Guns vs. Gays

The Democratic Primary narrative has seemed to have settled around an odd pair of issues the past few days: guns and gays. Bernie Sanders is targeting Clinton on her support of the Defense of Marriage Act while Clinton is targeting Sanders for his weaknesses on gun control.

Clinton’s campaign is taking advantage of a moment during the debate in which Sanders tried to defend his record on gun control by saying that “shouting” isn’t going to accomplish real change.

Not, only is that a poor argument for getting gun control passed, but it also could be subtly sexist, as Clinton implies in her tweet.

Sanders is trying to turn the tables by drawing contrasts on his record for gay right and Clinton’s  He tweeted:

This is a response to Clinton’s interview with Rachel Maddow, on which she framed her husband’s support of DOMA as a “defensive action” to protect against a constitutional amendment barring same sex marriage.

I’m sure in the next few days they’ll be plenty of pieces judging the alleged strategic vision of DOMA backers. But I think even assuming she’s misrepresenting her former position, Clinton still comes out as a stronger in this debate.

The point is not if Clinton was wrong about supporting DOMA in the past, but her position now. Does anyone think that if elected president, Clinton is going to turn around and say she’s against same sex marriage? While she might lose some progressive street cred for “evolving” it really has no baring on her future presidency. Clinton is clearly strongly in support of gay rights, no more or less than Sanders.

On the other hand, Sanders’s votes against gun control do have future relevance because it seems like they haven’t changed. From the debate, it seems as though he still supports some kind of shield law for gun manufactures as well as allowing guns on Amtrak trains. Perhaps more alarmingly, his main solution for combating mass shootings is increasing access to mental health care. Vox’s Dylan Matthews writes that a recent study reported “only 3%-5% of violent acts are attributable to serious mental illness, and most do not involve guns.” While expanding assess to mental healthcare may be an admirable goal, it would not substantially reduce gun violence and suggesting it would do so only stigmatizes the mentally ill.

The point of this contrast to show that while progressives may not like that Clinton opposed same sex marriage in the past, that position has no bearing on the future policy of a Clinton presidency. While Sanders long time support of gay marriage is admirable, we shouldn’t elect people based on progressive street cred. We should elect people based the policy differences on how they plan to govern. On gay marriage, there is no difference.

On gun control, there is a difference. Sanders proposal of mental healthcare will do next to nothing to stop mass shootings. Clinton’s aggressive plan of waiting periods, background checks, and ending gun manufacturers’ shield laws would have an impact. Furthermore, she has hinted at more aggressive positions, threatening executive action if Congress didn’t act and praising Australia’s measures on gun control which seized people’s guns.

Update: Perhaps Bernie isn’t a real progressive leader on gay rights after all:

“But Sanders is not quite the gay rights visionary his defenders would like us to believe. Sanders did oppose DOMA—but purely on states’ rights grounds. And as recently as 2006, Sanders opposed marriage equality for his adopted home state of Vermont. The senator may have evolved earlier than his primary opponents. But the fact remains that, in the critical early days of the modern marriage equality movement, Sanders was neutral at best and hostile at worst.” More here

And:

“In the twenty years since DOMA, Hillary Clinton has not only evolved on the issue, she has become a global leader in the fight for LGBT equality. As senator from New York, she pushed to repeal the ban on gays in the military and secure employment protections for LGBT Americans. As secretary of state she extended her view of human and women’s rights with a groundbreaking speech at the United Nations in 2011 declaring that “gay rights are human rights” and made the protection of gays, lesbians and transgender people a priority in her dealings with repressive regimes around the world. Perhaps most importantly, she engaged with the community – closely – for the last 25 years. Listening, learning, sometimes disagreeing but always striving and evolving and always caring.

Bernie Sanders has done none of the above. Despite being from Vermont, a state with a progressive record on LGBT rights, Sanders was a follower.” More here

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