The National Rifle Association has long been one of the most influential lobbying groups in the United States, not only in helping elect pro-gun candidates but also in preventing any common sense gun legislation from getting through Congress.
But, as Sen. Chris Murphy said on Wednesday, the Democratic wave on Tuesday – particularly in Virginia – proves that progressive candidates can win by standing up against the NRA and for sensible gun policies.
— Sean Colarossi (@SeanColarossi) November 9, 2017
It is a real wake up call to Democrats that if you leave the playing field on guns to Republicans alone, you will lose. But if you stand proudly for policies that the majority of Americans support, like background checks, and don’t back away from it, you are actually going to gin up turnout and in 2018, it’s going to be turnout that decides these elections. And I think last night was truly a game-changer on this issue.
For decades, the NRA has held a tight grip on Republicans – and even gun-friendly Democrats – who were too afraid to take strong, common sense positions on gun safety. That stranglehold still exists within the Republican Party, which is why they continue to oppose even the most incremental changes to America’s gun laws, but Democrats are beginning to change.
Nowhere was there more evident than in this year’s gubernatorial race in Virginia.
Pro-gun organizations poured real money into that race and Democratic candidate Ralph Northam wasn’t shy about his position on guns. In fact, on Northam’s campaign website, he bragged about blocking concealed carry legislation and proudly threw his support behind popular gun control measures, including universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.
Northam ended up winning the contest by about nine percentage points, a wider margin than most pundits and polls predicted.
Not only did the Democratic candidate win, but among voters who said guns were the most important issue, he split the vote with his Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie. That is a stunning game-changer, as Murphy said on Wednesday.
As gun violence continues to rear its ugly head all across this country, the American people want to see real change, not more extremist, guns-everywhere rhetoric from an organization that is increasingly outside the mainstream of American politics.
Like Northam, future Democratic candidates would be smart to recognize that and campaign accordingly.