Wednesday, January 6, 2016

No Matter What, They’re Against It

Scott Lemieux in The Guardian on the Republicans’ knee-jerk response to President Obama’s modest gun-control actions:

Obama’s proposals are, in terms of gun control policy and executive branch authority, ultimately of minor importance. They’re more important for what they reveal about the Republican party in 2016 than for their substantive content.

First, the ludicrously overwrought Republican reaction to Obama’s statement shows that the party continues to refuse the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency: in that environment, utterly ordinary and plainly legal presidential actions can and will be cited as examples of a tyranny. Maybe next Republicans will start arguing that Obama is violating the US constitution and the will of the people by delivering the State of the Union address rather than letting Paul Ryan do it.

And second, it illustrates that gun control is an issue – like upper-class tax cuts and countless others – where Republican policy can be boiled down to a radical one-note ideological slogan. The effectiveness of a given policy, cost/benefit analysis and so on are all beside the point: if a proposal places any restriction on the sale or possession of guns, Republicans can know in advance that the policies are not merely bad policy but illegal. They can confidently make these assertions without even knowing what the proposed policies are.

But in 1991, former president Ronald Reagan wrote an op-ed endorsing federal gun control legislation; in 2016, Obama’s proposed to do less on gun control than even Reagan wanted is seen by Reagan-worshipping Republicans as unconscionable tyranny. The Republican race to get far to Reagan’s right makes the prospect of the GOP obtaining unified control of the government a frightening one indeed.

This is all part of a pattern that has been in place for roughly seven years: no matter what Barack Obama proposes, the Republicans oppose it.  He could have come out at the presser yesterday and said “The hell with it: from now on the federal government will give away a Glock 9 with every tax refund,” the N.R.A. and the House Republicans would have complained that he was usurping the free market by having the government get into the gun business: “Think of the small-town gun shop owners….”

The irony is that if the Republicans had actually tried to work out a sensible resolution to not just the president but to the plague of gun violence without their Pavlovian response that is based on nothing but vitriol and poorly-disguised prejudice and racism, Mr. Obama would not have had to implement these half-way measures to stanch the bloodletting.