I don’t really accept the broader argument of this piece that Obama sidelined his second term by embracing gun control. That honor clearly belongs to ObamaCare.
But it is plausible that Obama and his Republican co-conspirators could have rammed through illegal alien amnesty while Republicans were still scratching their heads over the whole “the immigration system is broken”, “border security” and “demographic inevitability” sloganeering.
Instead though, Obama was arrogant enough to think that he could establish total liberal dominance by breaking the NRA, the only real right-of-center lobby still influential even among Democrats.
The month before the shooting, Obama had won a convincing reelection and a modest popular mandate. One major liberal wish-list entry, immigration reform, seemed not only within reach but almost inevitable.
Immigration was in an almost impossible bipartisan sweet spot: a singularly important policy goal for Democrats that could be a political boon for both parties. For Republicans, it was a way to fix a demographic problem revealed by the 2012 election. Still, they’d have to move quickly. The populist Right that had torpedoed immigration reform under George W. Bush seemed quieted by defeat, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Then Lanza’s rampage altered the debate in Washington. Suddenly, priority No. 1 wasn’t immigration reform but gun control. The base that had just elected Obama was clamoring for background checks and magazine-clip restrictions, threatening to desert the president before his second inauguration…
The clock was ticking on both gun control and immigration, but Democrats moved ahead with gun control first, recognizing that as the memory of the tragedy at Sandy Hook faded, so too would the impetus for new laws. The Senate spent months on a bill, which eventually got whittled down to a universal background-check provision, before it finally died at the hands of a Republican filibuster in mid-April.
Alex Seitz-Wald makes the mistake of blaming Lanza. But Lanza just provided an irresistible political opportunity for the left. Lanza didn’t pull the trigger on this. Obama did.
If Obama had been a little less arrogant, he would have picked the low-hanging fruit of amnesty, and made it nearly impossible for the GOP to win elections in a decade.
But Obama is not one to think of future generations. Instead he looked for a win now. And he lost instead.