Have Republicans, and the right wing in general, ever been more disjointed? More confused? More incapable of getting out of their own way?
Watching America's political conservatives try to counter-maneuver opposite Barack Obama's re-inauguration over the course of the last week has been an incredible comedy – like watching the Three Stooges try to perform a liver transplant on roller skates.
Let's review the basic timeline. First, Political Media, a conservative action group, decided to try to make an appeal to win the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere by declaring January 19th – previously known as Martin Luther King Day, to the rest of us – to be "Gun Appreciation Day."
They solicited hundreds of sponsors and sought to get 50 million people to sign a goofball petition (written in the style of the Declaration of Independence, with a plethora of "Whereas…"-es... Why do gun people insist on trying to use 18th-century syntax?) against the "tyrannical governments" that were out to take their guns. "Gun Appreciation Day" would also involve gun shows and other local events all over the country, meant as a counter-balance to the candle-toting gun control protests that were springing up over last weekend in anticipation of Obama's inauguration and the rumored plans for new gun legislation.
But even before their excellent idea gets out of the gate, it stalls out, as obnoxious reporters check the list of "Gun Appreciation Day" sponsors and find that the "American Third Position," a group that purports to represent the "unique political interests of White Americans," is one of the event's sponsors.
So now, Political Media has not only decided to hold its Gun Appreciation Event on a holiday meant to celebrate the life of a black leader who was a symbol of nonviolent protest and who was killed by a white man with a gun, it's done so with the financial help of some yahoo white supremacist group. But this doesn't derail the whole thing, as it's of course just an innocent mistake. Political Media kicks "Third Position" out and appropriately issues a statement, saying, "We have removed the group and reiterate this event is not about racial politics, it is about gun politics."
So far, so good, right? Well, then they go and actually hold their "Gun Appreciation Day" rallies all over the country, on Martin Luther King Day. And what happens? Five people get accidentally shot!
You can't make this stuff up. In three separate incidents – one in North Carolina, one in Ohio and one in Indiana – gun-loving real Americans did their darndest to worsen the demographics in the favor of the gun control lobby by blowing themselves away with accidental discharges. They failed, fortunately – all five victims in the three incidents survived – but you literally can't script a worse outcome for a political sideshow meant to highlight Americans' love of the wholesome, safe exercise of gun rights.
In North Carolina, three people – a 50-year-old man, a 54-year-old woman, and a 50-year-old retired sheriff's deputy – were injured when someone pulled a shotgun out of a display case and the 12-gauge accidentally went off, spraying the three people with birdshot.
In Ohio, a gun dealer was "checking out" a semi-automatic handgun he'd brought to a show at the Medina County Fairgrounds when he "accidentally" pulled the trigger, forgetting that, while he'd removed the magazine, he'd left a round in the chamber. According to the local police chief, the bullet "struck the floor, then a longtime friend of the gun dealer. The man was wounded in the arm and leg."
The man was rushed by helicopter to a hospital in Cleveland. I sure hope that dude has private health insurance that he paid for. If it turns out that taxpayers had to foot the bill for a freaking helicopter flight to rescue the friend of some gun-toting conservative who decided to protest the socialist Obama administration by accidentally shooting a pal on Martin Luther King Day, that would be some kind of embarrassing, wouldn't it?
Of course, that would fit right in with the kind of week gun advocates had. In a show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, one Emory Cozee was loading his .45 while walking back to his car when he accidentally shot himself in the wrist. Once again, the taxpayer had to step in to the man's aid, as state troopers rushed to the scene and transported Cozee to a nearby hospital. No charges were filed, stupidity not yet being against the law in Indiana, or anywhere else.
Beyond those five people getting shot, the other "Gun Appreciation" events went on without incident. Then we had Obama's inauguration, where the president took more than one opportunity to goad the gun lobby in advance of an upcoming heated fight over his proposed gun restrictions, saying among other things, "Being true to our founding documents . . . does not mean we will all define liberty in the same way," and, "We cannot substitute absolutism for principle."
Without even taking a position on Obama or his proposed gun law, let me say this: The president, when he makes his case, does not come across like a drooling maniac, like he's pissed off to the point of reaching back, grabbing a frying pan, and belting you across the forehead if you even think about disagreeing with him. He comes across like what he is – a calm, experienced attorney making a rhetorical argument to adults. That, plus a lot of video of little kids' bodies being hauled out of school rooms in suburban Connecticut, can win you a lot of votes with people on the fence on the gun issue.
Then there's Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA. He came out after Obama's speech and gave one of his own at the Weatherby International Hunting and Conservation Awards in Reno, Nevada. In it, LaPierre weaved back and forth like a maniac, his blond forelock heaving, as he blurted out semi-coherent, quasi-grammatical defenses of "absolutism," saying things like "absolutes do exist, it's [sic] the basis of all civilization," and "without those absolutes, democracy decays into nothing more than two wolves and one lamb voting on who to eat for lunch."
