Congressman Ro Khanna to DCCC: Stop Triangulating on Gun Violence

Thanks to its having been forwarded by Congressman Ro Khanna, the petition above has been widely circulated, one indication out of many that the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) extremist positions should mark “a clear line in the sand and key difference between Democrats and Republicans for the 2018 midterms.”

Khanna concludes that it should be “a no-brainer” for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to take the step of withdrawing its endorsement from any candidate receiving NRA contributions.

But those familiar with the DCCC’s practices, including Congressman Khanna, know that it won’t be.

The reason is that the DCCC’s backing of candidates taking the NRA line on guns and receiving contributions from them is not an isolated decision. Rather it is an application of a long standing strategic philosophy known as “triangulation”. As I noted previously, triangulation involves Democrats “locating the center wherever the Republicans choose to define it and then positioning the Democratic candidate one degree to the left of it.”

On a superficial level, the logic for triangulation appears unassailable. Competitive districts require winning over Republican voters which in turn requires stressing points of agreement albeit with a few differences on hot button issues where the Democrats might have an advantage.

But in practice, triangulation is by no means the universally winning strategy its promoters claim it be.

This became apparent in a leaked memo where the DCCC was seen applying its triangulation strategy to the Las Vegas  massacre of last October.   Democrats should, according to the DCCC,  limit their remarks to anodyne “thoughts and prayers” while avoiding mentioning the awful suffering of the victims and their families as well as, more importantly, what caused it: the “gun culture” as repeatedly expressed in the remarks of the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre and Dana Loesch. Democrats should not expose them for what they are, crazed conspiratorialists whose extremism contributes to gun violence having become a leading cause of death.  Doing so would offend gun owners, so the DCCC’s logic goes, so they should hold their tongues.

The problem with the DCCC’s triangulatory approach is that in failing to challenge the NRA, the DCCC demoralizes those such as the Parkland survivors who should be the Democrats’ strongest supporters. Knowing that the Democrats cannot be counted on to fight for the kinds of laws which would address the problem, they will regard Democrats as unreliable allies and support their candidates, if at all, with little enthusiasm. As for the swing voters which the DCCC hopes to attract, they come away not knowing what Democrats stand for or as a recent poll indicated agreeing with the majority that “Democrats stand for nothing.”

The result is exactly in line with Harry Truman’s adage from the 1950s that “If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time. ” And that is exactly what happened 1080 times over the last decade as the triangulatory approach repeatedly failed to gain moderate Republicans to offset the hemhorraging of the Democrats traditional coalition.

The outrage which the DCCC’s response to the NRA has provoked should be a teachable moment for its leadership. It’s chairman, Ben Ray Lujan, himself a recipient of NRA donations in the past, should show that he has learned the lesson which he will apply going forward.

If not, he should be replaced by a Democrat who knows what is required to win elections is not erasing the differences between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats should be bold and confident, running and winning on common sense proposals against the addled, irrational and unhinged demogoguery which is the Republican party in the age of Donald Trump.

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