It's all about the guns...

>> Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yet another example to add to the pile of examples of how diseased American political discourse has become: Politico tells us that some conservative talking heads are upset that the NRA is reaching out to Democrats to--gasp!--protect gun rights and advance their organization.

You might remember I had some things to say about NRA partisanship back in May, when the NRA was holding its national shindig in Charlotte. In particular, I'd point out this paragraph from my earlier post:

There's a very real sense in this country that certain issues are hyperpartisan, even ones that maybe shouldn't be. I mean, take gun control, and maybe this will be a better illustration of what I'm getting at: gun control and ownership isn't actually a left/right issue, it's a gun control and ownership issue. Would-be Marxist revolutionaries like their assault rifles as much as any gun fair regular, and a hard-right fascist might well want only the iron fist of the state defenders of private property and union-busters to have access to artillery. Left and right distinctions, at least in most of the world and through most of history, are about class, economics, the ownership of means of production and proper role of the state in protecting rights or property--stuff about guns is stuff about guns.

I have to give credit where credit's due, though. It may have been amusing/appalling that the NRA's Charlotte convention was a parade of conservative meatheads (and no, that's not redundant, that's an apt description of Beck, Gingrich and Palin), but it's perfectly appropriate for the NRA to support Democrats or even actual liberals who advance their agenda.

I'm not necessarily saying I support their agenda, mind you, and I certainly don't support all of the NRA's agenda--I happen to think there's a happy medium somewhere between people having a right to own dangerous machines and the public regulating that ownership--I'm just looking for consistency and pointing out yet again that gun ownership really isn't a partisan issue, it's a gun ownership issue.

And, after all, on paper the NRA is a nonpartisan organization concerned with gun ownership issues. Perhaps there's some sort of nexus of correlation in the American cultural landscape between people who like guns and people who are socially conservative, that's certainly what we're told, anyway, and that's certainly what a lot of people believe. But, in fact, what does owning a pistol have to do with abortion, or the availability of ammunition have to do with deregulating coal mines?

Indeed, one is hard-pressed to think of very many things that are particularly related to the ownership and use of firearms and are directly related to various American conservative (or liberal) issues, causes, talking points, whatever. There's no tension between a view that the Second Amendment should be repealed and Roe v. Wade overturned, nor is there any kind of conflict between believing the hunting season should be longer and environmental regulations strictly enforced against industrial interests. (Indeed, one might suspect that a preference for fewer limits on hunting is easier to reconcile with support for the EPA than opposition to it--one might prefer hunting and consuming wild game that isn't laced with pesticides, heavy metals and assorted polysyllabic compounds produced as a manufacturing byproduct.)

Too, reading the Politico piece, it's hard not to detect a certain whiff of cynicism from the whiners. The NRA has quite a lot of members and is rather well-funded; no doubt the Family Research Council and other socially conservative organizations and individuals like having the NRA's weight to throw around. The Republican Party itself no doubt would like to think of the NRA as being on tap, a reserve of campaign funding that can be called upon at will.

The Republicans, incidentally, aren't making a unique mistake: the Democrats have recently seemed just as shocked to discover that entities such as organized labor, gay rights groups and civil rights organizations might take their money elsewhere.

Which gets us back to the original point, actually, about American political discourse being a diseased animal. One might reasonably expect, for instance, that those advocating legal recognition for homosexual relationships and those advocating deregulation of firearms might have common cause under a civil libertarian banner instead of somehow being expected by political custom to take the sides of Democrats and Republicans. Instead, the groups' respective interests get divided across partisan lines that ultimately only involve the political parties' ability to perpetuate their own exclusive interests.

It's a damn shame, really. Our culture might be much healthier if we had a political system that required the formation of coalitions out of parties much-better-tailored to their constituents' actual interests: if passing or defeating a law depended, say, on the Gun Toting Lesbians forming a temporary alliance with the Earth First Pro-Lifers and Centralized Federal Bankers, let's say. I mean, okay, I'll concede it sounds like a recipe for anarchy, too, but let's face it, what we have now is two parties who represent themselves and whine about it whenever one of their biggest contributors decides to stand up for itself. Maybe I'm sick of bullshit and would be willing to give controlled chaos a spin for awhile, you know?


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