Everyone knew that Barack Obama intended to infringe on American’s gun rights this week. It’s not as if Obama had been hiding it. He announced his intentions in advance, and then proceeded to drop a series of executive actions that, if implemented, would require the creation of a national gun registry.
So, what are Republicans intending on doing about it?
Thus far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has announced that he has no plans to do anything: “I think [Obama’s] view was I don’t need to deal with these people now … so I’m going to pursue my agenda through the executive order, unilateral action. Our ability in Congress to stop that is quite limited.”
The newly unbearded Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the actions “a form of intimidation that undermines liberty,” but said that the only way to stop Obama’s actions would be to “win in November…Ultimately, everything the president has done can be overturned by a Republican president.”
Technically, that isn’t true. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) wrote a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday threatening to cut funds to the Department of Justice if she attempts to enforce these illegal federal usurpations. He explained:
I have formally notified Attorney General Lynch that I will aggressively protect our Second Amendment rights using Congress’ power of the purse. I notified the attorney general that if the Department of Justice attempted to create new restrictions on our Constitutional rights that I would use every tool at my disposal to immediately restrict their access to federal funding.
But that won’t do much good. As Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) tweeted:
— Jim Bridenstine (@RepJBridenstine) January 5, 2016
The Congress had the opportunity to use the power of the purse. They’ve given that up. Donald Trump is correct when he asks, “where is Ryan and where are all these people to – you know, to do something, to negotiate or to do something? [Obama] got everything he wanted. We got nothing. I mean, we got nothing.”
The real question here is why Republican leaders prefer whining to fighting. The answer is one of mentality.
Earlier this week, Jim Geraghty of National Review penned a piece titled “The Rise of The Doomsday Conservatives.” In it, he described the major rift in the Republican Party:
The American Right is divided between those who think our country has serious problems and those who think it is teetering on the edge of collapse. Donald Trump’s rise has been fueled by the latter group, which sees itself as Cassandra, accurately surveying and desperately trying to revive a “crippled America,” as Trump titled his book.
This is essentially right. While Geraghty goes on to rip “Doomsday Conservatives” as xenophobes concerned about the “browning” of America, the reality is that many conservatives fear that we have reached a tipping point thanks to importation of people who do not come from places where Americans’ founding notions thrive, and thanks to our unwillingness to assimilate them; that our government has made too many too dependent; that every step of Obama’s agenda marches us closer to the abyss. We also believe that the abyss is closer than it may appear in your side mirror. Every victory for Obama, therefore, means that an angel loses his wings, and that we draw closer to political Armageddon.
Then there are conservatives who think that we’re one election away from restoring sanity, and that the goal of conservatives should therefore be chiefly to win elections. They believe that Republicans and Democrats will be able to work together to “get things done,” that the structure of government still works for the most part, that Obama has set no precedents that can’t be rolled back with a Republican president who will work with Democrats.
That’s not just a question of tactics. It’s a question of essential vision.
If you’re an establishment conservative, therefore, you see Obama’s executive gun-control actions as shockingly minor, and don’t truly fear the possibility of a gradual move toward gun confiscation. Stopping those actions becomes a secondary priority to keeping the government open – after all, shutting down the government might mean losing elections.
If you’re a Doomsday Conservative, you see Obama’s executive gun control action as predicate for something bigger and more nefarious – and you see it that way because Obama always has something bigger in mind. You worry that every piece of text not stopped ends up becoming a doorway to usurpation. And you fear that the establishment will keep pooh-poohing incremental change all the way until the point that the frog is fully boiled.
You don’t have to be a Trump supporter to be a Doomsday Conservative. And you don’t have to be a Trump opponent to be an establishment member. But one thing is certain: Democrats keep praying that Doomsday Conservatives lose. After all, it’s easier to move down the path toward destruction when your opposition refuses to believe that destruction is anywhere near at hand.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News, Editor-in-Chief of DailyWire.com, and The New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.