On Friday’s Grassroots Radio, the discussion of Rep. Mike McLachlan’s (D-Durango) deceptive advertising of his own gun control positions turned to the national agenda being rammed down Colorado’s throat. I pointed out that while other states with Democrat majorities and governors – Illinois and Washington came to mind – had rejected similar proposals, Colorado had seemingly been singled out for lobbying by Mayor Bloomberg and Vice President Biden. Bloomberg has been open about his desire to influence other states’ policies, but traditionally, federal officeholders don’t meddle in state politics. Even Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter confined their post-Aurora comments to proposed federal legislation, not what Colorado ought or ought not do.
So something was up. Tomorrow’s New York Times tells us what: “If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere.” This was the article that Hick was waiting for, before announcing his intent to sign these bills on Wednesday.
It has been clear from the beginning that Obama plans to use gun control, not merely as a diversion from governing, but as a battering-ram issue to achieve his major 2nd-term objective: regaining the House of Representatives for the Democrats. To do that, he believes he must isolate the Republican House as being an obstruction to common-sense, practical gun control measures that most of the country agrees on. To do that, he must persuade enough Senate Democrats – especially Western Democrats – to back proposals that they really, really don’t want to even vote on, much less support.
Colorado becomes the key to providing them cover. The proposals – poorly-written, full of absurd outcomes – will have to be portrayed as practical compromises. The debate on the national level will mirror the deceptive line taken here: confusing sales with temporary transfers, or even loans to friends; outlawing magazines of more than 15 rounds, but forgetting to mention that inheriting such a magazine from a deceased parent is a criminal act, a felony, even. Colorado’s reputation as a western, freedom-loving state works in their favor.
This was a repeat of the entire Obamacare political drama, here at the state level. The Democrats in favor barely felt the need to argue for them on the floor, largely because when they did, they embarrassed themselves with references to pens as defensive weapons, whistles as substitutes for protection, and condescending to rape victims. State senators either abandoned, fled, or chastised their own town halls when the issue came up. Democratic leadership openly asked its members to ignore the public. The controversial bills passed without a single Republican vote, but over bipartisan opposition.
But the “If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere,” line of publicity conceals what really happened.
Ultimately, it makes the recalls of Sen. Hudak and Rep. McLachlan – along with whatever other vulnerable Dems can be included – even more important. Those recalls, like the recalls in Wisconsin, take on a national significance and urgency, not merely because of the issues involved, but because of the political implications at the national level. The promise of protection, of resources and money, to vulnerable Dems who backed him on this legislation, is the application of national resources to state races, just as the Blueprint was the application of state resources to local races. It is the Blueprint raised to a national scale. If Obama is able to implement that, then he will indeed have locked in substantial political changes that can change the society for the worse, for the long run.
On the other hand, if those promises can be shown to be empty – before the House of Representatives comes up for election, or has to vote on the national bills – then the entire narrative is turned on its head. Not only does Obama look like an unreliable friend, but the power of the issue dissipates. (That’s one reason why an initiative is more useful in the event that we fail to take back both the legislature and the governor’s mansion: only fiscal issues can be on the ballot in odd-numbered years.)
Hickenlooper, in 2012, specifically avoided charging voters up over this issue. Even in 2010, he didn’t really mention it at all. Colorado has not had a vigorous debate on these bills or these issues. This was not something done by us. It was something done to us.
It’s our move, Colorado.