The issue of the moment is gun control. In the last two days, that issue has become a microcosm of how our political dialog is carried out in the media, one that explains why conservatives so often lose these battles.
On the left you have a billionaire advocate for gun control, Mayor Bloomberg, who is willing to bankroll a push for more regulation. He is aided by the President and Vice President who use the White House to frame the issue as one of common sense reforms vs. extremism.
A bevy of Hollywood stars immediately signaled their support in a video which has now been viewed more than 6 million times. The Hollywood video was quickly (and appropriately) mocked for its glaring hypocrisy, but the response has only been viewed about half a million times.
The message being coordinated from the top of Washington and Hollywood is further aided by the most sympathetic figure of all, Gabby Giffords, who announced this week in USA Today that she will be fighting for "common-sense solutions" on gun control. Because of her story, Giffords immediately scored an appearance on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer.
So that's the push from the left: The President, Hollywood celebrities, and Gabby Giffords are leading the charge. Somewhere in that list is a person the vast majority of Americans like.
On the other side we have Wayne LaPierre of the NRA. LaPierre's suggestion of placing armed cops in schools was ridiculed by the left, even as Sandy Hook Elementary reopened in a new location with a dozen armed cops greeting students and parents at the door. The NY Times reported the reopening and initially mentioned that police were on hand at area schools and that "increased security" was present at Sandy Hook. However, that was later scrubbed for a passing mention of "security" in a revised version of the story. Are they cops? Armed guards? Times' readers aren't told.
In case you somehow missed it, Alex Jones appeared on the Piers Morgan show the other night to defend gun rights. Jones clearly had some facts on hand, but his two segments quickly devolved into a rant so aggressive and contentious that Jones later claimed it made one of the show's producers cry.
While it's true that anything appearing on Piers Morgan is likely to have been missed by the majority of the country, video of Jones' appearance has been viewed nearly 2 million times on You Tube. And last night, Conan O'Brien insured even more people, many with little grasp of the real issues, will get the message that Jones and gun-rights advocates are ranting extremists. O'Brien's spoof video has Jones firing off shots from a handgun during the interview. It's funny, but the point is made: Jones is a loose cannon.
Clearly there are significant numbers of partisans on both sides of the gun rights/gun control issue who will not be moved by any of this. The public debate is not being held for their benefit. This is about winning over the mushy middle, the same low-information voters who told pollsters Obama's reaction to hurricane Sandy was a major factor in deciding their vote. For those folks, the left is completely dominating the gun control debate right now. Those on the right who assume it won't matter need to look back at November 6th and think again.