Are Gun Rights More Successful Than Other Conservative Causes?

David FrumDavid Frum tries to answer an interesting question, Why Gun-Rights Backers Win While Other Conservative Causes Lose. He mentions a very things but basically he comes down to the idea that gun rights are basically the only conservative issue that is populist in the sense of not explicitly helping the rich.[1] I think there’s much to that. And I think this is something that the Democratic Party ought to take note of.

The truth is for the white male contingent that make up the hardcore gun rights folk, the Democrats don’t offer anything that they can get excited about. Democratic social policy doesn’t appeal to them because, being white and male and straight, they are not a minority, even if they whine about “white racism.” And Democratic economic policy is only “not quite as bad as the Republicans!” Republicans offer then not only gun rights but the idea that their issue is important. They aren’t just a bunch of yahoos with guns, they are the modern equivalent of George Washington!

There is perhaps an even more important issue related to the way the Republicans pander to this small and rapidly shrinking slice of the American electorate. The Republican Party is dependent upon a couple of coalitions: single issue voters like the people in the anti-choice movement. By and large, these people are not well served by Republican policy in any other area. So this means that even though the gun-nut coalition may only be 5% of the electorate, the Republican Party desperately needs it. Losing it to the Democrats would be as devastating as losing the much larger anti-choice vote; both would result in the Republicans becoming a permanent minority party.

Of course, it is not even true that “other conservative causes lose.” The conservative movement has been extremely successful in getting what it wants. In the last thirty years, the top marginal tax rate has been cut in half. Abortion rights have been chipped away and in many places effectively eliminated. Welfare has effectively been destroyed. The list goes on and on. But the greatest sign of just how much success conservatives have had is shown by the fact that they think anything less than total victory means that they lost.

And a good example of this is found with the hardcore gun community. Notice how the militia movement only becomes highly visible and noisy when a Democrat is in the White House. Now part of this is the media. When a Republican is in the White House, liberal media organizations do not promote their most extreme members the way conservatives do when a Democrat is president. But it’s also the case that there is a qualitative difference in the rhetoric of the crazies. Armageddon is not just around the corner when a Republican is in the White House.

The question Frum is really trying to answer is why gun rights advocates are so much more successful than other conservative causes. But it may be a mirage. The truth is that we don’t constantly have the Republicans’ success in cutting food stamps thrown onto the nightly news, “Three children were killed today because of lack of food.” But every few days there is some guy with a gun who goes around killing multiple people. Every day (Every hour!) someone is murdered with a gun. So it constantly reminds us, “Conservatives are winning.” And that just isn’t so obvious on other issue, even when the Republicans manage to eliminate the Estate Tax altogether.


[1] Abortion rights is an economic issue. But then, gun rights is too. The NRA is not so much about the rights of individuals to own guns but the rights of gun manufactures to sell them guns.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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