Oh. My. God! Did you know that Bernie Sanders was pro-gun?! Mark Joseph Stern seemed pretty worked up about it last month, Bernie Sanders, Gun Nut. He wrote then, “But before liberal Democrats flock to Sanders, they should remember that the Vermont senator stands firmly to Clinton’s right on one issue of overwhelming importance to the Democratic base: gun control.” Really?! Is that an issue of overwhelming importance to us? Because I didn’t know that. I thought the Democratic Party had given up on gun control some time in the 1980s.
But okay, Sanders is no kind of gun control fanatic. Just the same, he’s no kind of gun rights fanatic. It’s hard to figure out NRA ratings, but as far as I can tell, Sanders’ NRA grade was F in 2003, D- in 2012, and F now. So let’s think about this. Even if Sanders is inclined toward more gun freedom than the Democratic base, how would it ever matter given the state of not just the Republican Party but the conservative wing of the Democratic Party? What’s more, I don’t think that most Democrats are all that extreme when it comes to gun control. It is just a matter of sensible measures — and even they are beyond the pale.
I kind of think that Stern’s article was an indirect attack from the Clinton campaign. But now we have an attack ad from Generation Forward, the Super-PAC of Martin O’Malley. And it’s pretty effective in its way. Just the same, when I saw it, I though, “So?!” For one thing, I know that Sanders isn’t a liberal. In most nations, socialists are the nationalists. One of the great things about Sanders is that he is no shrinking violet. Conservatives might blast him on his economics (which are hugely popular), but they can’t pretend that he isn’t strong — they can’t paint him as effete.
There’s more than a hint of desperation here. This line is telling, “The NRA even paid for ads attacking a Sanders opponent.” That’s a reference to Sanders 1990 campaign against Peter Smith for the Vermont’s at-large Representative seat. Apparently, Smith had angered the NRA by voting for the assault weapons ban. So it was 25 years ago, and it certainly wasn’t an endorsement of Sanders.
The text that goes along with Generation Forward’s YouTube post of the video claims, “You can’t claim to soak the fat boys and exempt the profiteers in the gun industry.” That’s a good one! For one thing, it’s a total distortion of Sanders’ economic policies. For another, there is a big difference between different gun control policies and proper economic policy. No one thinks that Sanders has voted the way that he votes to curry favor with the small weapons industry and its media arm, the NRA.
Politics is serious business. I don’t blame O’Malley for doing whatever it takes to get a little traction. I just doubt it will work. It seems a little early to start this kind of thing anyway. There are still the debates, which will doubtless help him. But for right now, I can see his campaign getting a desperate. Sanders is getting a lot of good attention. But so did Howard Dean in 2004. We should all relax.
Oh, also: Bernie Sanders 2016!