He then proceeded to double down on his organization's lunatic decision to inject Obama's daughters into the national gun debate, saying, "If neither criminals nor the political class, with their bodyguards and security people, are limited by magazine capacity, we shouldn't be limited in our capacity, either."
This was clearly a reference to the controversy about the NRA's recent TV buy, in which they blasted Obama for being an "elitist hypocrite" for allowing his daughters to have Secret Service protection while Joe Sixpack has to send his kids to school without paramilitary security experts. "Protection for their kids, and gun-free zones for ours," was the ad's nutty tagline.
The NRA was rightfully blasted for that crazy-ass commercial, which made no sense on any level and mainly painted the NRA as a bunch of disturbed rage-addicts who are completely out of touch with national sentiment after Sandy Hook. (Yes, the president's kids have Secret Service protection – to protect them from your members, you idiots!)
Overall, people like LaPierre have fallen into every single political trap that's been laid for them in the last month, allowing Democrats to paint them as humorless, frustrated and probably dangerous political radicals whose response to Sandy Hook has been to publicly attack the president's minor children and to propose more guns in schools. Even the surge in NRA membership numbers since Sandy Hook is a net minus for the NRA, politically, because it scares the hell out of normal people and will result in increased pressure on pro-NRA congressional members to distance themselves from people whose response to piles of mowed-down children is to buy more guns.
So to recap: The gun lobby's response to Obama's inauguration was to organize a "Gun Appreciation Day" on Martin Luther King Day that left five of their own gun-loving members accidentally shot. Then they responded to Obama's inaugural speech by doubling down on the "elitist hypocrite" ad that earned them near-universal condemnation previously. So how could things get worse?
Well, you could have a spokesman for Political Media, which organized "Gun Appreciation Day," tell the Hollywood Reporter that Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained is the perfect argument in support of gun rights. Political Media's Larry Ward said he's considering a "What Would Django Do?" campaign as part of this new rhetorical line they're thinking of trying to sell, particularly to the black community. The idea is, get this, that there wouldn't have been slavery if slaves had had gun rights.
"Django is perfect for what we're trying to do," said Ward, "which is to promote gun rights to minorities."
Hey, dipshit: Before anyone allowed slaves to have guns, they would have had to have other rights, like for instance being considered human beings. Are you people completely stupid? You'd have to have hoovered more coke than even Quentin Tarantino to imagine a world where white slave owners denied black people freedom of movement, denied them education and freedom of speech and dominion over their own bodies, but then for some reason also allowed them to buy guns. Jesus Christ! The whole point of slavery is that slaves didn't have any rights, much less the right to bear arms.
Now, Django Unchained is a movie that uses the N-word 109 times (breaking the all-time record set by Finding Nemo, as Kamau Bell wittily noted) and was so historically jumbled that it featured scenes of both the Ku Klux Klan and sunglasses before either existed. Can you imagine any white guy going into Bedford-Stuyvestant or Compton or any other place where so many young black people have been killed by guns, and trying to connect with them by telling them you're down with Django Unchained? That's how out-to-lunch these NRA dudes are, that they genuinely think this is their entrée into minority communities.
I'm not naïve enough to think that just being publicly stupid is going to result in political problems for American conservatives. That's never been the case before – hell, there are still people out there who think Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. There's enough popular anger out there toward Barack Obama that someone like Wayne LaPierre could probably shoot skeet on Martin Luther King's grave and public support for the NRA still won't drop below 40 percent.
But the behavior of the gun lobby in the last month will, for sure, have an impact on people who are on the fence about gun control. Moreover, there's bigger game in play here. The Republicans post-2012 have been staring down the barrel of an increasingly desperate demographic problem that will require the party to find some way to market itself to blacks, Hispanics, women, gays and other minorities or else be relegated to permanent minority status.
But after Sandy Hook, the Democrats have skillfully painted the Republicans as the party of scary-looking and scary-sounding white maniacs like Tennessee security-company CEO James Yeager, a shaven-headed, soul-patched anger-sick white loony who posted a video promising to go ape if gun laws are enacted. "If this goes one inch further, I'm going to start killing people," Yeager said.
Conservatives could have dealt with this post-Sandy Hook political curveball in a number of ways, from simply shutting up and working quietly behind the scenes to scuttle gun control efforts (that always worked before) to announcing willingness to engage in some extremely mild compromise (like maybe prohibiting schizophrenics from carrying machine guns near kindergartens).
Instead, they decided to piss all over Martin Luther King Day and then shoot themselves by the half-dozen in the process.
Well done, fellas! You're well on your way to solving your demographic problems.