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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Must Rework Gun Control Policy to Win in ’08

Dems who want to get up to speed on the politics of gun control must read Sasha Abramsky’s “Democrat Killer?” in The Nation. Abramsky makes a compelling case that a one-size-fits-all pro-gun control policy is a huge loser for Dems in the west and south:

Nationally, as the Democrats do the Electoral College math and realize the rising importance of the mountain and desert West to their presidential hopes, more and more are making this realpolitik calculation. If the South is now virtually unwinnable for national Democratic candidates, the party can craft a new Electoral College majority only if it can figure out how to make significant inroads into this region, into beautiful Open Road states like Nevada and New Mexico that, in 2004, went mildly Republican in the presidential election, while notching up significant victories or maintaining power for local and state Democratic Party politicians. And crafting a new stance on guns seems to a growing number of Democrats to be just the way to do that.

A more carefully-calibrated approach to gun control, says Abramsky, could reap new victories for Democratic candidates:

Rethinking guns is not only less morally toxic and less politically costly than any effort to recalibrate the party’s position on abortion or gay rights but could yield far greater political gains…It would take only a few thousand such voters to change their votes in New Mexico and Nevada for a Democratic presidential candidate to win both those states; and while Colorado and Montana are harder nuts to crack, they are certainly on the party’s radar. Win three of these four states, or win two of them plus Iowa, and the Democrats have an Electoral College majority again.

Abramsky concedes that there are tough moral and political concerns to balance in reformulating the Dems’ gun control polices. But Dems must not lose sight of the central issue. As Abramsky asks,

After all, what’s the point in staking the moral and intellectual high ground on gun control, as I believe gun-control proponents have done, if in doing so you lose the larger war for political power and the ability to enact all the other aspects of your program?

A good question — and one which Democrats must address to win back control of the White House and congress.