The first indication I had that Nancy Keenan and the national NARAL PAC had their political instincts in a place where daylight never seemed to penetrate came during the Alito cloture vote, when Lincoln Chafee and Joe Lieberman walked away scott free after having voted to put Dobson-loving Strip Search Sammy on the bench.  My head quite nearly exploded, because had this been the NRA and we were talking someone who was pro-gun control they would've had their chains yanked like an angry dog.  Instead, NARAL told its membership to "thank" Lieberman and Chafee for their votes like a bunch of battered housewives. 

Houston, we have a problem.

Rick Perlstein, author of Before the Storm, the upcoming Nixonland (and FDL contributor) has a very good article up at TNR (and because it is Rick, we will dispense with calling it the "Joe Lieberman Weekly") on the NRA's push, nation-wide, to promote "stand your ground" laws:

The new stand-your-ground laws are so frightening because they cover shooters who simply feel at risk. In Winter Haven, Florida, Justin Boyette meant no harm when he approached Michael Brady on Brady's lawn, unarmed, possibly to shake his hand. Brady felt menaced and shot him anyway. Brady feels deeply remorseful–but was the first person to be cleared by the Castle Doctrine defense nonetheless. But the new stand-your-ground laws provide little guidance about what happens once cases reach the courts. A state prosecutor in Kentucky, Kimberly Henderson Baird, was so baffled about how the new law applied to the case of a drug dealer beaten to death by one of his customers that she gave up and accepted a manslaughter plea (it covers "force," not just guns). "[If] we couldn't understand it ourselves, how are we going to get a jury to understand it?" The victim's sister, upon learning that her brother's killer would be eligible for parole in two months, noted Kentucky's new law "basically says if anyone comes into your home, and if you have a grudge against them or anything, you can do this and get away with it." She wonders whether the legislature "thought things through."

It's an extreme position, but the NRA — as Digby has noted — has been able to dramatically move the goalposts with regard to gun control because they fight relentlessly and push on every front.  They have completely changed the dialog over the past 30 years.  Contrast that with Nancy Keenan's recent appeasement on the fetal anesthesia issue:

In the late 70's it was a matter of faith among liberals that handguns would be outlawed and other guns would be strictly regulated. It was just a matter of time. Within 20 years the NRA had killed the issue. Gun control is no longer even on the menu outside the biggest cities and even then it's dicey.

The NRA said that Americans had a right to bear arms. Period. They didn't bargain or negotiate. And they were successful because when your raison d'etre is protecting a fundamental right, you have to be absolutist or you lose the moral authority of your argument.

Abortion is a messy fight, nobody disputes that. I'm all for contraception and sex education and all the other things that these abortion "reducers" are pushing. But it appears to me as if that's mainly a political ploy to appease the pro-choice crowd into believing that if they just give up a little here and there, the basic right will be preserved. It will not happen that way. With all this talk of "reducing," and "rare" and fetal pain and snowflake babies and all the rest, they are helping the right prepare the ground for a full outlawing of abortion if Roe is overturned. They aren't even trying to make the fundamental argument anymore. 

I think there is a fundamental incentive problem here — the NRA is financed by gun manufacturers who aren't going to keep writing the fat checks in order to lose.  NARAL, on the other hand, raises boatloads of cash — by Keenan's own admission — every time choice is struck some horrible new blow, and then they pay no price for sitting on their hands (and their warchest) when it comes to fighting someone like Alito. Regardless of what one might think of the NRA's objectives (I'm not a fan), their methods are inarguably successful.  I do not know how to push NARAL into that kind of fierce protectiveness of a cause that the overwhelming majority of Americans already support, but since they are the largest pro-choice political organization in the country (who suck up all the cash in the process such that nobody else can actually do it in their stead) I think it is something that those of us who value choice are going to have to think about long and hard.

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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