The Hellish World of the NRA

Trump has a history of calling for gun legislation. So why is the gun lobby his last impassioned ally?
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Trump has a history of calling for gun legislation. So why is the gun lobby his last impassioned ally?
Trump NRA.jpg

In the last couple of weeks, Donald Trump has done everything in his power to prove his ineptitude for the presidency. Luckily, people noticed. With less than three months to go until the election, dismal chances of success, and most importantly, an attitude of fatalistic incorrigibility, Trump is poised to lose the election in a landslide. As tends to happen with losers, people are jumping off the Trump bandwagon like it had bedbugs.

With a mass exodus from Trump underway, it’s instructive to see who’s still standing in his corner. I’m not talking about Paul Ryan, who’s preparing to accept the loss, or Chris Christie, coach passenger on the fa[s]t train to Cablepunditville. I’m talking about Trump’s vocal supporters. The laggards who for whom allying with the dying embers of Trumpism is still better than living in the social hinterlands. I’m talking about David Duke, who clearly is just enjoying someone as racist as him being on TV all the time. I’m talking about Rudy Giuliani, that Mr. Garrison-looking asshole who's on TV occasionally. I’m talking about the NRA.

That’s right, folks. The NRA, long called out for being reactionary lunatics, is still standing with the Donald. In an election that has delivered liberals gleeful vindication for every allegation we’ve made in the last decade about the racism and ignorance of the Republican/Tea Party base, the NRA’s alliance with Trump is telling. This is how far to the right they are.

Yep, that’s just America’s most powerful lobbying group undersigning a veiled threat on Hillary Clinton’s life. Is it bad that we’re not surprised?

The funny thing is, imminent violence is really the only thing passion the NRA and Trump share. As Claire Foran noted in The Atlantic, the NRA was never a huge fan of Trump when other contenders were still in the race. Still, they continue to buy ad time for him and, as that tweet demonstrates, stand by him in times of controversy. Why?

One of the interesting things about the NRA is that they’re actually somewhat a model of what political action groups should be. Their constituency is far more important to their (growing) revenue than are their corporate sponsors. And it is that very politically engaged membership who demands that the NRA crush every specter of gun control legislation. Those people will never tolerate a retreat from the conservative candidate in a national election. Especially not one who reopens the doors on open racial animosity.

It's not a bad fit, to be honest. Yes, Trump has a history of supporting gun control. (To be fair, he has held every stance known to man at some point) But he is a candidate, more so than anyone in memory, who promotes the worldview of the furthest-gone NRA crazies: that we are living in a crumbling hell which likely requires murder to survive. (Which begs the question, Christ, what’s the point of even staying alive? If the NRA’s theory of society is accurate, the most philosophically honest thing to do would be to just use that ever-present defense tool and end it. I wonder if that’s why 21,000 people do just that every year.)

We saw an example of that dystopian worldview this week. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump made some of the most irresponsible statements ever made in this country’s national politics. For one, he suggested that Clinton’s murder would be justified in order to protect gun rights. Days later, he alleged that President Obama had “founded” ISIS and is exalted by their leaders. It’s fucking insane.

Now. Tell me it’s any more insane than this.

This came out in December. All the same treasonous fabrications about the alliance of our political leaders to jihadi militants are there. So is the message that only one, pure idea can bring salvation. In the NRA’s case, that bulwark is them. In Trump’s case, it is himself.

The overwhelming victory of Trump in the primaries, and the overwhelming power of the NRA in Washington, testify to a sad fact: a critical, vociferous segment of this country thinks it’s about to fucking end. Trump has few enough scruples to play to this crowd, and Wayne LaPierre has negative-a-hundred enough scruples enough to take their money. The two go together like peas and carrots. Never has the degree of this shared paranoia been more easily measured than now, with Trump standing nearly alone on the fringes of decency.

Trump’s past quotes on gun control may have caused difficulty between him and the gun lobby, but that’s a superficial difference. On the most important point — the existential need to be afraid, always afraid — the NRA and Donald Trump could not be closer together. If it's terrifying sharing a country with these people, imagine how terrifying it is to be them.