In the past month alone, Americans witnessed mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado that took the lives of eighteen people just as businesses began to reopen as people started getting vaccinated. It was a cruel reminder of the violence and loss of lives that we have endured for years, sending shock waves through a nation where gun reform continues to end in political gridlock.
Zelaya noted that 2020 was the deadliest year of gun violence in decades, contrary to the widely held misconception that gun violence decreased while the nation experienced lockdowns and restrictions after March of last year. Its constancy is one of the most reliable things in this nation, as she said, [TW: suicide] “Gun violence happens constantly … [and many collected statistics do not even] take into consideration people who take their own lives … it is getting wildly underreported.”
Eleveld agreed that the issue seemed to have taken a back seat in 2020, noting the effect of Donald Trump on the news cycle and how he had effectively drowned out other important issues: “It’s wild last year that gun violence had been up more than it had been in a while … it shows you how you can really dominate the news cycle even if the stuff you’re saying is pure trash and lies … [Trump] still consumed America even while gun violence was just proliferating.”
Zelaya and Eleveld first welcomed Sudbay and Wolf onto the show to discuss what’s at stake in the fight against gun violence and whether anything has changed about the current moment that might indicate hope for meaningful gun reform.
Wolf was at Pulse Nightclub during the shooting and lost friends that night, and he weighed in with his own personal experiences. That one night in 2016 changed his life forever, he remembered: “Pulse was about so much more than just a nightclub; it was so much more than just a Saturday night. It was a safe space for people like us … a lot of people felt like their own safe space had been attacked on the night of June 12, 2016.” It later became a call for him to become an advocate for gun control.
Zelaya asked Wolf about turning tragedy into advocacy. To Wolf, the most effective way to create meaningful change on gun violence is to move hearts and minds, and he noted the critical role survivors and their families play in shifting the national narrative. Citing his own disagreements with his father on the issue, he asked viewers to meet those with different beliefs on the issue at points of agreement, such as wanting everyone to feel safe and have their lives protected.
Wolf also named the role of the GOP in indirectly and directly condoning gun violence through its party platform. In doing so, he drew a direct line to the divisiveness that the Republican Party has adopted today in attempting to silence its critics and cling to the last vestiges of power:
The NRA has only ever been one small component of the problem; if you look at Republican politics today, they essentially operate as an ‘own the libs’ platform … there’s no discussion of policy … gone are the days of the ‘compassionate conservatism’ of George Bush … We’re in an era where the Republican Party doesn’t see any risk in not doing anything on these issues. Their only role in their minds is to obstruct progress.
Eleveld brought up the huge discrepancy in the way gun control is viewed by consultants inside the Beltway versus regular people outside of it, as many policymakers believe gun control is a losing issue, whereas a majority of Americans support it. The politics have changed substantially on this issue in the past few years, and more Americans are expecting action to protect their communities from further mass shootings and violence. In fact, Eleveld noted that just recently, moderate Democratic Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, who represents a hard-won swing district in Virginia, put out a tweet trying to pressure Senate Democrats to try to take action on the two bills that the House has already passed.
Here, Sudbay chimed in, weighing in on the power of the filibuster and why it needs to be changed:
Not dealing with the filibuster is playing Mitch McConnell’s game. We have to change the rules … the background check bill you mention failed because of the filibuster, because Mitch McConnell changed the rules. I actually think that if we ended the filibuster, we would see more bipartisanship. You would see more Republican senators coming to the table. And several of them have voted for background checks in the past … Changing the filibuster is important for everything in our lives … Democrats are going to need to decide whether they’re going to stick with the Jim Crow relic or do what most Americans want.
As Wolf concluded his segment on the show, Zelaya and Eleveld welcomed Mueller to join Sudbay to talk about the Republican Party’s strategy.
Mueller tracks Republican advertising, which he says often includes racist, sexist, anti-gay, and anti-trans dog whistle language to rile up the GOP base:
Up and down the ticket, from the Trump campaign down to low level statehouse races, folks were running on strategic racism as their main driver forward. 2020 was the most amount spent in an election cycle, double what it was in 2016. And on the Republican side, most of that went to ads … they’re not focused on policy … they’re not even talking to anybody about tax cuts anymore, right? They’re really just using … fear to get people to the ballot box.
Zelaya wondered how this strategy was sustainable, and Sudbay said that it would be impossible if not for voter suppression. By dually using fear to push voters to the ballot box and then suppressing the votes of those who would vote against them, Republicans are essentially creating a pipeline of voters skewed in their favor. This is why corporations—typically reliable supporters of GOP candidates—pushing back against recent voter suppression laws is setting off alarm bells for Mitch McConnell and the GOP.
Eleveld said pointedly,
Mitch McConnell, if he’s threatening corporate America, is running scared. He has built his entire career on getting major political donations from corporate America, from wealthy donors, and using that to leverage obtaining power. And power is the sole organizing concept of his life. So it is almost just unimaginable that he’s threatening corporations.
Sudbay called on tying GOP policies to these companies to put additional pressure on them: “It’s important to all communities … anybody who cares about basic decency. The same kinds of basic decency these corporations tell us they care about—when they spend so much money funding the policies of the GOP.”
On a closing note, Mueller said it was important to bring the fight to corporations and make them understand what’s at stake: “This is what happens when you allow this kind of strategic racism to be amplified in our society again and again … Corporations should know … what they’re selling here is strategic racism into our society. We’re going to try to cut that spigot off.”
The full episode can be viewed here:
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