Well, this worked:
A South Carolina Republican congressman is not backing down from critics after he pulled out his own personal — and loaded — .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun during a meeting with constituents Friday.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, told The Post and Courier he pulled out the weapon and placed it on a table for several minutes in attempt to make a point that guns are only dangerous in the hands of criminals.
"I'm not going to be a Gabby Giffords," Norman said afterward, referring to the former Arizona Democratic congresswoman who was shot outside a Tucson-area grocery store during a constituent gathering in 2011.
Norman got just what he wanted. He was denounced by a major gun control group:
“Rep. Norman’s behavior today was a far cry from what responsible gun ownership looks like,” said Lori Freemon, a volunteer [from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America] who attended the meeting, in a news release. “I had looked forward to a respectful dialogue with my representative about common-sense gun violence prevention policies.”
“Instead, I felt unsafe when he insisted on showing us his loaded gun and keeping it out on the table for much of our conversation,” she said.
And he made the national news -- here are stories from The Washington Post, CNN, Fox, Politico, Mother Jones, RedState, Talking Points Memo, and Twitchy. Two days ago, most of America had never heard of the guy. Now he's a right-wing hero.
To understand why this happened, it helps to know that Norman is running scared. He's in a district that has a Cook Political Report rating of R+9, which means it should be very safe for the GOP, but he barely won the seat last year, in a special election to replace Mick Mulvaney, the current Office of Management and Budget head. In that election -- which took place the same day as the special election in Georgia in which Jon Ossoff lost, though it got much less attention -- Norman barely defeated Democrat Archie Parnell, 51%-48%. Parnell is running again, and a couple of months ago he was reported to have more than twice as much campaign money in the bank as Norman.
At Vox yesterday, Tara Golshan published a piece under the headline "If Taxes Aren’t Working, Will Desperate Republicans Keep Turning to Race-Based Attacks?"
In the Trump era of Republican politics, the backup plan to an ineffective economic message has been to wage a culture war.
Fearmongering and race-baiting about MS-13 gangs, Confederate statues, and sanctuary cities are divisive messages that worked for Trump. When polls tighten, we’ve seen Republicans turn to these messages in the final weeks of the race.
I agree that will be a common GOP strategy, even though it hasn't worked in a number of recent high-profile special elections -- but I think Republicans will also wave a lot of guns around. Of course, that didn't work for Roy Moore -- you'll remember that he pulled out a handgun during a campaign rally in September. But tribal shibboleths are really all the Republicans have right now. So if you're at a GOP campaign event between now and November, expect to have the candidate wave a gun around. I'm sure it will goose Republican turnout a little bit.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog