Thursday, January 17, 2013

National Ranting Association

The NRA used to be a highly-respected organization, focused on defending a part of the Bill of Rights held sacrosanct in American society. They were a very powerful organization, too, so powerful that nobody dared stand against it. Gun debates, for a long time, were immediately shut down the second the NRA entered the fray, because they had so much money, so much control, so much ability to influence lawmakers and policy, that gun-control advocates cowered before them, fearful of what might happen if they dared to oppose the NRA too loudly and despairing of any chance of a positive outcome.

It is safe to say that those days are over. The notion that the NRA carried outsized clout in politics was dealt a gouge the size of the Grand Canyon on Election Day. After spending $11.1 million dollars in the 2012 election, the NRA got a whopping 0.83% return on investment. To compare, you literally have better odds playing the Harlem Globetrotters. (They state 24,000 wins- at least- and 345 losses as of New Year's Day. Given those numbers, opponents, therefore, have a 1.42% chance of winning.) The total breakdown of such a total breakdown is here.

And then Newtown happened. After Newtown, the dam broke. The impossible debate became possible, became real. And the NRA was caught utterly flat-footed. Rachel Maddow theorized last week that they had become a victim of their own success: they became so successful at shutting down debate before it began that they became legitimately surprised when one did get started, and they had no idea what to do next. They were invited to the White House and said they were "disappointed" when gun control was placed on the table, as though there were any chance that it wouldn't be. A thick, massive city wall was left to defend a solitary wooden shack. For the first week after the shooting, the NRA was completely silent, leaving their opposition to run wild.

And then NRA head Wayne LaPierre opened his mouth, stating that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” and it was quickly apparent that silence had been their best move. Ever since LaPierre's press conference, the NRA has added nothing to the post-Newtown debate other than bewilderment and shock that the positions they hold could possibly be real. An aura of invincibility was replaced with an aura of impotent insanity from an organization now viewed as focused on nothing but ensuring a constant stream of revenue for gun manufacturers.

This aura may have crystallized on Tuesday, when the NRA posted an ad online accusing Barack Obama of being an "elitist hypocrite", on the rationale that, although he doesn't think armed guards in schools are the answer, his daughters, Sasha and Malia, have armed guards at their school. Never mind the fact that they're, oh, I don't know, the daughters of the President of the United States; daughters who had said and done nothing to insert themselves into the debate at all other than to happen to be the daughters of someone who was.

The ad, and the reaction by the crew of MSNBC's Morning Joe, can be seen below.

How can an organization be taken seriously after weeks on end of shockingly out-of-touch statements like the ones the NRA, and Wayne LaPierre in particular, have released in such a high-profile setting? Sure, their membership is large, but does the profile of their more active and outspoken membership differ appreciably from the membership of a selection of other conservative-aligned causes? Aren't they simply one more branch of a worldview on the wane, and worse, catering to a subset of that worldview that is among the country's most unhinged and dangerous-- people that many feel should not have guns?

And aren't they merely joining PETA on the sidelines, as a once-legitimate, now-disgraced group taken over by its fringe?

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