WASHINGTON — While Democrats prepared for a presidential debate on Saturday night with a focus on foreign policy and national security, Republican presidential candidates quickly turned the deadly attacks in Paris into political attacks
On Friday and Saturday, several GOP candidates offered their condolences to the French people while also calling on restrictions on the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States and a more aggressive U.S. approach to combating terrorists overseas.
“President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America is nothing less than lunacy,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told Fox News on Saturday. “It makes no sense whatsoever for us to be bringing in refugees who our intelligence can not determine if they are terrorists here to kill us or not.” Read more…
If there’s a political issue that ebbs and flows in importance depending on what’s happening in the news, it’s the issue of gun control. When high-profile shootings happen, the press and certain politicians have a field day. This issue will not be ebbing and flowing around the time of the general election. In ten or eleven months, the gun rights debate will be propelled to the top of the discussion board regardless of whether a high-profile case is in play at the time or not.
The reason for this is simple. It’s one of the few issues that gets moderates to lean to the left if it’s at the top of mind at the time of an election. Assuming that a strong Republican candidate will be running against Hillary Clinton (aka the weak Democratic candidate), then we can expect the left to make guns an issue regardless of the news cycle.
One might think that this is only possible if there’s an event that happens around that time and I won’t put it past some psychopath to time out his violent rampage around then, but even if it isn’t forced into the public eye, the media will do the work for the Democrats. We’ve seen this happen throughout American history; it’s nothing new. Those supporting George W. Bush did this before his reelection by making the war on terrorism and John Kerry’s weakness a bigger issue than domestic financial problems. It worked. Barack Obama’s campaign masterfully turned the attention of the electorate right before his reelection by focusing on discrimination and the “war on women” that Mitt Romney was allegedly perpetuating (with the help of Romney himself offering gaffes for assistance).
A desperate Democratic party and a flailing Clinton campaign will need to pull out an issue that will give them the “but” vote from moderates and independents. The “but” vote is the lipstick on the pig that both parties use as a last resort to win those undecided voters at the final moment.
“I don’t trust Hillary Clinton, but we need to get guns off the street.”
“Ted Cruz (or whoever the candidate is) would probably be a better President, but he won’t pass gun control laws.”
The Democrats will not be able to win on substance the way they did in 2008. That year, Barack Obama gave the perception of real substance to his campaign. He was given the wonderful gift of a tanking economy and offered a stark contrast to John McCain and the Bush administration. That substance turned out to be vapor, of course, but it helped him to win his first term. The Democrats don’t have substance this time around. There’s really nothing that Clinton can point to in order to make her case that she is best in the White House. She would lose to Chris Christie or Rand Paul if they were nominated, let alone the stronger candidates.
The only candidate she could beat on substance would be Donald Trump, but that’s a different story.
Very soon, the Republicans must formulate the plan to address the issue of gun control. I know it’s hard considering that the nomination hasn’t been decided, but the conversation needs to get going even if it’s not really an issue for the candidates today as they all seem to be pro-gun rights. There are many avenues that the conversation can travel. It’s important to pick the right ones, formulate the talk tracks, and stick with them throughout.
Losing the Gun Control Debate
The worst thing that the Republicans could do is to focus on the wrong arguments. The “wrong” arguments are the ones that often make the most sense to an intelligent conservative, but that don’t necessarily play well in left-wing mainstream media channels.
Chicago is not the right argument. On the surface, it seems like all the Republicans have to do is point to Chicago as the example of failed gun control laws, but doing so would play into the Democrats’ hands. They will say (and many have already been saying) that Chicago’s obtuse gun control laws don’t work because the surrounding areas don’t adopt the same ideals. This will be used by the Democrats as a reason that we need more federal restrictions and their point will be viewed as valid in the eyes of the “but” voters.
As hard as it is to admit, the Constitution will not work as an argument. The indoctrination of young voters to believe that the Constitution is outdated has been in play for years and we’re finally seeing the fruits of those arguments. President Obama wouldn’t have won his second term if the Constitution was a valid voting point.
Mental illness awareness will not work as an argument. It’s nearly impossible to predict when someone without a prior history of mental illness will suddenly grab guns and kill people. It makes for an easy talking point to say that we shouldn’t focus on guns but rather focus on mental illness, but the electorate won’t buy into something so obscure. The media will force them to want real action.
Winning the Gun Control Debate
While I’m not a professional political analyst, I can see only one valid talk track that could work for Republicans: state rights. If they are able to formulate the right talk tracks around the idea that what would work in Illinois would not work in New Hampshire, they’ll be able to placate the argument from the left.
States, counties, and cities have the ability to create gun laws within their own jurisdiction. States such as New Hampshire have been able to enjoy much lower gun crime rates. Changing those laws on a national level would be unacceptable. The Republicans should use the talk track that allowing the states and local governments to customize laws around their needs and their communities makes the most sense. They need to be able to convince the American people that federal interference through blanket gun control laws will not have the desired impact on crime, particularly mass shootings. They need to paint the Democrats with the brush of truth that they’re making this a federal issue for the sake of winning votes rather than tackling the issue in the most appropriate way by making it an issue for the states and smaller governments.
With the chips stacked against them, the Democrats will pull out their ace in the hole. The media will oblige by making it an issue whether based on a recent event or not. Republicans must be prepared to face this demon head-on with facts as well as justifiable emotion. They will not simply be able to wave the 2nd Amendment in the air and assume it will work this time around. In 2016, the Republicans must win based on substance… as it should be.