The N.R.A. Protection Racket
FOR years, protection rackets dominated dangerous urban neighborhoods. Shop owners and residents lived in relative security only by paying off or paying homage to organized criminals or corrupt cops. Anyone who dared to stand up to these “protectors” would not be around for long.
The Republican Party — once a proud bastion of civic and business leaders who battled Southern racism, Northern corruption and the evils of big government — has for the past several decades been itself the victim of political protection rackets. These rackets are orchestrated by fringe groups with extremist views on social issues, which Republican politicians are forced to support even if they are unpopular with intelligent, economically successful and especially female voters. Their influence was already clear by the time I joined the Bush White House staff in 2005, and it has only increased in the years since.
The most blatant protection racket is orchestrated by the National Rifle Association, which is ruthless against candidates who are tempted to stray from its view that all gun regulations are pure evil. Debra Maggart, a Republican leader in the Tennessee House of Representatives, was one of its most recent victims. The N.R.A. spent around $100,000 to defeat her in the primary, because she would not support a bill that would have allowed people to keep guns locked in their cars on private property without the property owner’s consent.
The message to Republicans is clear: “We will help you get elected and protect your seat from Democrats. We will spend millions on ads that make your opponent look worse than the average holdup man robbing a liquor store. In return, we expect you to oppose any laws that regulate guns. These include laws requiring handgun registration, meaningful background checks on purchasers, limiting the right to carry concealed weapons, limiting access to semiautomatic weapons or anything else that would diminish the firepower available to anybody who wants it. And if you don’t comply, we will load our weapons and direct everything in our arsenal at you in the next Republican primary.”