Horrific mass shootings fail to diminish the NRA’s influence on the 'American Carnage Party': analysis
Two powerful lobbies that countless Republican politicians are terrified of alienating or offending are the Religious Right/Christian nationalist lobby and the National Rifle Association/gun lobby. And even some Democrats — namely, centrist Blue Dog Democrats in red states — will make a point of stressing how pro-2nd Amendment they are in order to avoid being targeted by the NRA and others in the gun lobby.
Moreover, the NRA will go out of its way to fund candidates it considers sufficiently anti-gun control. Boston Globe reporters John Hancock and Christina Prignano, in an article published on May 27, takes a look at some of the candidates the NRA has funded as well as those it has aggressively lobbied against.
“The National Rifle Association declared bankruptcy last year as it faced allegations that its executives used tens of millions of dollars for personal expenditures and otherwise mismanaged money,” Hancock and Prignano report. “But that hasn’t stopped the gun rights organization from funding the campaigns of political candidates. Since 2010, the NRA has spent more than $148 million on federal elections, nearly all of which has gone toward supporting Republican candidates in one way or another.”
The Globe reporters continue, “About $91 million was spent trying to defeat candidates, according to OpenSecrets, a campaign finance watchdog. Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was the biggest target of NRA spending in the last 12 years, with $19.8 million being earmarked to defeat her. She was followed by President Biden at $12 million and former President Barack Obama at $10 million.”
The fact that the NRA went after Clinton, Biden and Obama with a vengeance says a lot. All of them are centrist Democrats, not hardcore progressives — and the gun control measures that they favor are quite moderate and reasonable. The fact that Clinton, Biden and Obama don’t believe that AK-47s or Uzis should be easy to obtain for the average U.S. citizen does not make them sworn enemies of the 2nd Amendment.
In 2004, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry even went goose hunting in Ohio — and made sure reporters covered it — in order to show rural voters that he wasn’t trying to take away their firearms. But that didn’t prevent the NRA from attacking Kerry with a vengeance and throwing its support to President George W. Bush, who was reelected.
The NRA, as a rule, tends to be much more hostile to Democrats than to Republicans. And they are great at keeping Republicans as subservient as possible.
“The NRA also spent $56 million in support of candidates, with the biggest amounts being spent to support Republican presidential nominees, according to the data,” Hancock and Prignano note. “Former President Donald Trump was overwhelmingly the top beneficiary, with about $16 million in outside spending going to support his candidacies, followed by senator and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at $3.3 million, Sen. Thom Tillis at $2.4 million, and Sen. Tom Cotton at $2 million.” The Globe reporters add, “Though the NRA is the highest profile gun rights organization in the U.S., there’s no shortage of groups that raise and spend money to prevent gun control legislation from being enacted. OpenSecrets has compiled a list of top recipients of gun rights interest group money since 2010. Republican Sen. Rand Paul currently leads the pack with more than $38,000 in political contributions this year alone.”
Even mass shootings don’t decrease the NRA’s lobbying muscle, and in May, the U.S. had two horrific mass shootings in less than two weeks. A mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York on Saturday, May 14 left ten people dead, and on Tuesday, May 24 — only ten days later — a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers.
New York Times opinion writer Michelle Cottle, in a scathing op-ed published on May 27, emphasizes that only a few days after the Uvalde massacre, some prominent Republicans weren’t about to miss their chance to speak at the NRA’s annual convention in Houston.
“In the wake of Tuesday’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, how are Republican leaders rising to meet this raw moment, with 19 children dead and a community shattered?” Cottle writes. “They are once again leaning into their role as the American Carnage Party, where the only solution to shootings is more guns. And in a sign that it’s never ‘too soon’ to glorify guns after a slaughter, some are gathering at the altar of the gun lobby in, of all places, Houston — less than 300 miles from the slaughter — to wallow in that orgy of gun fetishism known as the National Rifle Association’s annual convention.”
Cottle adds, “Former President Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota are among the party players set to speak on Friday (May 27). Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas was scheduled to attend, but it was reported Thursday evening that he would instead be addressing the convention via a pre-recorded video.”
NRA lobbyists had an iron grip on the GOP long before Trump was elected president in 2016, but the NRA of 2022, Cottle argues, is quick to exploit the “paranoia” that is a key element of the MAGA movement.
“The GOP cannot afford to put much distance between itself and the gun lobby — and not simply because of the huge wads of cash that the NRA has stuffed into the party’s coffers over the years,” Cottle observes. “Increasingly, the party of Trump is about nothing more than ginning up fear and paranoia among its members, of peddling apocalyptic notions that civilization is on the brink of destruction and that armed conflict is just over the horizon. The gun lobby’s message and agenda gibe perfectly with this vision — indeed, nurture it. It is hard to think of a more suitable partner for Republicanism in its current sorry state.”
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