With the Super Bowl over, last week's coast vs. coast game of gun control one-upping saw California Democrats announcing an effort to out do New York's midnight end run Safe Act. Flanked by the state's two urban figureheads, State Senate leadership says it will use its supermajority to ramrod a package that will make even Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg green with envy.
The stakes of cultural warfare continue to rise and gun owners regardless of party affiliation are being told they must lay down arms and submit to their superiors. The elitist notion from the time of Colfax that "for the interests of the state, the rights of the People may be set aside" remains alive and well in this country.
Social media is of course alive with anger and bluster mostly ignored by mainstream media and it's headline writers. Well maybe Piers Morgan has found a temporary boost in his poor ratings but that won't last. Quietly, those familiar with the economic incentives of "black markets" are beginning to take note. Even more quietly, people rumble about who gets dibs on the top bunks in the camps. You see states aligning on two sides of a divisive issue so potentially explosive we could cleave the Union itself. Now between you and me, driving citizens to blows is not my idea of a good outcome for this country. The search for inclusive solutions seems called for in such extraordinary times.
In all this, an interesting thought occurs this weekend.
The Democrats in their zeal may be creating the very basis that will revitalize the Republican Party in spite of itself. By targeting -- yes I do love the pun -- gun owners across the board as some sort of witch coven are they driving people to join a new American coalition?
The thought experiment goes like this. Posit the every gun owner of every race, religion or any other persuasion switches parties to and then use these swelled numbers to invigorate and change the Republican Party to focus on becoming a broad based defender of the Second Amendment. Further posit that it doesn't matter what one thinks about all the other social issues; that this single issue unites all manner of people who are uncomfortable with trusting everything in government and that this is what created the glue to sustain this new coalition.
The Republican Party has been bumbling about seeking a new wedge and the Democrats may have handed it to them on a silver platter. An influx of people to the party would certainly work itself out in a broader caucus that changes the party once everyone is settled in. Democratic pressure on the gun issue could make that happen much sooner. It'd be interesting. It's a very credible threat. What politician won't perk up if they see a tide of party registrations reaching the registrar showing that suddenly something not quiet is happening on the reservation?
It turns out it's easy enough to do. And like most interesting things these days, it can happen virally. Let's continue the example of the two coasts.
In California, one can change party affiliation online. One can change it anytime one likes. One can change arbitrarily up to 15 days before an election. You can do it here.
That means it's possible to mount grassroots revolts in between election cycles to get the California State Legislature's attention. A social media campaign to ask every gun owner who's a Democrat to a least consider re-registering as a Republican and then send a note to their representatives saying they've done so and if they want them to switch back 15 days before the next election they should heed the message. It's kind of like "Move Your Money" for redistributing political clout and there's nothing the careful gerrymandering of redistricting can do about it.
Party switching for political messaging is not as easy to do in New York. But it's still a citizen's right to do it. In New York you need to do two things. First download a PDF file with the voter registration form. Then -- this is where it gets tricky -- you need to mail that form to the specific county registrar where you live. The list of mailing addresses is in a link in the same website. Bit more trouble but it makes for a nice educational outreach campaign, a somewhat different form on the Occupy Something theme. Maybe one could start by sending a nice letter to all the addresses published by the New York Journal News? The PDF file for recording State of New York voter registration and party affiliation change is here.
Be sure to send your regards to the Governor if you do.
So the next question is can the Republicans handle the influx? It will certainly change the party to have to become much more broadminded about many issues. My guess is yes. If one looks particularly at African-American, Hispanic and Asian cultures -- as opposed to their self-appointed leaders -- one finds a great deal of common core values with the non-fringe portion of the Republican Party. There are already many such persons who are Republicans. Swelling their numbers would certainly be healthy for the party, and arguably healthier for the United States. What's not to like about seeing the voices of diversity prosper within any group? You'd have to be a bit dictatorial to oppose it. And that's not supposed to be a good thing in these United States. Have some apple pie.
Clearly such a development will also alter the Democratic Party. A broad cultural coalition of Republicans held together by the liberty to pursue more forms of happiness of the 1st Amendment and the power to compel government to serve as opposed to rule of the 2nd Amendment is a formidable vision of the going forward American experiment. No doubt Democrats will respond and win back party members by adjusting the platform. Some of the fringe from the left side of aisle will have to give way to the center. I can't say that's a bad thing either.
What actually interests me the most about this weekend thought experiment is coming to terms with seeing that lifetime party affiliation in the Internet age is a myth. As a people, we can actually think of it more as a commodity and yes even a weapon -- thankfully a political one -- to be employed to constrain the excesses of government. We aren't just limited to being sheep. American citizens are eclectic individuals. Each of us is a unique mixture of values that defies the pigeon holing of the traditional party system. How we continue to adapt our political system to serve us is probably the most important thing each citizen can do in these times.