The culture war vs the political war

Peter Beinart with an interesting take on how Republicans have lost in the culture wars while winning politically.  I like the idea that the cultural losses help fuel a culture of frustration and victimization that helps feed them politically.

Who’s winning the post-Parkland debate over guns? It depends where you look.

Legislatively, anti-gun control forces remain in control…

But shift your lens from public policy to culture, and the last two weeks look very different. More than 20 corporations, including United Airlines, Hertz, and MetLife have cut ties with the NRA. Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods, two of America’s largest gun retailers, have both announced they will stop selling guns to people under the age of 21. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas gun-control activists have become national heroes, praised by numerous celebrities. And last week, at a CNN town hall, those students and their families booed NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch so loudly so that they almost drowned her out.

This bifurcation between the governmental and cultural aftermath of Parkland has had a telling impact on conservatives. They remain powerful, yet they feel under siege…

This dynamic isn’t unique to guns. It’s how American politics now works. Even when conservatives win elections and pass laws, they look at the trend among cultural elites—the media, Hollywood, universities, even corporations—and feel like they’re losing. Even as they gain more political power, their declining cultural power makes them feel threatened and despised. Which makes them easy prey for people like Trump. [emphases mine]

Consider how different the last 18 months look culturally as opposed to politically. In November 2016, Republicans won the White House and both branches of Congress, a power they have now leveraged to rebuild a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Republicans control both branches of 32 state legislatures compared to the Democrats’ 13, the largest edge for either party in decades. Since Trump’s election, Congress has massively cut taxes and boosted defense spending. Trump himself has slashed government regulation, hyper-charged immigration enforcement, and withdrawn America from the Paris climate agreement.

Contrast that with what the last 18 months have brought culturally: the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse and harassment. The Boy Scouts’ decision to admit girls. Football players protesting police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. The mass removal of Confederate statues. For every political victory, conservatives have suffered a cultural loss…

By jabbing at African American football players who kneel in protest during the national anthem and liberal academics who take down Confederate statues, by deriding women’s physical appearances, and endlessly taunting the media, Trump scratches a conservative itch. It’s part of the reason conservatives forgive him for his astonishing ignorance of—and periodic disinterest in—public policy. If “politics is downstream from culture,” then choosing a president obsessed with cultural battles makes sense. Except that, deep down, many conservatives fear those battles can’t be won. Which is why, despite all their political power, they still feel oppressed. And can convince themselves that a CNN town hall filled with grieving families constitutes a greater threat to American life and liberty than a deranged person’s ability to walk into a gun store and buy an AR-15.

What the gun research shows

Rand did an awesome, comprehensive review of research on gun policy and German Lopez (of course) has an excellent summary of it in Vox.

The #1 finding– we need more high-quality gun research.  But it’s hard to get good data because the NRA and their Congressional minions literally make it difficult by federal law.  So, in many cases the evidence is only moderate or suggestive at best.  Here’s a pretty cool summary chart:

A chart, based on RAND data, looking at the studied outcomes of different gun policies.

The RAND report emphasizes that much of the research on gun policy is still in its infancy. You can see that in the chart above in all the white and gray space — we still don’t have answers to a lot of important questions when it comes to gun policy, including the effects on defensive gun use, hunting and recreation, and police shootings.

But the answers we do have point in one direction. On the gun control front, there’s moderate evidence that background checks reduce suicide and violent crime, limited evidence that prohibitions associated with mental illness reduce suicide, moderate evidence that those prohibitions reduce violent crime, and supportive evidence that child-access prevention laws reduce suicides and unintentional injuries and deaths. [emphasis mine]

Here’s a thought– let’s make those things policy.  And, as for policy we don’t want:

Meanwhile, there’s limited evidence that concealed carry laws increase violent crime and unintentional injuries and deaths. And there’s moderate evidence that “stand your ground” laws — NRA-backed measures that expand when someone can use a gun or other weapons to defend himself — increase violent crime.

If you put this all together, it suggests that restrictive laws seem to lead to fewer gun deaths, while the permissive laws seem to lead to more gun deaths.

That’s not enough for nonpartisan researchers at RAND to make sweeping conclusions, but it’s certainly suggestive — particularly for policymakers interested in finding solutions to America’s gun violence problem as soon as possible.

Anyway, the report is appropriately cautious, but it given that human lives are in the balance, I’m plenty prepared to follow through with moderate and suggestive evidence.  And, we should pass laws so that we can get better evidence.  Oh, and of course, notice that these changes would not actually prevent anybody who can pass a background check (though I would argue these need to be much more rigorous) from owing a gun.  So… freedom.


How Trump’s tax cuts are already benefiting American workers!

Just kidding.  Of course, it is a massive boon to corporations and the wealthiest.  Bloomberg with five charts showing how companies are using the tax savings.  Hint: a small fraction is for workers.


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