percent in Maine, 65 percent in North Carolina, 64 percent in Illinois, 64 percent in New Hampshire, 62 percent in Nevada, and 56 percent in Arkansas.
3). The GOP lost women 55 percent to 44 percent in the last election. Republican obstruction of gun violence legislation will only make their problem with women voters worse, since they are particularly passionate supporters of legislation to stem gun violence. The same goes for Millennial voters who overwhelmingly support gun violence legislation.
4). Some pundits will say that Democratic senators contributed to the failure to muster 60 votes to end the Republican filibuster by refusing to vote to cut off debate. Forty-one of 45 Republican senators voted against background checks. Over 90 percent of Democratic Senators voted to support the background check legislation and there would have been no need for 60 votes in the first place if the Republican leadership had not decided to filibuster the bill.
The fact is that everyone in America knows that the president and Democratic leadership strongly favor background checks, and the Republican leadership -- as well as most Republican senators -- opposed them. That is what will create a lasting impression among voters.
5). Many Republicans and some Democratic senators have made the judgment that the money and energy of the NRA and weapons industry are more potent politically than the forces who promote legislation to curb gun violence. That may have been true in the past -- no longer.
The fact is that in the last election the major NRA PAC had a .083 percent success rate. And now Mayor Bloomberg, the Giffords/Kelly organizations and many others are amassing substantial resources to target against the enemies of legislation to stop gun violence.
Bloomberg already showed the potency of these efforts by investing $2 million in the Illinois 2nd District Congressional District and virtually sinking pro-NRA candidates who had otherwise been strong contenders in this spring's special election. There will be more of that to come.
6). On a press conference call Wednesday, Democratic pollster Geoff Garin pointed out that Republican opposition to legislation to limit gun violence, further shrinks the playing field where they will be competitive -- both in 2014 and the next presidential race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a list of 27 Republican incumbents who represent swing districts where voters are supportive of anti-gun violence legislation.
Already Republicans have a very narrow, difficult path to 270 electoral votes in the Presidential map. They need to broaden their electoral playing field. But their opposition to gun violence legislation will make their path to victory in states like Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon even more difficult.
What does all of this add up to?
The fact is that Democrats and supporters of strong legislation to curb gun violence have the high moral and political ground in this debate -- and the issue is not going away. This is, after all, a 90 percent-10 percent issue.
The background check bill would have won by five votes. Instead, Republican abuse of arcane Senate rules required that it receive a super majority of 60 votes to pass. This, by the way, is yet another excellent reason to change those Senate rules to end the misuse of the filibuster.
Over the next weeks, it is up to those who support common sense gun violence legislation to come down on those who voted no like an avalanche.
There is simply no excuse for their failure to pass legislation that is supported by 90 percent of the American people.
Simply put, we cannot let that stand -- and those who opposed the measure must be made to pay the political price.
There continues to be a perceived "passion gap" on the gun issue. Members of Congress still believe that while the majority of Americans support legislation to curb gun violence, they lack the passion of opponents. As we have seen, this is no longer true.
Now it is up to us to demonstrate that it is not true to the senators who are more concerned about contributions and support from the weapons industry than they are about the lives of the 26 people who died at Newtown -- and the thousands of others who have died since.
Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.
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