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Every day I'm getting emails from President Obama, the Democratic Party leadership, and supporters, asking for my support for gun control.  Sign this petition, call that congressman.  Sure, I sign.  Sure, I support them.  Sure, I'm absolutely disgusted at the way the Banana Republicans and a few fearful rural-state Democrats allowed a filibuster to block even the most trivial reforms.

But reading Daily Kos as often as I do, I'm seeing two White Houses.  One is backing gun control and other social issues to the hilt.  Not always successfully, but they're good at hitting on our emotional hot-button issues.  The other is pushing neoliberal budget that cuts social security, raises the middle class' share of taxation, and protects the banksters.  It's economic Reaganism, which was seen as extremely right-wing thirty years ago but is to the left of the current teabagger-heavy Banana Republican Party.

So are we with the President or are we opposed?

That's a trick question.  Maybe it's all part of a political strategy.  The Bush regime got great results pushing ridiculous social-conservative positions that hurt the economic interests of the peasants who backed them.  They used opposition to gay marriage, and teh gay in general, to rally support.  They pushed  church-state integration, opposition to abortion, and other issues that rang the rank and file's bells, even as they were picking the same people's pockets.

It just looks too familiar.  Is the White House using gun control to deflect Democratic opposition to their economic and justice policies?  Is gun control being used as a wedge issue?

A wedge issue is a controversial issue chosen because it divides the electorate.  It rallies the base and brings in people who side with that issue and who otherwise might not be too attuned to politics.  It was a big part of the Lee Atwater strategy that helped the Republicans so much in the Reagan era.

The mother of all wedge issues is, of course, abortion.  In 1973, the Roman Catholic church was strenuously opposed to all abortion, birth control, and divorce -- the trifecta of sex.  Few protestants cared about it.  When Roe v. Wade was announced, the Southern Baptist Convention supported it!  Revisionists now suggest that the Court may have gone too far with Roe, but it didn't look that way at the time; it just defused an issue that was dividing a lot of state legislatures, especially dividing Democrats.

Paul Weyrich was a Catholic who, with Jerry Fallwell, co-founded the Moral Majority after splitting from another Christian-right group in 1978.  He and Richard Viguerie were looking for an issue that could rally southern evangelicals to the Republican party and divide the democrats.  He convinced Fallwell to make abortion a key issue.  This is explained, btw, in the book Before Roe v. Wade by Greenhouse and Siegel.  The Southern Baptist Convention had in 1978 been taken over by a hard-right faction and was receptive.  They turned the "Catholic issue" into an evangelical one and helped turn the South Republican.

Gay marriage became the right's wedge issue of the 2000s, though it has run its course.  The left was never very good at it, though.  Wedge politics is just a little too dirty for our sensibility.  Democrats all too often would rather lose than play by the Republican's rules.  But now Obama is in trouble.  He got reelected on a platform that supported Social Security and sought to tax the 1%, but in power became the Great Compromiser (great cartoon).  And that doesn't make him a good compromiser, since a smart one makes the other side take the political heat.  Obama stepped in it deep and smells very bad now.  So how can he raise his personal rating?  A wedge issue!

So that's why I am just a bit suspicious of all of the effort going into such weak-tea symbolic gun legislation.  If even the Manchin-Toomey variety can't get past a filibuster, meaningful controls are a remote dream.  We could and should press the Overton window to get them back on the table:  Real national gun registration would be useful, but Democrats don't know how to work the window. So instead of that, we get the emotion.  We get great speeches about guns. But then we get chained CPI and banksters given even more perks.  I'm getting deja vu, only it's coming from our side now.


Are we being wedged?

69%18 votes
23%6 votes
7%2 votes

| 26 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Manchin-Toomey had loopholes (6+ / 0-)

    ... you could drive a bomb-laden van through.  It was worthless, and passing it would have been the most cynical kabuki imaginable.  Not passing it is infuriating, but gives the gun control movement more time to lay wood to politicians of both parties and make them pass something worthwhile.

    Of course wedge issues are used by both parties to hold their supporters while they pursue the agendas of their oligarchic sponsors.  Democrats aren't really any better than Republicans in this respect.  Even when they're apparently sincere in their support, there's always the ulterior motive.

    If you want to cut Social Security, you're not a real Democrat.

    by Dallasdoc on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 07:19:42 PM PDT

    •  Not quite worthless. The gun show fix... (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LordMike, k9disc, mimi, FG, KenBee, laker

      ...was, in my opinion, worth it even though it was less than half what a good background-check upgrade should be.

