Friday, January 3, 2014

A Tale Of Two Platforms: Background Checks vs. The Minimum Wage

Faced with declining fortunes and plummeting popularity in the upcoming 2014 election the Democrats have have hit on a strategy: Increase the minimum wage. They like this because:

  1. It is popular. 91% of Democrats and even 50% of Republicans favor an increase (exactly how much probably varies). Seventy-seven percent of women and 87% of non-whites favor an upgrade. These are crazy-popular numbers and they are similar between registered voters / all respondents.
  2. It is hard for Republicans to co-opt. Fox News thinks that the majority of people polled on that subject don't even make payroll (i.e. aren't gettin' paid). Heritage Action disapproves.
While we can argue all day about what the effects of raising the minimum wage could be, The Omnivore wants to ask a more interesting question: Why not run on gun background checks?

After all, improving background checks for guns is crazy popular (even among Republicans, to a degree ... and even with gun dealers) and, of course, The Base will not sign on.

The Awful Truth: No One Actually Cares About Background Checks
So why not run on background checks--after all, the American people have spoken (haven't they?) and they want them. The answer is that while people polled may say they want background checks they won't go out of their way to vote for them. They will go out of their way to vote for the minimum wage.

Why is that?

The answer is in advertising.

One of the primary motivators in buying decision is this: you think it will make your life materially better. No one thinks gun control is going to make their life better. Gun control (increased background checks) is abstract. The minimum wage--especially for target groups the Democrats care about (hourly wage earners) is directly affective.

How Can That Be?
The answer is not that "Background checks would / would not have stopped Sandy Hook." It isn't that gun-violence and mass shootings are increasing--or not. None of those facts or numbers matter. What matters is this: most voters--even voters in cities like Chicago which have heavy levels of gun violence--have not been exposed to weapons ... especially not illegal weapons. It's just a statistical truth (and something to do with class-lines and voting).

Now, to be sure, too many bad guys have guns. To be sure, gun-violence levels are too high, mass shootings, and atrocities like Sandy Hook and Aurora are too common. But the fact is that one of those events is too many and the other fact is that you haven't been subjected to one (I'm psychic).

On the other hand, at some point in your life, you made the minimum wage (or close to it)--if you live in the Western world, at least. Hey, I am psychic.

When it comes to motivational behavior--that is, getting off your damn couch and going to a 2014 mid-term election the idea of maybe, somehow, possibly stopping some kind of gun violence is a nice idea ... but hey, Muray Povich is on!

The Democrats know this. They also know that anything gun-control related is tagged with communist mind control and will motivate the hell out of the Red Team and so, if they don't want to turn up the heat--and they don't--they need to stay the hell away from the 3rd rail conspiracy theory.

What Does This Mean?
It means that if you read that 90% of Americans approved of expanded background checks and then wondered how this awful congress could fail to pass it you now have your answer: if punching a number on a robo-poll was all that was needed to pass the law it woulda passed--but it takes more than that. It takes going to a polling place.

It takes paying a bit of attention to the candidates.

It takes a candidate who would go out on a limb to assume (wrongly, it turns out) that people supporting the election will do that.

It assumes that this plank of the platform (whatever it is) is powerful enough to override everything else.

It assumes that the heat-level for the plank (whatever it is) is symmetric--that both sides care as much.

This perfect storm of policy, intention, and action isn't going to happen in 2014--and may never happen until we get electronic Internet voting.

At that point president Miley Cyrus will twerk as she takes the oath of office while lip synching Never Gonna Give You Up. You're gonna wish for voter suppression at that point.

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