Gun ruling allows rural Democrats to focus on Democratic issues

One of the challenges of being a Democrat in a rural place is that you are often trying to convince your neighbors to join your cause for economic reasons (Democrats have, historically, reduced the national debt and grown jobs while Republicans have, historically, tightened the job market and driven up the national debt). But, while you’re saying all that, your neighbors are concerned about gun control. They genuinely fear that Democratic policies will cause them to lose their rights to own guns and use them legally.

Guns are a huge part of the culture in northern Minnesota and many other parts of the country. It’s not that our people are specifically worried about violent crime, black helicopters and brutal government oppression (though some are), it’s that guns are emblematic of our culture, the concept of freedom and independence. Guns are an important part of my friends’ and family’s identity as hunters and independent-minded northern folks.

So today is a very important day for Democrats in rural areas. The Supreme Court has ruled that Washington D.C.’s landmark law banning handguns is unconstitutional. The Court’s decision affirms a law abiding American citizen’s right to own guns.

What this means is that the federal and state governments can no longer pass gun laws that don’t meet this new Constitutional standard. This further means that Republicans can no longer accuse Democrats of seeking — in the open or in secret — new laws to restrict gun ownership as a way to drum up votes from rural people. The Second Amendment is now defined quite clearly. Barack Obama, when pushed on his negative rating from the National Rifle Association, can (and should) say that legal gun ownership is an established right, we need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and focus on reducing violent crime in our cities. Political analyst Taegan Goddard says this Supreme Court decision takes gun control out of the national debate.

Which leaves voters to ask other questions. Whose got the best ideas for the economy? Who’s got the most effective foreign policy for the 21st century. Who’s going to fix my damn road?

These are all Democratic issues, or at least they should be, so today is a big victory for rural Democrats.


  1. 1. Who’s got the best ideas for the economy?

    While neither party seems to have very good ideas, I have to say I much prefer John McCain’s ideas to Barack Obama’s. Barack Obama sounds way too much like Jimmy Carter for my liking. As much as I don’t care for George Bush, I’d much rather have Bush III than Carter II.

    2. Who has the most effective foreign policy for the 21st Century?

    While the Middle East is a mess, I much prefer McCain’s engagment plan rather than Obama’s isolation and surrender plan.

    3. Who’s going to fix my damn road?

    I don’t know what we can say about the two presidential candidate, as this is more of a local issue. But the Republicans have favored moremoney for roads while Democrats have tradionally favored shifting more money towards light rail. If it were all up to the elitist liberals, everybody would be living in apartments on the light rail line.

  2. I’m not so sure this doesn’t make gun control an even a bigger albatross for the Democrats. Obama, “flip-flopped”, to steal a phrase from the neocons, today about the DC gun ban. If anything it brings the gun control issue back to the forefront in the media, and Obama is set to be hurt in all the red states, as well as the crucial battleground states.

    As a strict constitutionalist, (and gun nut), I agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling, but I am scared this will shift votes away from Barak, and we will end up with another four years of Republican presidency…

  3. Thanks both for great comments!

    @ Todd —
    The Jimmy Carter II line? Really? I don’t buy that. First off, anyone telling you it’s easy to get off oil is lying. But you know that. My point is that it’s going to require doing what Carter (yes, Carter) said we should do in the late ’70s. Conserve and invest. For real this time.

    The reality is that, other than food and gas prices which are a global issue, most of our economic problems are mental, not actual. If McCain is elected, essentially continuing all the Bush policies that A) caused the budget deficits, B) ran up the country’s credit card, and C) put us into an expensive arbitrary foreign war that delayed the elimination of Al Qaida and empowered Iran, well, then we can count on Americans — even many of the ones who voted for McCain — to remain cautious for the foreseeable future. We need a clean break for any real change to happen. (And I’m the first to admit that Obama is much more of an incremental change agent than many believe).

    We need rail and roads and high speed internet and new schools. Sounds expensive because it is. But China, India and others are figuring it out a lot faster than us. It’s a new world.

    Obama is advocating roughly the same foreign policy of talking to everyone and leaving force on the table as Truman, Kennedy, Reagan and Bush 41. (Even Teddy Roosevelt’s “Speak Softly and carry a big stick” is closer to Obama than McCain). McCain is following the Bush 43 model of calling people we don’t like terrorists, isolating them and us and allowing them to use our own foreign policy to create more terrorists and bolster their despotic regimes. It’s just stupid.

    And the first party to get Highway 169 paved all the way from Hibbing to Grand Rapids has my undying loyalty. It took the DFLers overriding the Pawlenty veto to get it up from 2023 to sometime in the next decade. I’m betting that Pawlenty won’t be paving that road during his administration.

    @ Silkweasel
    I think Obama just has to repeat what he has always said, which is that people from rural areas see the issue much differently than those who live in the inner cities. The goals of eliminating gun violence don’t have to be incompatible with the goals of preserving constitutional freedoms. I really think guns will be less of an issue than they were with Kerry.