      One problem was the failure to for a simple expansion of the present background check system instead of the Schumer model and the Manchin-Toomey model. All the talk about gun registries would have been moot and those opposed to expansion could have been hammered every day for their obvious opposition to the current background-check operation.

      The other big problem was letting the grandstanding DiFi go first with the these most controversial proposal, thus making the public discussion way too much about a bill that everybody including Feinstein knew from the minute she proposed it would never pass. Reid should have stopped her in her tracks and made her wait until the rest of the discussion was further along. Instead, the AWB got to be used as surrogate for all the gun legislation.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 07:27:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The "friends" exception was the big loser (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, mimi, blueoasis

        Anybody could claim that anybody was their "friend," thus invalidating the background check requirement.  And there is no doubt that the NRA's friends would launch a blistering attack on anybody trying to limit interpretation of that clause.

        I still think requiring private liability insurance is a feasible route.  It avoids the black-helicopter fantasies because it involves private companies.  And it should offer compensation to victims of gun violence.  Why should society as a whole pay the price for guns, rather than their owners?

        If you want to cut Social Security, you're not a real Democrat.

        by Dallasdoc on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 07:34:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not a believer... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          k9disc, mimi

          in a ...uh... silver bullet on gun legislation. Liability insurance would be good, to be sure. A background check covering everything but, say, transfers within the immediate family is also needed. A limit on magazine capacity would be wise, too It got 6 more votes today than did the assault weapons ban, which indicates there might be some potential for moving there.

          Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 07:42:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A lot needs to be done (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            k9disc, mimi, David54, blueoasis

            But without a Democratic leadership willing to accept responsibility for passing legislation by limiting the filibuster, nothing will be.

            Liability insurance is a "market-based" approach, in that big magazines, assault weapons and other dangerous ordnance would be very expensive to buy and hold.  Most gun enthusiasts couldn't afford their arsenals.  That would dramatically limit the market for these items, and would force gun manufacturers to go lobby for some other deadly crap.

            Yes, we need other measures to stop people bent on mayhem.  But if there's one thing to pass, I think liability insurance is the smartest bet.

            If you want to cut Social Security, you're not a real Democrat.

            by Dallasdoc on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 07:47:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  absolutely true, all of it (0+ / 0-)

        and thanks for your staying on the issues with details and good sense.

        This machine kills Fascists.

        by KenBee on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 12:04:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  This is spot on: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dallasdoc, blueoasis, brae70
      Of course wedge issues are used by both parties to hold their supporters while they pursue the agendas of their oligarchic sponsors.
      K S Lavida, the proof is in the results. Obama uses a very simple pattern: make a speech, submit a proposal (which is toothless), send out his spin team to tell the progressives they will be disappointed with his decision (to backtrack), and then he does what the republicans want.

      Go back and look at most of his proposals and you can see the pattern.

      The sad news is that many Democrats keep falling for it.

    •  Yes, it was weak, but still a wedge issue (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, Dallasdoc

      My point in the diary is not how good or bad any particular gun bill was. Those are valid questions, of course; the bill did have loopholes, though I think it was an improvement over the status quo, given the gun show issue.

      My point, though, is that Obama is using gun control as a wedge issue, to get our mind off of issues that have more real impact on all of us, where he is either unwilling or unable to support us.  Chained CPI being the key one nowadays.

      •  Do you really think he's going "Thank God (0+ / 0-)

        for Newtown, which provided a distraction from my budget."?

        You can't make this stuff up.

        by David54 on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 09:41:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, that's not necessary (0+ / 0-)

          He and the rest of us are genuinely aghast at what happened in Newtown.  But the amount of effort going into rallying our side, the barrages of emails and rounding up of support from those who already believe in the cause, is a sign that it is being used as a wedge issue.  Gay rights was a good one last year.  At least our side didn't get major religions to change their theology, as the SBC did, in order to create the wedge.  We just have to open the newspaper or turn on the TV or radio.

    •  How much confidence did you have in anything (0+ / 0-)

      named "Manchin-Toomey" ?
      My take is not that the Dem leadership is gaming out a "wedge strategy", it's that there's a common thread of corruption and cowardice in the Senate, even when we had the House, from the beginning of the Obama admin. on back to the Iraq war vote, when Robert Byrd shamed the whole chamber, forward up to today's vote. That includes notable Dems.

      You can't make this stuff up.

      by David54 on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 09:36:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  More than being wedged (8+ / 0-)

    I believe we have been given a wedgie.

  •  Yes, for the Last 45 Years. (6+ / 0-)

    Close to 60 when it comes to union rights.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 07:24:22 PM PDT

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