Jan 14th 2013

Why the NRA is Becoming the “Great Oz”

by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on amazon.com.
For years the NRA has struck terror into the hearts of many Members of Congress. The organization’s officers and lobbyists purported to represent the interests and wishes of millions of American gun owners.
Members of Congress believed that negative NRA ratings – and a flood of NRA money – could sink their political careers faster than you could say “AR-15.”
But the American people, and Members of Congress, are gradually awaking to the fact that – just as with the Wizard of Oz – there isn’t much behind the NRA’s magic curtain but the big booming voice of a special interest bully whose power derives more from perception than reality.
It is of course true that in politics the perception of power translates into the reality of power. The problem is that once it becomes clear that you’re all hat and no cattle, the myth of power rapidly collapses into a pile of dust.  That is exactly what is happening to the NRA.  Here’s why.
Reason #1. First and foremost, in 2012 the NRA had exactly zero effect on the outcome of the General Election – or to be more precise, it had about .83% effect. 
One of the big stories of the 2012 election was the failure of some of the big name right wing PACs to win many races.  The Sunlight Foundation calculated the relative effectiveness of a number of right wing PACs and found that most of their money did not buy success. 
The National Republican Congressional Committee had only a 31.8% percent success rate.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce only had a 6.9% success rate.
Karl Rove’s non-profit, Crossroads GPS, did a little better, spending $70 million with a 14.43% success rate.  But his American Crossroads Super Pac had only a 1.29% success rate after spending over $104 million.
The NRA’s Legislative Institute had only a 10.74% success rate.
But the NRA main PAC wasn’t just your run of the mill failure of the 2012 election year.  It won the prize for the very worst performance of the entire gang. In fact of the  $11.1 million it spent, only .83% went to winning candidates.
And to make matters worse, it didn’t just have a dismal batting average; many progressive PACs spent just as much, and were much more effective.
The League of Conservation Voters raised and spent almost $11 million, but instead of a .83% success rate, they had an 83% success rate.
Planned Parenthood’s two PACs raised and spent over $11 – and had a 98% success rate. 
Part of the reason for the NRA’s horrible success rate is the fact that rather than back candidates that support the Second Amendment – a goal endorsed by many of its individual members – it has become for all practical purposes a wing of the Republican Party.
But that isn’t the only disjuncture between the interests of NRA members and those of its officers and lobbyists.
Reason #2.   Turns out that the officers and lobbyists of the NRA actually represent weapons manufacturers, not rank and file gun owners.  That's why they refuse to support common sense restrictions on military style assault weapons, magazines that hold a hundred bullets, or background checks for anyone who buys a gun, even though most Americans – and many gun owners  - support these measures.
CBS News poll showed that 57% now support stronger laws, an 18-point increase since last April (39%). A USA Today/Gallup poll showed a similar trend, with 58% supporting stronger laws, 15 points above the level of support in October 2011 (43%).
In a CNN/ORC poll, the most pronounced shift was on support for a ban on assault guns like the AK-47, with 62% of Americans supporting such a ban, a 5-point increase from last August.
In fact, according to the CNN/ORC poll, 95% of all Americans think that everyone who buys a gun should have to undergo a background check. A December Washington Post poll shows this strong support for universal back ground checks extends to gun owners as well.  Many people believe background checks are already required for all gun purchases, but the fact is that 40% of all gun sales are “private transactions” – at gun shows or from private gun sellers where no background check is currently required.  That's like having two lines in airport security -- one that checks for bombs and weapons and one that doesn't.  Which one do you think would be chosen by those who seek to do us harm? 
And to make matters worse, databases of many states are not maintained.  Bottom line: it easy for dangerous criminals and the mentally ill to buy deadly weapons.
According to the Huffington Post, a recent bipartisan poll conducted for Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that:
"Large majorities of Americans agree with the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to own guns, and Americans strongly oppose efforts to ban handguns," said Bob Carpenter, vice president of American Viewpoint, the Republican polling firm that joined with Democratic firm Momentum Analysis to conduct the survey. "But Americans and gun owners feel with equal fervor that government must act to get every single record in the background-check system that belongs there and to ensure that every gun sale includes a background check. Most Americans view these goals, protecting gun rights for the law-abiding and keeping guns from criminals, as compatible."
That is directly contrary to the positions of the NRA’s high command.
