Second Amendment Poses Problem for Democrats in Moderate Districts

Following the knock-down, drag-out presidential primary, which pitted the Bernie Bros against the Hillarybots, it looked as if Democrats would be forced to deal with internal factionalism for the foreseeable future. That turned out to be half true. Democrats are involved in myriad messy skirmishes across the midterm map, but the divisions are not between Clinton disciples and Sanders acolytes, they are between cultural moderates and progressives.

Democrats desperately wanted to avoid this situation. Establishment types hoped to put identity politics behind them and instead lean into kitchen table issues like the economy, jobs and health care. Sure, there would inevitably be disagreement between the Sanders wing, who hoped to blow up the status quo in favor of a democratic socialist foundation, and the Clinton wing, who hoped to make incremental changes to the Obama-era framework, but these could be ironed out with enough work. The key was that they were talking about issues that galvanized not just their base, but all Americans.

At least, that was the plan. As Josh Kraushaar reports for National Journal, Democrats are being forced to recon with messy internal skirmishes between strategists and activists that is threatening their chances of winning the House.

But as the nation’s first primaries begin in two weeks, Democrats are recognizing they have some serious problems in critical races with little time to spare. …

[G]rowing activism from the progressive base on the hot-button cultural issues of guns and immigration remain a small risk as crowded primary campaigns get underway. One of the party’s strongest recruits, state Sen. Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey, was harangued by gun-control activists for having accepted money from the National Rifle Association in the past. With that standard becoming a liberal litmus test in the post-Parkland political environment, other Democratic candidates in more conservative parts of the country could feel the heat.

Immigration has temporarily faded from the spotlight, but Democrats could seek to distinguish themselves by veering leftward on supporting sanctuary cities or opposing border-security measures. With many battleground House races taking place in the GOP-leaning suburbs, that’s a risky place for a nominee to be.

These are issues that needn’t necessarily be thorns in the sides of Democrats. After all, on immigration President Trump has offered up terms that closely resemble what Sen. Schumer’s Gang of Eight proposed four years ago. And on guns, Trump has called for comprehensive legislation that would expand background checks, improve security in schools, and restrict guns from individuals with mental illness.

Democrats can’t take advantage of the opportunity for making incremental progress because they are dually focused on denying President Trump policy wins and refusing to allow Republicans to own any part of a solution. But by creating liberal litmus tests that offer no room for bipartisan support they eliminate any ability to pass legislation, and they put Democrats in moderate districts at tremendous risk. For if Democrats are to ever regain the House, they absolutely must win back the Obama-turned-Trump voters in the Rust Belt and suburbs surrounding their city-based strongholds.

Second Amendment issues pose a particular challenge for Democrats. As one former Democrat leadership aide told The Hill: “It’s easier to demagogue on this than to do something about it,and you risk overreaching as a party if you try to make it a one-size-fits-all [issue].”

One-size-fits-all appears to be the only size that Democrats know. And frankly, that doesn’t work if the ones doing the sizing come from unrepresentative districts in Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco and Chuck Schumer’s New York. Democrat strategists clearly understand that dynamic, but activists—who currently control the party’s direction—not only don’t understand, they don’t care. In fact, as Politico’s Laura Nahmias and Lauren Dezenski report, they’re actively primarying any Democrat who doesn’t live within the increasingly narrow boundaries of the party’s orthodoxy.