Axios's Jonathan Swan weighs the question of whether President Trump will ever challenge the National Rifle Association. A couple of Swan's interviewees give him the correct answer:
... former Trump adviser Roger Stone told me: "Base would go insane and he knows it."
I asked Steve Bannon whether he could imagine Trump pivoting to the left on guns after the Las Vegas massacre. "Impossible: will be the end of everything," Bannon texted. When asked whether Trump's base would react worse to this than they would if he supported an immigration amnesty bill, Bannon replied: "as hard as it is to believe actually worse."
Would Trump's rank-and-file voters "go insane" if he backed gun control proposals? Maybe not all of them, or even most -- but the ones who did would be relentless in their opposition, and would dominate the debate, with the help of every conservative media outlet without exception. There'd be no upside to this, not even to the small challenge Swan regards as conceivable:
Trump could make a modest concession to gun control advocates by opposing a controversial bill, backed by the NRA, to relax restrictions on the purchasing of gun silencers. Politico reported, citing GOP sources, that the bill "won't be reaching the House floor anytime soon after a horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas."
Trump could get out in front of it, get a slap from the NRA on an issue that's not nearly so radioactive as gun ownership, and move on without considering more substantial gun control actions.
Why would he risk this? As Swan notes elsewhere:
* He feels closer to the NRA than just about any outside group.
* He believes his un-nuanced support for the Second Amendment was crucial to his election victory.
It's hard to imagine a more Trump-like political organization than the NRA. Both are relentlessly on offense. Both threaten their friends (who'd better not show any disloyalty) while brutalizing their enemies (who are deemed less than human because they dare to put up a challenge). Both claim they're the only bulwark against the apocalypse, which both claim is amok in the streets as we speak.
Watch the Donald Trump "closing argument" campaign ad and the notorious Dana Loesch NRA ad back to back. Notice the similarities? In each, evil forces are rampant. In each, salvation comes only from an alliance with the savior -- Trump or the NRA.
Of course, Trump has tossed aside people whose eagerness for a brawl resonates with his own -- Bannon, Mike Flynn. But they embarrassed him, or failed him, or tried to steal his spotlight. The NRA doesn't do that. It stays in its corner, pumping out propaganda to its loyalists -- and remaining loyal to Trump.
And what would Trump gain by breaking ranks with an organization that's more popular than he is?
That's America's real shame -- no matter what the NRA does, it still has a remarkably high level of support. Many say that we can be sure the federal government will do nothing after Las Vegas because it did nothing after Sandy Hook. The way I'd put it is: We know nothing will change after Las Vegas because the American people didn't reject the NRA after Sandy Hook. Even following the insane, foaming-at-the-mouth, proto-Trumpian speech Wayne LaPierre delivered in response to the Sandy Hook massacre, the NRA's popularity declined only to 42% in a Public Policy Polling survey, with 45% disapproving. Shortly after the speech, in response to the Quinnipiac question "Who do you think better reflects your views on guns, President Obama or the National Rifle Association?," 46% of respondents chose the NRA and only 43% chose the president. Among whites, the numbers were a solid 51%-38% in the NRA's favor; among men, 55%-35%.
And that was the low point for the NRA in recent years. In October 2015 -- four months after Dylann Roof killed nine people in a Charleston church, and days after Christopher Harper-Mercer, 26, killed nine people at Oregon's Umpqua Community College -- Gallup told us this:
... in a Gallup poll from Oct. 7-11, a solid majority of Americans (58%) say they have an overall favorable impression of the NRA. This includes the highest recording of "very favorable" opinions (26%) since Gallup began asking this question in 1989.
Among moderates, 56% had a favorable opinion of the NRA, as did 30% of liberals.
And a few months ago, there was this:
A majority of Americans believe the National Rifle Association has either too little influence over gun laws or the right amount of influence....
The Pew Research Center's Guns in America report found 15 percent believe the group has too little influence, 40 percent believe the group has the right amount of influence, and 44 percent believe the group has too much influence over gun laws.
Swan quotes "a Trump administration source" who says that Trump will face "immense political pressure" to support some gun control measures? Pressure? Are you kidding? Trump's base is the NRA's base, and the NRA's base is never going to turn away from the group. These are the only people Trump cares about pleasing, and their tribal loyalties are to the NRA, no matter what they may believe about background checks at gun shows. They'll never oppose the group -- and neither will Trump.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog