One thing has been made clear beyond all doubt so far in this 2018 electoral season: You cannot win a Democratic primary unless you support gun control.
Reid J. Epstein, writing in The Wall Street Journal, reports that “[t]he House Democrats’ campaign arm counts 63 candidates on its ‘Red to Blue’ list of promising challengers trying to flip GOP House seats. Of them, 62 support expanded background checks for gun purchases.”
In an interview with NPR, Epstein was asked if a pro-gun Democrat had a chance to win a party primary amid such lockstep unanimity on the issue.
“Very difficult,” he replied. “There have not been any pro-gun Democrats that have won Democratic primaries in 2018 that I know of to this point.”
Asked if an NRA endorsement is of any help in 2018, Epstein said:
“[i]n a Democratic primary, not that much. And what we’ve seen in – really, for the first time, in 2018, we’ve seen Democrats putting gun control front and center in their paid media, in their TV advertising.
In 2014, something like 35 percent of all ads that mentioned guns or the NRA were run by Democrats. And a good percentage of those were Democrats touting their NRA credentials.
This year, 63 percent of all ads mentioning guns are run by Democrats, and virtually all of them are pushing their gun control positions. It’s really been a total shift on how Democrats are pushing this issue front and center.”
Epstein attributes the new party mandate for gun control to be part of a liberal retrenchment that is taking over the party in the Trump Era. “The realignment [on guns] is part of Democrats’ broader shift to the left on a range of issues, accelerated by insurgent energy activated following [President] Trump’s election,” he writes.
One example of this is progressive Nebraska Democrat Kara Eastman knocking off moderate Brad Ashford in a district that represents the city of Omaha. Eastman touted a ban on assault weapons as part of her campaign.
But Nebraska is a conservative state and the district Eastman is trying to win has elected a Republican for more than 20 years, with the sole exception being moderate Ashford’s single-term stint from 2015-17.
It may be a winning strategy for a Democrat candidate to toe a strict party line on gun control to win a primary. It is another thing to win a general election by emphasizing the issue.
Which is precisely what Dems are attempting to do in 2018.
The prospect does not make Republicans unhappy.
“Republican members and candidates are focused on the issues that are important to their respective districts and Democrats are more concerned about appealing to the most radical elements of their party,” a National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson said to Fox News.
GOP strategist Alex Conant agrees that the turn left on guns is fraught with peril for Dems.
“Gun control polls well in urban enclaves, but the further you get from a big city, the less support you’re going to find for it,” Conant said. “It’s a real liability for Senate Democrats if gun control emerges as a national issue in the midterms.”
Refusal to Engage
Perhaps this surging Democrat loyalty test on guns is nothing more than just another symptom of the party’s complete inability and, more destructively, its complete unwillingness, to come to terms with the dynamics that got President Trump elected.
Whether it’s touting Pink Waves, doubling down on racial identity politics or aggressively pushing gun control, Democrats seem adamantly determined to come up with some way – any way – to avoid having to address the concerns and issues that affect working-class Americans.
Speaking out against guns may be a sure-fire way to win a party primary, and it certainly makes for a nice cheap high for liberals plagued by Trump Derangement Syndrome.
How it will help attract the votes of citizens worried about jobs and the restoration of American blue-collar productivity remains to be seen.