Saturday, December 5, 2015

Vox Explains the Gun Control Impasse

Vox author, David Roberts, does it again. He explained very well the real issue the media how with Trump. As he said it isn't lying or bigotry but breaking their precious Beltway rules.

Which is a big reason to cheer the Trump phenomenon.

Now Roberts does a good job of explaining the impasse over gun control and what it would take to actually get over this impasse.

"It's not even clear that opinions on guns and gun violence remain amenable to argument. Over the past few decades, gun ownership in the US has evolved from a practical issue for rural homeowners and hunters to a kind of gesture of tribal solidarity, an act of defiance toward Obama, the left, and all the changes they represent. The gun lobby has become more hardened and uncompromising, pushing guns into schools, churches, and universities."

"This has taken place in the context of a broader and deeper polarization of the country, as Red America and Blue America have become more ideologically homogeneous and distant from one another. The two sides are now composed of people who quite literally think and feel differently — and are less and less able to communicate. The gun issue is a salient example, but far from the only one."

"This suggests that if the status quo on guns in the US is to change, it will be through overwhelming political force, not through evidence and argument. Guns have now ascended to the level of worldview and identity, areas largely beyond the reach of persuasion."

I think Roberts is exactly right. His point about this being something that will be changed by evidence and argument but by overwhelming political force, I think applies more generally as well for most of the policy differences between Blue State and Red State American today.

The time when we can expect to bridge the divide by agreeing to the same basic body of facts is well past gone. This is why I tend not to focus on things like the 'reality quotient' and mostly on the partisan chessboard.

These matters will change with victories for the Democratic party, full stop. Was there a time when the GOP was more reasonable? Sure, but that was a very different time for many reasons.

There were more moderates, the party sort of accepted its second class role as the me too party. Ike was pretty reasonable but that was during the time the Eastern Establishment was still dominant-prior to Goldwater.

And back then conservatives were in the Democratic party too with moderates in the GOP. The time of Eastern Republicans and Southern Democrats was what was different.

For now at least, progress will come via a Democratic majority.

Some seem to chafe under that diagnosis. They think ideally we want to reasonable parties to debate things reasonably. But to such folks I ask one thing: speak to me not of your own ideal world based on sensibilities but speak to me historically. Show me the historical examples in either the US or the other modern democratic countries we've seen this in.

I've already agreed that the pre Newt Gingrich GOP was more reasonable but that was a GOP quite frankly that new its place. It grasped that it's feelings about the New Deal were the minority view.

Most of American history at least has been the story of a majority and minority party-the Dems dominated 1800-1860; the GOP 1960-1932; then the Dems 1932-1968. Since then the parties have been in a constant thumb war jockeying for position. But note that most Americans have found the post 1968 political environment very frustrating.

UPDATE: Canada was dominated by one party for most of the 20th century-the Liberals-and seemed highly functional as well.

When Trump talks about 'Making America great again' even he on some level is remembering the pre 1968 US. What's frustrating is lack of consensus.

In the same vein, Jonathan Capehart has a great piece about 'How the White House learned to be liberal' which was the discovery that the Obama WH did better once it stopped trying to reason with Republicans.

"Dan Pfeiffer, who left his position as senior adviser at the White House last week after having worked with Barack Obama since his first presidential campaign, has been involved from the outset in navigating the central contradiction at the heart of Obama’s public persona: He ran as a figure who could overcome partisan polarization, yet he has instead presided over more of it despite accomplishing the majority of the substantive agenda he promised."

"Obama and his spokespeople have spent most of their administration quietly at war with the conventional wisdom in Washington over the cause of this failure, and Pfeiffer has spent much of his time in the administration dealing with, or scolding, members of the media, mostly in off-the-record conversations. But in an interview last week, a few days before he resigned, he explained in unusually candid terms the administration’s thinking—and how the White House lost its illusions."

