Politics: Of Astroturf & Federalism
The Pennsylvanian Democratic primaries are coming up, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are doing their best to (rather shamelessly) pander to PA's gun owners. If you've seen any of the debates (including the one last week), then you saw the standard presidential candidate's response when confronted with a history of anti-gun measures. Here's part of the Althouse liveblog of the debate:
9:24. It's the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. People are saying a prayer. It takes a fraction of a second for Obama to bow his head. Prayer: Bows head. Great reflexes! That's just an intro to a question about gun control. Hillary keeps talking about Mayor Nutter — love the name. Both Hillary and Obama do exactly what you'd expect them to do: Distinguish between the good guys, who deserve respect as they go their traditional ways, and the bad guys, who deserve regulation. We can be sensible. Balanced. Don't give guns to "the mentally deranged," Obama advises. That's all very nice but do you support the D.C. ban, the one that's before the Supreme Court? Hillary waffles about how she doesn't know the facts. She does a federalism riff: What might work in New York is certainly not going to work in Montana.
That last bit is a pretty contradictory thing for a Yale-educated lawyer to say, at least if Clinton is trying to convince people that she thinks they do have a right to own a gun. If that's the case, "what works in New York" is entirely irrelevant. Both Obama and Clinton probably took Constitutional Law when they were in law school - the bedrock principle of the Bill of Rights is that some rights cannot ever be legislated away, even if a majority goes along with it.
And it's not surprising Obama got the endorsement of the AHSA - a gun control organization masquerading as a pro-gun rights group. It's an interesting attempt to fake grassroots support - "astroturf," as we call it in the blogosphere. For someone who's supposedly trying to change politics as usual, it's a distressingly familiar approach.
That's because in recent years, many Dems have realized that the gun control issue is a loser with most of America, and so they've changed their rhetoric. I mean, politicians have always lied about what they're going to do when they get elected. What's new about modern politics is that men and women running for office misrepresent what they did in the past, too. When Thomas Jefferson ran in 1800, he probably didn't try to convince Federalists that he was something he was not.