The PJ Tatler

Can Obama Turn a Loss into a Win?

Over at Politico, here’s how Glenn Thrush and Reid Epstein see yesterday’s Senate vote on gun control:

Never before had President Barack Obama put the moral force and political muscle of his presidency behind an issue quite this big — and lost quite this badly.

The president, shaken to the core by the massacre of 26 innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School, broke his own informal “Obama Rule” — of never leaning into an issue without a clear path to victory — first by pushing for a massive gun control package no one expected to pass, and then sticking through it even as he retrenched to a relatively modest bipartisan bill mandating national background checks on gun purchases.

Ignore the spin there, where they claim that Obama made his big push because he just cares so much, unlike all you mean conservatives who want children to die of gun poisoning or whatever. But the fact is, yes, Obama spent a lot of his political capital, maybe all of it, for nothing. He got the vote he demanded, but couldn’t get the votes he needed.

But there’s more to it, and for that let’s go to Powerline’s John Hinderaker:

But why was Obama so angry? I wrote here that it was odd for Obama to make gun control the signature issue of his second term, since there has never been any chance of significant gun control legislation being enacted. It couldn’t possibly get through the House. So why, today, was he so irate about its failure in the Senate?

As we have noted more than once, pretty much everything Obama does is intended to stir up the Democratic Party’s base to drive turnout in 2014. Obama knows he can’t do much of anything as long as the GOP holds the House, so his primary goal is to stoke outrage on the left, in hopes that 2014 will look like 2008 and 2012, and not like 2010.

It’s a strange strategy, especially given that only 4% of Americans think gun control is the top issue facing the nation — and those 4% were likely Democrat voters in 2014, anyway. And then there’s the other risk Obama took and lost: GOP voters saw their Senators — most of their Senators — stand firm on an issue they care deeply about.

But Obama only knows how to stir up his base by using anger, fear, and resentment. Instead, he’s inadvertently given conservatives a positive reason to show up at the polls next year, while simultaneously demonstrating to his base that their duck is very lame indeed.