  4. Anonymous says

    I support hunters, and I believe in gun control. I do NOT believe the two are mutually exclusive any more than I believe there is a need for anyone to carry a handgun.

    In my opinion, the supreme court got it wrong. Really wrong.

  5. Aaron,

    I wasn’t talking about the idea of conserving. It’s the “windfall profits tax” that really makes me wonder if Obama has studied history. It’s ideas like that which led to the long lines at the gas pumps in the late 1970s. I was alive at that point, but was only an infant. I really don’t want to see that happen in my adult lifetime. For the record, I do think Carter had one good idea, which was zero-based budgeting.

    I agree with you that we need good schools and high-speed internet. I still cannot figure out the obsession some people (not you) have with rail though. Cars were invented so people didn’t have to have a railroad track close to them to get where they needed to go. I can understand exploring the idea of putting super high speed rail (like they have in France) in extremely densely populated area such as the Northeast and Southern California. But the idea of rail between Duluth and the Twin Cities is downright laughable. Nobody will ride it and it would lose boatloads of money. That’s why no private business will put service in. It’s not a bad idea to explore the idea of rail service in the Twin Cities, but the way they are doing it is a joke. The Hiawatha line has made traffic significantly worse during rush hour along the one shortcut between Downtown Minneapolis and Bloomington. Why? Because they built in on groud level where it has to cross several streets. It would make the project more expensive to make bridges where it crosses roads, but they just made the traffic problem worse than it was prior to building the rail. It just seems so typical of Minnesota to build shoddy projects (Metrodome) like this all the time. I currently live in Dallas, TX and they built the rail down here the right way. Although it was likely more expensive, it doesn’t cut off car traffic every time it intersects with a road. While the state and local governments are far from perfect down here, they make the state and local governments in Minnesota look silly.

    We’ll agree to disagree on foreign policy.

    Well, I have a 5:00 AM flight back to my parents’ house north of Duluth tomorrow morning, so that is the end of my rant for tonight. I’ll check your site during my layover at MSP in the morning.

  6. Todd —

    I’ll break from the soundbites for a moment and agree that the “windfall profits tax” isn’t going to solve the problem. It’s a market issue, pure and simple. That’s why government needs to use it’s resources to encourage other markets to help people. We need to figure out a way to make low mileage cars affordable to regular folks in the short term and then figure out how to get around the use of oil and gas in our transportation system in the long term. Detroit is responding, very slowly. The slowness there is what concerns me the most. America owes it’s success to its innovation in capitalism. Yet, today, we are being schooled by India and others. Our whole governmental system is set up to defend a corporate system that is no longer as good as it once was.

    OK, before I start ranting. 🙂

    I like rail where it works. I would love rail to come up north some day, but we need to get people here first. I think our money’s better spent in community infrastructure that will attract people. When a census shows positive growth for the first time in 50 plus years then we in northern Minnesota can talk about commuter rail. Until then, we’ve got work to do.

    (But I do like rail where there are people).


    Interesting article on how the gun ruling will effect McCain’s campaign strategy against Obama, as well as the NRA’s 40 million dollar ad campaign.

    If the Democrat party was smart they would have changed their position to advocate no new gun laws, including the renewal of the assault weapons ban. This would have negated the Republican’s strongest card against the Democrats.

    I believe Obama’s record on guns will now be made into an issue and may well end up costing him the election due to losses in swing states.

  8. Silkweasel —

    I don’t see how Obama has a bigger problem with this than Kerry did and I don’t think it was guns that cost Kerry the ’04 election. Everyone might be charged up now, and the NRA can run a large campaign, but Obama has a simple out by saying that the court has established a clear precedent on this issue.

  9. I support the court’s gun rights ruling and hope that it does help the rural voters to focus more on economic issues. Many of us rank-and-file Democrats have always supported the right to keep and bear arms. The Democratic Party needs to embrace the Second Amendment and focus on being the party of working families.

  10. Aaron,

    That’s an interesting point you bring up about the products that Detroit has put out the past couple of decades. I personally don’t like the government getting into setting milage standards for the simple fact that the market will take care of things like that, like it is starting to now. Simply put, companies like Toyota and Honda have killed the Big 3 with the smaller and more fuel efficient vehicle models. I personally think we will see a significant portion of the population (25%+) driving electric cars in 15-20 years. On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I had a chance visit the Tesla Motors ( showroom. They are only marketing to the high end customers now, but to say the least their product is extremely impressive. The salesman I spoke with said that they should have a car that costs somewhere between $28,000 and $40,000 with a range of 600+ miles on a single charge by 2012-2013. They were the ones who pretty much forced forced GM to introduce the Chevy Volt concept car. If the Big Three cannot change and change quickly, I have a feeling you will see the power in the auto industry shift dramatically away from Detroit and more towards places like the Silicon Valley.

    As for guns, I think Obama is going to have a ton of problems with voters on the issue. He will have a tough time explaining some of his past stances and the NRA is very good at getting voters to the polls.

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