If you deny reality long enough, does the fantastical eventually supplant the genuine?
A new poll released by Quinnipiac University shows that ninety-two percent of the voters they polled support universal background checks for all firearm purchases. Ninety-two percent. That kind of majority by definition crosses every political divide, and gets at the reality that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that universal background checks are a good, common sense step to take in our fight to reduce gun violence. That doesn’t mean anything to the National Rifle Association though.
The NRA is now staunchly opposed to universal background checks for all firearm sales. At the Senate Judiciary Committee’s meeting on gun violence last week, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre derided background checks as being not truly universal because, you know, criminals won’t use them. Illinois’ Democratic Senator Dick Durbin laid LaPierre out for that statement, telling him he “missed the point” because of course criminals won’t submit to background checks, thereby making it harder for them to “legitimately” purchase a gun.
The NRA’s own rank and file members by a large majority support universal background checks. But it would appear that the NRA’s executive board is choosing to deny that reality. Why, I can’t say. It doesn’t seem like it’s really within their best interests to continue to placate a group that is becoming further marginalized thanks to their extreme positions on gun ownership. It doesn’t seem like it’s really within their best interests to ignore the desires of the majority of their own members, much less the people in general, and continue to push the extremist agenda as their own. And yet, there was LaPierre, poo-pooing background checks, despite having argued adamantly for them back in 1999 in the wake of Columbine. So now LaPierre and the NRA are not only denying what their own members believe, but they’re denying what they themselves once believed.
We all change our minds, but you really get the sense that the NRA’s only mission is to keep moving the ball from one cup to another, never letting America actually get anything new or substantive done in the area of gun control. If it means more regulation, even if LaPierre supported the proposal yesterday, today he’ll be against it. How much longer can the NRA continue to deny the growing reality that they are on the losing side of public opinion? After all, not only did ninety-two percent of the people polled by Quinnipiac agree with background checks, but majority of them also agreed with the assault rifle ban and a ban on magazine capacities over ten rounds. Granted, the majorities were much smaller, but they were majorities nonetheless. The times are changing, and much like the Republican Party, the NRA is looking unwilling to roll right along with the rest of us.
Speaking of the continuing meltdown of the GOP, it appears the showdown I was predicting as far back as September of last year is absolutely going to come to fruition. The Republicans have been on a collision course with reality themselves, and the elections of 2012 was the boulder in the road that started it all. Actually, it was probably their embrace of the bubble, the insulation from reality offered by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the conservative cabal of opinion-makers that chose to continue t demagogue liberals and Democrats instead of listening to them. It’s not that how they treated President Obama was all that much different from how they treated Clinton, or even Carter.
All three modern-era Democratic presidents have been abused as stupid, incompetent, un-American, and in the case of Clinton and Obama, communist/socialist/Marxist/Fascist (because they’re all the same thing to NeoCons). But the difference between 2008 and 1998 is quite simple: social media and the Internet in general. Back in the 90’s, Republicans lied about Bill Clinton and made up crazy conspiracy theories about him to boot. Remember Vince Foster? Remember how Clinton was a draft-dodging secret hippie Communist? The disconnection from reality that the Republicans enjoy now wasn’t started in 2010, it was started when the Cult of Ronald Reagan was formed, which required a demagogeuing of President Carter that goes on to this day. They call him weak, and they point to the misery index, and all this other made-up craziness that smooths over the fact that while Carter may not have been perfect, he still managed to keep us out of war, and frankly he was way ahead of his time when it came to our country’s energy policies.
But what started with Carter amplified under Clinton, and then the same things are tried with Obama, to limited success. I mean, the right-wing’s fringe does have sites like World Net Daily, churning out idiotic conspiracy theories and making lame-brained comparisons between Obama and Hitler. So the Internet is not exactly the stone-cold killer of the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party. But it does offer an immediate dose of reality, an instant splash of cold water on the face for any lies that conservatives may try to float. China’s closing down all its Jeep plants in America and moving them to their own shores, are they? Bzzzzzzz. Wrong! Sorry Mr. Conservative Blogger, that’s been debunked and now it’s national news how much of a liar you are.
The kind of ass-kicking the Republicans took last year is the kind of ass-kicking that can shift the American political spectrum for decades. Karl Rove knows it. He was the mastermind of the Bush II Empire. But his willingness to sacrifice his party’s death grip on the paradigm of “fiscal responsibility” has cost him dearly. He’s no longer the king-maker; he’s a liability to the Tea Party…who are a liability to America in general, but to the conservative movement specifically. And those are the two sides that are being drawn. On one hand you have Team Rove. They get how un-electable the Tea Party is on a national stage. They see the demographics, and they think – correctly so – that the times are starting to pass their party up, so they want to move at least their optics, if not their values, to the center.
The Tea Party, on the other hand, is composed mostly of libertarians gone awry, anti-government types who aren’t incorrect in their judgment that America is turning away from their way of thinking, by and large. What they don’t realize of course is that it’s not just America, but humanity, that’s moving away from their ideology. Wars of choice, wars of empirical pursuits, are now out on the fringe. Treating your economy like an anything goes, free-form clusterfuck wherein the only rules are that the upper tier assholes get to walk away unharmed while the working class gets hit the most, are out. They believe everyone is turning away from democracy and capitalism and into socialism, communism, or whatever “ism” they don’t fully understand but know as their mortal, sworn enemy. But reality is that most people see capitalism and even our democracy as being threatened by the very people the Tea Party wants to serve the most: the financiers.
I’m not sure if opinion polls, real opinion polls, are read much in either Karl Rove or the Tea Party’s headquarters. After all, both sides are full of people who really thought Mitt Romney was not only going to win, but win in a historic landslide. Maybe they don’t get that together they make up about thirty percent of the population between them, but that’s the reality. The reality is that Rove and the Tea Party are fighting over margin party, a group made up of an ever-dwindling political outlook. In an era of renewed liberalism they are not the brakes of progress, and they’re not just off the rails of normal society. They are on their own tracks completely.
So the ultimate irony of this all is that much like the NRA, the Republican factions of Rove versus Tea Party are fighting a losing battle no matter what. The truth is that the first Republican who can disavow themselves from both sides, declare themselves independent from both, will become the new face of the GOP, and will likely be able to lead them away from the path of national irrelevance they’re on now. A Republican who can affirm climate change and the need for action on it, who can admit that trickle-down economics doesn’t work while still fighting for their own principles of restrained government spending, and who can admit that when we finally allow gay people to marry while smoking a joint if they want, that we will have actually moved closer to the American Promise and not away from it…that’s the Republican who will win the day. Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie are not those Republicans; though they’d love for you to think they were. But listen closely to the message. Listen closely to their words. They’re not suggestion a meeting with reality for the GOP. They’re just suggesting a more palatable version of their lunacy.