Congress

Susan J. Demas: Congressional Shooting Shows Why Domestic Abusers Don’t Deserve Guns

Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas

The horrific shooting at a Republican congressional softball practice outside Washington, D.C., hit especially close to home in Michigan.

Three members of Congress were present and thankfully unhurt — U.S. Reps. Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), John Moolenaar (R-Midland) and Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet). But one of the five people shot was Michigan native Matt Mika, a former state and congressional legislative staffer.

The tragedy has inspired rare bipartisan unity, with touching speeches from U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif).

In the days and weeks that follow, the shooting will inevitably spark debates on heated partisan rhetoric, security for politicians and guns. (Indeed, they’re all in full swing on social media, but hopefully the national dialogue will improve from all-caps rants from randos with anime avatars on Twitter).

At this point, few people believe we’ll ever see any common ground on gun rights in this country. If the brutal 2012 murders of angelic first-graders in Newtown, Conn., didn’t move the needle with gun rights advocates in Congress, it’s not clear what will.

But there is something about this week’s shooting that is all too familiar. The alleged gunman, James Hodgkinson, had a history of beating his daughter and other young women. Researchers note that a history of domestic violence is a key predictor of violent recidivism.

Hodgkinson was no stranger to the justice system. But the Daily Beast reports that his history “did not rise to the level to prohibit him from legally owning a firearm.”

I am not sure who on God’s green earth can argue without vomiting that someone who beats their spouse or kids should have the inalienable right to carry a firearm.

But don’t take my word for it. Talk to another Michigan member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn). She’s not anti-Second Amendment; her husband, former Dean of the House John Dingell, is an avid hunter. But Congresswoman Dingell knows firsthand what it’s like to live with a violent gun owner.

In a 2012 op-ed for the Washington Post, she somberly detailed the night that her father almost shot her mother while she tried to wrest the gun away, while noting it wasn’t an isolated incident:

“I will not forget the nights of shouting. The fear. The dread that my brother, my sisters and my parents would die. I will not forget locking ourselves in closets or hiding places hoping we wouldn't be found. Calling for help, but finding no one willing to help, to acknowledge the problem, or intervene. We survived that occasion, physically. Emotionally, I am not so sure.”

Just as Dingell was preparing to be sworn into her first term in Congress in 2015, she shared her experience again with Gov. Rick Snyder. The Legislature had sent him a bill that would have allowed domestic abusers to obtain a concealed pistol license. She urged the governor to veto it and he did.

Now the state House has, once again, passed a string of legislation liberalizing gun laws, and the stage could be set for another showdown between Snyder and GOP lawmakers.

Sadly, there’s been scant interest in efforts barring domestic abusers from owning firearms. No one should bet their inheritance on the congressional softball shooting changing the debate in Washington or Lansing.

But it’s rather unbelievable that many politicians are willing to go to such lengths to protect the rights of those who bloody those dearest to them, which is often a prelude to their crimes against others. It might be worth thinking about why that’s a price they’re willing to have us all pay.

Susan J. Demas is Publisher and Editor of Inside Michigan Politics, a nationally acclaimed, biweekly political newsletter. Her political columns can be found at SusanJDemas.com. Follow her on Twitter here.

Susan J. Demas: Welcome to the Liberal Tea Party

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Liberals are often parodied as effete, humorless, latte-sipping politically correct yuppies living in blue-state bubbles.

Variations of that stereotype popped up in a seemingly endless array of hot takes following Donald Trump’s shocking win last year. Politicos rushed to declare that left-wing smugness was the culprit, with many deciding that feckless Democrats were destined to wander in political desert for years to come.

So it seems to have come as quite a shock to just about everyone — the nascent President Trump administration, Republicans who control Congress and plenty of members of the beltway media — that liberals aren’t simply rolling over in 2017.

From the Women’s March in Washington (which dwarfed the attendance for Trump’s inauguration) to protests of his Muslim ban in airports across the country, progressives have proven they’re capable of organized displays of outrage — and even doing so effectively.

Many Republicans and pundits expected Democrats to follow their defeatist playbook after George W. Bush’s narrow, U.S. Supreme Court-decided 2000 victory. The Dems would privately sulk but would largely go along with the new president’s cabinet picks in the name of national unity. They’d work with him on issues that were popular in the polls, while liberal activists wouldn’t be heard from for years.

That wasn’t a bad bet to make. Democrats have been more prone to compromise than Republicans in recent years.

And the party clearly has big cracks cutting through it, as some Bernie Sanders loyalists sat out the general election or voted for third-party candidates over Hillary Clinton. Disaffected Sanders supporters likely exceeded Trump’s margin in the three states that put him over the top in the Electoral College: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

As a result, state Democratic parties are facing upheaval, although an insurgent movement petered out at Michigan’s state convention last weekend. But the Sanders-vs.-the-establishment dynamic is still playing out with the Democratic National Committee chair race.

So you could see why conservatives and analysts might think progressives would be too preoccupied with internecine warfare to fight Trump.

As it turns out, liberals can walk and chew gum at the same time. They haven’t forgotten that Clinton actually won almost 3 million more votes than Trump, even if pundits eager to blame out-of-touch lefty ideas for her loss have.

Every day, the new president does something to make progressives’ blood boil — and it’s fueling demonstrations, donations to liberal causes and interest in the Democratic Party.

Just consider the first month of Trump’s presidency. He’s tapped exceedingly controversial figures, like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a blockbuster GOP donor whose disdain for public schools is well-known to those of us in her native Michigan.

Even more troubling is the faith Trump instilled in now-resigned National Security Advisor Michael Flynn — who has a fondness for baseless conspiracy theories and may have jeopardized American interests with Russia.

Trump also threatened the U.S. judiciary (a co-equal branch of the government, courtesy of the Founding Fathers) after judges rebuffed his sloppy executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

These have been mobilizing events. Liberals regard Trump’s presidency as a national emergency.

Pundits looking for the progressive playbook in the Trump era needed only to go back to 2009. That was when the Tea Party became a driving force in the GOP, spurred by Barack Obama’s historic victory that would usher in the stimulus, Affordable Care Act and Wall Street regulation.

Conservatives packed the town halls of Democratic members of Congress and shouted them down. Now it’s turnabout fair play, with progressives jamming GOP members’ events.

Count me among those who expected the new leader of the free world to get off to a flying start, aided by GOP majorities in both the House and Senate. After all, that’s worked out pretty well for Gov. Rick Snyder, who’s been blessed with strong legislative majorities to rubber-stamp much of his agenda.

I thought House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would already have his tax cut for the wealthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would have slayed Obamacare as promised.

But Trump’s Twitter tantrums and national security follies are throwing a wrench into the long-awaited implementation of an ambitious conservative agenda. And Republicans are clearly unnerved by angry liberal protests.

Now progressives won’t be able to block Trump and the GOP Congress on everything. There will be plenty of setbacks. But they’re certainly enjoying more early success than anyone ever imagined.

Susan J. Demas is Publisher and Editor of Inside Michigan Politics, a nationally acclaimed, biweekly political newsletter. Her political columns can be found at SusanJDemas.com. Follow her on Twitter here.