“I think [Obama] believes, and I certainly believe, that while we can always do better, this is a case where structural forces are the large actor here,” he told me. Pfeiffer cited three of them. The first is rising polarization—“the great sorting,” as he called it—which, over a period of decades, has driven white conservatives out of the Democratic Party and moderates out of the Republican Party, creating two ideologically homogeneous political organizations. The second is the disintegration of restrictions on campaign finance, which “gives people even more incentive to play to the far right or to a set of special-interests donors, so that one individual can basically, especially in these House races, do a $1 million expenditure and completely tip the balance.” And, finally, the news media has changed so that people select only sources that will confirm their preexisting beliefs."

"All of this combined makes communication with Republicans mostly hopeless. “There’s very little we can do to change the Republicans’ political situation because they are worried about a cohort of voters who disagree with most of what the president says,” Pfeiffer said. “We don’t have the ability to communicate with them—we can’t even break into the tight communication circles to convince them that climate change is real. They are talking to people who agree with them, they are listening to news outlets that reinforce that point of view, and the president is probably the person with the least ability to break into that because of the partisan bias there.”

"Pfeiffer’s reading of the red-blue impasse isn’t that it’s a permanent catastrophe. Demographic change will eventually force Republicans to compete with Democrats for some of the same voters, reopening a national political conversation that is accessible to both parties. And Democrats will find the millennial generation in play. “We’re going to have to work harder to get them registered to vote and involved, and that offers an opportunity, because while they are very progressive in some of their general leanings, they’re less tied to institutions and parties.” But that will have to happen after this administration has left the scene."

"The original premise of Obama’s first presidential campaign was that he could reason with Republicans—or else, by staking out obviously reasonable stances, force them to moderate or be exposed as extreme and unyielding. It took years for the White House to conclude that this was false, and that, in Pfeiffer’s words, “what drives 90 percent of stuff is not the small tactical decisions or the personal relationships but the big, macro political incentives.”

You could argue that in the end, Hillary Clinton was right after all in 2008 about the lack of realism of candiate Obama's post-partisan world.

As I've said a nubmer of times, I see 2015 as the election that Golwaterism-which despite the man's loss, prevailed in 1964 as the Eastern Establishment was sent packing-goes full circle. I think this coalition breaks apart after this election-actually is in the process of doing so, this election is splitting it apart.

If you want green shoots, I think you might look to Paul Ryan who seems to have a recognition that the days of offering nothing but scorched earth opposition have to end. I mean the House hasn't passed an actual transprotation bill in 10 years.

Ryan at least is talking about an alternative to Obama rather than just oppostion to him.

It isn't much but it's something. in the normal way a functioning opposition party when the President proposes something comes up with an alternative. During the Obama years, though, the response would simply be radio silence.


  1. One thing the Vox piece leaves out in it's gun analysis is that guns have successfully been marketed as cool toys to men. Men have adopted guns (collecting them, thinking about upgrading them, training with them, etc) as a hobby. It has everything they like: it's dangerous, it's feeds into adolescent male fantasies of justifiable homicide (which has been reflected in movies, TV, and especially video games for decades now), etc. IMO, the guns owners out there feel slighted that what they enjoy as a hobby is being attacked by what they perceive to be know-nothing effeminate whiny city dwelling liberals. Lol. It pisses them off that just because a few fruitcakes in cities go on a rampage now and then, it should affect their "rights." Simply put, they either:

    1. Are willing to pay the price of the dead and wounded that results from easy access to guns... so they can have their toys.

    2. Can't accept that these rampages happen (thus Alex Jones and "false flags").

    That's an "insider's perspective" so to speak. Of course I'm not really qualified to speak for the whole of the gun culture, so really it's just one man's opinion, but that's how I see it. I have a "foot in both worlds" so to speak.

    1. Yes, I get the idea that it appeals to a macho ethic. But as Vox argues the desire for guns now is an issue of mood affiliation apart form any kind of need.

      Like Melissa Harris-Perry had the stat that gun sales have increased by more than 100% since Obama won.

  2. One "danger" I see is that Republican voters... if they are dominated politically, will again want to secede from the union. I've come around to the point of view of "let 'em go!"

  3. Well, the South used to be Dem now it's GOP but it remains the outlier.