Until recently, taxes and guns were the two issues that served as the glue to bind together Republicans of all stripes. They were the two issues that even feckless elected-Republicans could be counted on to hold the line and stand with conservatives. But over the past few years, Obama and the Democrats have gotten Republicans to break their impervious opposition to tax increases by supporting “increased revenue” and closing “loopholes.” Now they are doing the same thing with guns.
Democrats know that they have lost the policy debate on these two issues over the past two decades. That’s why they will never directly push for sweeping tax hikes on everyone (at least not in a way people will notice) or for complete confiscation of guns. Instead they are trying to cut around the edges in order to get Republicans on record as supporting some new “revenue increase” or a new gun law, in the hopes of reopening the door on those two issues for future concessions.
On the tax front, they have gotten many prominent Republicans to agree to the premise of closing “loopholes” for those who already pay 40% of the income tax (even after those so-called loopholes are factored in). They also got them to sign onto the Biden/McConnell tax increases. The irony about these tax hikes is that in order to win the messaging war with Republicans, they must target only the very rich. However, by only targeting the rich, the amount of revenue they raise is so insignificant that it defeats the original purpose of the tax hikes.
Or does it?
In fact, the real purpose of “closing loopholes” has nothing to do with raising revenue. Democrats couldn’t care less about the budget. The purpose is to get Republicans on record as supporting some form of a tax increase – as infinitesimal as that tax increase might be.
Much like raising taxes on the rich fails to raise enough revenue, implementing “minor” expansions of background checks will do nothing to curb gun violence in places like Chicago. It will do nothing to prevent random mass shootings. Nothing short of going house to house and melting down every firearm will prevent things like that. Democrats know this. Solving a policy issue is not the purpose of the legislation. It’s to score a political victory. Why in the world would Republicans help them? There is never any reason for Republicans to support new taxes, and there is never a legitimate reason for Republicans to support any new gun laws beyond enforcing the existing ones.
Instead of Senate Republicans cutting a backroom deal to sell out on the issue, House Republicans should go on offense and pass a national right to carry bill. Unfortunately, the House is too busy passing dumb suspension bills with the support of Democrats to buy up land and grow government. And with Paul Ryan talking about “closing the gun show loophole,” there’s no guarantee it won’t pass the House either. Remember that that they just passed a Democrat bill that violated the Hastert Rule yesterday.
The broader point is that with full control of the House and a filibuster strong minority in the Senate, why do Republicans need to give Democrats any political victories to infringe on the Bill of Rights, however small that victory might be? When do you ever find Chuck Schumer and Barbara Boxer cutting backroom deals with Ted Cruz to pass a watered down version of retirement choice, national right to work, or welfare reform? You never will.
It’s only Republicans who are willing to shred every leg of the Reagan stool to cut a deal with Democrats. And now, the last two holdouts – taxes and guns – are no longer untouchable. Marriage and an insane immigration policy will be next.
It’s hard to imagine that conservatives donated to Republican candidates so they can go to Washington and play follow the leader with Democrats on guns, taxes, and amnesty. It’s hard to believe that Republican activists volunteered their time to knock on doors for these candidates so they can outsource their policy positions on all major issues to Chuck Schumer. But that is what we are going to get from them as long as we fail to mount a serious effort to make primaries about choice and competition. We need to close the incumbent loophole, and close it fast.