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Monday, May 06, 2013

NRA Turns to the Tried and Failed Politics of the Tea Party

In some ways, new NRA president Jim Porter is the best thing to happen to the common sense regulators’ side of the argument. He approaches the issue with the same subtlety and finesse of a brain surgeon with a sledge hammer. He seems to be an all or nothing, slash and burn type, who practices rightwing politics of exclusion. Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence says that Porter drags the National Rifle Association even farther "into the extremist camp."

"With Jim Porter, they’ve gone full crazy," he says.

He also represents just about every failed approach to national politics imaginable. At the NRA convention this weekend, he called for a "culture war" -- I guess because rightwing culture wars have gone so swimmingly lately. And yes, he is far outside the mainstream.

Talking Points Memo: Porter has called President Barack Obama a “fake president,” Attorney General Eric Holder “rabidly un-American” and the U.S. Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” On Friday, he repeated his call for training every U.S. citizen in the use of standard military firearms, to allow them to defend themselves against tyranny.

As I’ve pointed out before, calling for the taking up of arms to "fight tyranny" is just a more pleasant-sounding way of endorsing the assassination and murder of your fellow Americans. And "War of northern aggression" means exactly what it seems to mean; a revisionist take that puts the north at fault in the Civil War, completely ignoring and -- even denying -- the role of racism and slavery in launching that war. The exclusionist aim straight at white voters is unmistakable here and it’s the same tactic that’s cost Republicans black voters nearly universally. "Fake president" is an obvious birther reference. At a time when the Republican Party is trying to shed these tendencies, Porter drags them back in. I doubt he’s making many friends over at GOP HQ.


You might remember Sharron Angle, a Tea Party candidate who ran in 2010. She was another Todd Akin type and what cost her election -- at least in part -- was her endorsement of "Second Amendment remedies" to deal with what she saw as an unresponsive congress and even to remove her election opponent, Harry Reid, from office. In other words, she pretty much endorsed assassinating Harry Reid and any other congress member who’s politics you don’t like. People found this kind of talk a tad bit terrorist-sounding.

And it's nearly indistinguishable from Porter’s rhetoric. I doubt the average person will like it any better coming from him. So we have an NRA president practicing failed rightwing politics and repeating far-right talking points that everyone else finds insane. But keep in mind that the NRA’s purpose here is different from the GOP’s. The Republican Party’s purpose is to get Republicans elected. The NRA’s purpose is to make money for small arms merchants. The NRA made an alliance with the GOP long ago, but that doesn’t mean they work hand in hand. What Porter’s trying to do here is pretty simple -- collect all the white male voters turned off by the GOP’s rebranding effort under the NRA banner. You get all the racists and the homophobes and the Christian supremacists and various and sundry other extremists, then you try to sell them back to the party. A big problem with the GOP rebranding effort has been in trying to win over new voters, while keeping these frootloops in the flock. Porter seems to believe he can turn these people into single-issue voters and use them as leverage to keep the GOP from caving in when the pressure builds.

And so NRA gatherings start to look like Tea Party rallies -- thinly veiled racism and all. It’s a bad strategy, because eventually the Republican Party will realize that pandering to these voters just plain isn’t worth it. After all, the rebranding effort is the first glimmer of a dawning realization that these people are costing more votes than they bring. But in the meantime, the NRA will do what the Tea Party did -- enable completely insane candidates to win primaries, then lose general elections with their frothing nutbaggery.

On the other hand, what else can Porter do? His "culture war" is already being fought and he’s losing it badly. Gun ownership is down, support for gun regulation is high -- all you can really do is buy time while you try to figure out how to turn this around.

The tone of the NRA convention was triumphalist, but the reality -- as made clear by the NRA’s strategy going forward -- is that their "movement" is treading water.


[photo by Gerald Rich]

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