The goal of the officers and lobbyists of the NRA is not to protect the rights of gun owners; it is to maximize the profits of weapons manufacturers and arms dealers.
They love to frighten law-abiding gun owners with the prospect that common sense measures to reduce gun violence put America on the “slippery slope” to end the right to bear arms and to the confiscation of your hunting rifle.  Their attempts to develop paranoia about confiscation – and about government tyranny – are good for business; it’s that simple.
After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the NRA’s fear-mongering caused a massive spike in the sales of semi-automatic assault weapons. 
And the reason the NRA is so keen on preventing a new assault weapon ban is that its customer base is shrinking from about 50% of the population forty years ago, to about a third.  And that base of current gun owners already owns a whopping 270 million guns.  In fact, with 5% of the world’s population, America already has about 50% of the world’s guns.  One way to continue to raise the profit margins of gun manufacturers is to sell increasingly powerful, expensive guns like the “Bushmaster” that was used to kill the children at Sandy Hook elementary school.
The problem for the NRA’s officers and lobbyists, is that events like the Sandy Hook massacre make it crystal clear that there is no relationship between the NRA’s defense of semi-automatic weapons that can fire off dozens of rounds in a few seconds, and the weapons everyday gun owners need for hunting or for their personal safety.
No one uses a “Bushmaster” to shoot ducks.  And there are not many Americans who keep a loaded semi-automatic assault weapon under their pillow for self-defense.
And there is another reason why all the talk about “slippery slopes” increasingly rings hollow.
Reason #3.   The Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia vs. Heller made it crystal clear that the Second Amendment does in fact protect the right to own guns for hunting and self defense.  It also made clear that this right does not preclude the government from imposing common sense regulations on the sale and performance of weapons that can be marketed to the general public – nor does it prevent the passage of laws that prevent dangerous individuals from buying a gun.
The Supreme Court decision makes the “slippery slope” argument – the fear that the government is on the verge of confiscating their guns – into complete hogwash.
As more and more Americans recognize that their right to own guns is not jeopardized by common sense measures to curb gun violence, it will be harder and harder for the NRA leadership to continue to frighten gun owners with the phony specter of confiscation.
Reason #4. The NRA is led by officers and lobbyists that have lost touch with the reality of the American electorate.  NRA Executive VP, Wayne LaPierre’s press conference immediately after Sandy Hook was completely tone deaf.  It didn’t demonstrate an ounce of empathy for the six-year old children who were murdered – or for the grief felt by their families.  Instead it focused entirely on promoting the sale of more and more guns.
That might be good for short-term gun sales, but it continues to unmask the massive gulf between everyday Americans -- including the millions of everyday American gun owners on the one hand, and those on Wall Street that make hundreds of millions of dollars selling weapons like the “Bushmaster” on the other.  The “Bushmaster” – or AR-15 – has no purpose other than killing the largest number of human beings in the shortest possible period of time.
And it turns out we haven’t had to wait long to see the image of the NRA’s invincibility dissolve before our eyes. 
For years the NRA has had a net positive rating with the public.  No longer.  A recent poll from Public Policy Polling found that in the period following the Sandy Hook massacre, support for the gun advocacy organization fell from 48 percent to 42 percent, while negative views increased from 41 percent to 45 percent.
For decades, the conventional wisdom in Washington has held that if the NRA opposed a gun bill, it was doomed.  But there is a new reality in America.  The faces of the children and women who died at Sandy Hook – and the faces of all of those who are dying in cities across America every day – have transformed the debate.
Increasingly, the struggle to reduce gun violence is being seen for what it is.  Instead of a fight between gun owners and the “government” – it is becoming a battle between the rights of innocent victims of violence and the profits of weapons manufacturers.
And with every passing day, more and more politicians are beginning to realize that the NRA is nothing more than “the Great Oz.”
          Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book:  Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "
Jan 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "Barack Obama cautioned in his final speech as president that, “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” Yet isn’t that exactly what America has been doing? In a decade punctuated by the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, a racial-justice crisis, an inequality crisis, and now a political crisis, we have only paid lip service to lofty democratic ideals. ... Sadly, this complacency has come at a time of growing fragility for the American experiment. Internet-enabled connectivity is dangerously amplifying an increasingly polarized national discourse in an era of mounting social and political instability. The resulting vulnerability was brought into painfully sharp focus on January 6. The stewardship of democracy is at grave risk. "