Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gereric Mass Shooting Response

Re-post as needed.

Liberals are losing the gun debate because we are too timid. We are either pleading a vague "do SOMEthing" or offering the most obvious and easy solutions - the background checks and the machine gun bans. While the other side's response is literally "do nothing."

It's time to start asking for more significant measures, moving the terms of debate and saying what we really think about guns.

The fundamental problem is that there is a sliver of the electorate who are single issue gun voters. And they really do literally believe that even the mildest of regulation is a slippery slope toward the government taking away their guns.

It's not about the NRA money. It's about the ideology. The NRA money just follows to the people who are already inclined to the ideology.

My uncle in northern Wisconsin is one of these people. He told my dad "I would vote for Hitler before I would vote for Hillary" because he literally believed she would send the feds to take away his guns.

Their numbers are tiny but their influence is magnified in low turnout Republican primaries. And their absolutism has closed the Overton Window of acceptable terms of gun debate into a narrow crack above the sill that you could block with a towel.

So how do gun absolutists respond to tragedy? Usually, with silence.  But after Las Vegas, Bill O'Reilly slipped and said what they really think. In October he wrote: "This is the price of freedom. Violent nuts are allowed to roam free until they do damage, no matter how threatening they are. The 2nd Amendment is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection.  Even the loons."

It seems from the context that O'Reilly was only describing, not fully endorsing, this view of mass shootings as a sad but necessary evil - but it's the best summation I've ever seen of the otherwise unspoken mindset.

So what do I think about guns?

I loathe guns.

Guns are barbaric.

We need more people to say that. We need to create a culture where it is just as acceptable to declare loathing of guns as it is to declare love of guns.

It is not going to be possible to make it harder for the mentally ill to get guns without also making it harder for regular people to get guns. We need to make it harder for regular people to get guns and we need there to be fewer guns.

We need to destroy the myth that we "need" hunting to control wildlife populations, and we need to restore an environment with more natural predator-prey relationships.

We need to fight back against the "culture" and "values" arguments for hunting/guns just as hard as conservatives push back against marriage equality and choice. No. I don't like your "lifestyle."

Unconstitutional? Hey, the right proposes unconstitutional shit All. The. Time. It doesn't (usually) pass but it moves the terms of debate.

I have much more to say but I'm not ready to and I think it would be counter-productive. Hey, what I've already said may be counterproductive.

Am I an extremist? Sure.

But I'm less extreme than "mass shootings are the price of a free society and the correct response is to do nothing." Yet that position is in the mainstream and mine are not.

What seems to be different about this shooting is that the kids are speaking out and that they were aware enough mid-crisis to send messages and take pictures. Also relatively unusual that shooter was captured alive.

Of course the fact that school shootings are common enough to have patterns to compare is literally insane.

Machismo is part of the problem. Another part of the problem is that we have 89 guns per 100 people while even countries with "lots" of guns have more like 30. Background checks and bans on "extreme" guns are NOT enough. We need to start demanding FEWER guns in America. We need to reduce a gun ownership rate that's TRIPLE that of places like Canada. We need to treat 89 guns per 100 people as the public health hazard it is.

I am sure the thoughts and prayers of conservatives are sincere. But they think of the gun violence epidemic as mere tragedy, as senseless, as no more possible to control than weather. But "this is the price of a free society" is policy. It's ideology.

No. This is NOT the price of freedom. All freedoms have limits. And when it comes to guns we need less "freedom."

Time to move the mainstream.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

How to deal with Ernst?

A tweetstorm turned into a blogpost:

In order to come up with an effective attack on Joni Ernst, Democrats have to first understand her appeal - and they seem incapable of that.

Urban Democratic activists instinctively want to attack the Ernst persona - and that kind of attack plays right into her hands. Her persona is EXACTLY WHY SHE WON. What exactly is WRONG with being a Harley-riding Guard-serving farm gal in Iowa, anyway?

Most Democratic activists still think of Ernst as a fluke and a joke who was only elected because 2014 was a bad year and because Bruce Braley was a spectacularly bad candidate. Both those things are true but they don't explain the depth of the loss.

Periodic reminder that Ernst's pig castrating ad debuted the same day as Braley's "Grassley a farmer from Iowa not a lawyer" video leaked. That timing was not an accident. And that day was the day I knew Ernst would be the next Senator.

Here in the People's Republic of Johnson County in 2014 I had more random discussions initiated by non "political" people about Ernst than any other pre-Trump candidate.

And they can all basically be summed up as: that crazy pig lady can't possibly WIN, can she? And in private I answered yes. Yes she can. Wish I had written it but I was trying to be a Team Player.

It was a classic case of the Democrats' "Everybody I Know" problem: no one I know is voting for her, so she can't possibly WIN...

Ernst's bread bag schtick actively turned off voters in Johnson County and other scattered lefty enclaves. But what my people couldn't and still can't understand is: It plays very, very well in about 95 counties.

The Ernst persona is a cultural signifier that repels urban and activist liberals but connects with more or less everyone else in Iowa.

That forces an anti-Ernst effort to be about record and policy - and detailed wonky campaigns about record and policy tend to work best with the kind of urban liberals who are already turned off by Ernst.

In contrast, the attack on Grassley was easy: Too Old. Which didn't work (and may not have worked even with a younger Democratic nominee) but at least it was an actual vulnerability. Attacking Ernst on persona is attacking her strength.

Friday, February 02, 2018

My Caucus Endorsement

Monday night's Democratic caucuses have gotten more discussion than usual off year caucuses because of the seven way primary for governor. As political blog readers know, Iowa law says that if no one gets 35% in the June primary, a convention settles the nomination.

I don't think that will happen; I expect an outcome like the 2014 Republican Senate primary where one candidate gets hot at the end. But multiple campaigns are prepping for the possibility.

Some people and campaigns are pushing for preference groups like we have at presidential caucuses. This is not an automatic thing like it is in a presidential year. Someone has to make a motion, and it only takes a very small share of the room (15%) to force groups.

I believe that the last thing Iowa Democrats need right now is literal division.

I also think that many - not all, but many - of those who are pushing preference groups do not have the long term best interests of the Democratic Party in mind. There will be people at the caucus who would rather repeal and replace the Democratic Party than build it. And I have not devoted the last 27 years of my life, since literally the day I moved to the state, to the Iowa Democratic Party and the Johnson County Democrats only to watch us become the Occupy-Revolution Party. Issues are one thing, but that rhetorical style and those tactics cannot and will not win in this state and will set us even further back.

I long ago chose and endorsed my candidate for governor, for both policy and personal reasons, and nothing between now and primary day is going to shake my support for Nate Boulton.

But support for governor and caucus night behavior are different things. The important thing about caucus night is not preparing for an unlikely what-if scenario. It's building the party for the general election.

That's why I am not going to vote to go to preference groups. If they happen, I will caucus as Uncommitted, even though I have already decided to support Nate.

I ask all Iowa Democrats to join me. If a motion for groups is offered, please do not support it. If they happen, no matter who you support or if you have not decided, please come over to the Uncommitted corner with me.

Let's not divide on caucus night. Let's unite.