Earlier this month, I wrote that the pending decision to overturn Roe v. Wade could change the political landscape if Democrats handled the issue correctly. The tragedy in Uvalde, Texas could add to that shift in the dynamic heading into the mid-terms. In both instances, the Republican response is out of touch with mainstream America. Democrats need to respond in a way that reflects the views of most Americans while illustrating Republican extremism.
America is reeling from the most deadly school shooting since Newtown and people want action. Conservatives reflexively denied that guns were the problem and GOP leaders immediately warned against taking any action that might remove them from the hands of killers. Instead, they offered a bunch of bad ideas like arming teachers and reducing entrances in school. They ignored prevention and instead called for making schools “hardened targets,” as if we’re in a war zone. That’s not the way Americans want to think about their schools.
Conservatives’ good-guy-with-a-gun argument took a huge hit. The school in Uvalde had an armed officer on duty who did not engage the shooter and then police apparently did not confront the shooter until he had been inside for an hour. More guns and armed police did not prevent more death.
Now, Democrats need to confront the issue of gun control in a way that builds support. They should address the concerns of the American people, not the agenda of the gun-control lobby. Simple first steps like universal background checks, red-flag laws, and regulating assault weapons would all have broad public support and could drive a wedge between a public that supports those measures and a GOP that opposes them.
Democrats need to learn from their first whiff at addressing access to abortion. Instead introducing legislation that had broad support, the Senate offered a bill designed to keep the activists happy. Moderate supporters of Roe voted against the bill. A more modest bill would have gotten majority and bipartisan support, but stilled failed, giving Democrats a strong case for casting Republicans as extremists on the issue.
Democrats have a hard time resisting trying to do too much with too little support. Their Build Back Better bill attempted transformational change despite Democrats holding the slimmest majorities. Their abortion bill alienated people who might have supported something more narrow. The party needs to resist those impulses when it comes to addressing gun violence. Get the win and paint Republicans as out of touch. They can then build on success instead of recovering from failure. The messaging bills aren’t working. They should try results instead.