Obama gun-control misfire
It is Democrats, mostly in the Senate, who are sweating bullets.
Misfire, vi: The partial or complete failure of a firearm to operate as intended. See also: Barack Obama, gun-control politics.
President Obama's vast gun-control agenda, unveiled in January, was never designed to pass this Congress. Its purpose was to rile up Americans and inflict political pain on the party that stood in the way.
Two months later, liberals are indeed keyed up, and Democrats are indeed getting hammered. Ready ... aim ... whoops.
In Harry Reid's Senate, Republicans have serenely sat by as the president's sweeping plan goes nowhere -- and all the attention stays on the dozen gun-rights Democrats that have guaranteed that failure. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Max Baucus (Montana) and Kay Hagan(North Carolina) in particular are up for re-election in red states next year, and they prefer political survival over Mr. Obama's political grandstanding.
Yet even "safe" Senate Democrats have, in the words of newly minted North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, judged their president's proposals "extreme." Mr. Obama intended to lay the blame for the failure of his package on the House GOP, but the headlines instead accurately explain that his "assault weapons" ban and magazine-capacity limits have been tanked by his own party.
This has been accompanied by a humdinger of a Democratic brawl. Since Mr. Obama made guns a priority, Mr. Reid was obliged (a rarity) to cobble a majority of his party together for something. The bill he will soon introduce has, as a result, been watered down to little more than a bipartisan proposal to increase the penalties on the (already illegal) "straw purchasing" of guns, and perhaps some grant money for school security.
Liberals are furious, with California's Dianne Feinstein unloading on her party for not including the gun ban. Their pushback has put in doubt even enhanced background checks (which Democrats once crowed were a slam-dunk issue against the GOP), since liberals are digging in, demanding provisions that gun-rights Democrats can't abide. And their anger has compelled Mr. Reid to allow Ms. Feinstein and Co. to offer amendments, guaranteeing that his more vulnerable members take some tough gun votes.
Republicans? What Republicans?
The Feinstein rage has been matched by that of liberal groups. As they've watched their dreams slip away, they're taking aim at the politicians they feel they have the best shot at turning: Democrats.
Two top Democratic donors (Buzzfeed.com Chairman Kenneth Lerer and tech guru David Bohnett) last week informed the party that they'd no longer give to any Democrats who wouldn't support comprehensive background checks, and they'd encourage more donors to impose that litmus test. Since the only Democrats likely to need cash in 2014 are those most likely to get whacked by their red-state voters for taking orders from liberals, this ought to prove interesting.
And there's New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will eagerly, and with vast sums of money, attack anyone who doesn't agree with his obvious and perfect brilliance (on soda and breast milk and firearms). His group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, is throwing $12 million into ads pushing gun control in 13 targeted states.
Only one state features a Senate Republican who is up for re-election in 2014 and might feel gun-control pressure (Maine's Susan Collins). By contrast, the ads are running in five states where Democrats need to hold a Senate seat, and in several more where newly elected Democrats like Ms. Heitkamp are trying to prove their red-state bona fides.
The hard truth for any liberal group is their only real mileage is in attacking fellow Democrats. Most of the Republicans who would have felt vulnerable on guns (say in the Northeast) were wiped out in recent elections. The few who remain, like New York Rep. Peter King, are already on board with gun control.
It is Democrats, mostly in the Senate, who are sweating bullets. Despite the White House campaign, despite the (often misleading) polling, despite the media attention on new gun restrictions in New York and Connecticut, senators like Messrs. Pryor and Baucus know their own red-state voters remain ardently pro-Second-Amendment. In 2013 alone, post Newtown, 10 states passed 17 laws expanding gun rights.
Many Democrats are now wedged between voters who demand their views be honored and groups like Mr. Bloomberg's that intend to punish them for doing just that. The New York billionaire threw $2.3 million into an Illinois special primary last month, to help a gun-control Democrat defeat a gun-rights Democrat. His super PAC is boasting the race will be its model for future elections.
The White House is sticking to its crumbling political line. Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer this week told Politico -- with a straight face--that Republicans will face "significant consequences," including that they may "lose the House" if they choose to "block" gun legislation.
Block what? This is the Democrats' party, and they've yet to convince their own members to attend. What Mr. Obama has done is resurrect a toxic issue that's exposed the sort of internal rift that Democrats have sought to avoid.
(Reprinted with permission of The Wall Street Journal © 2013 Dow Jones & Co. All rights reserved.)