An opinion piece in Roll Call today by longtime political reporter Patricia Murphy asks a question we expect to loom large in the 2018 midterm elections: will the GOP’s unswerving support for the laissez faire interpretation of gun rights favored by the National Rifle Association finally become the liability for Republican candidates that has been forecast for years now as the issue of mass shootings has risen in the public consciousness?
Murphy says 2018 could be the year:
Women are coming for you, Republicans. That’s the message of 2018 so far, isn’t it? Between the record number of women running for office (mostly as Democrats), the record number of women winning primaries, and the enormous gender gap that shows up in polling everything from the president’s approval rating to generic House races, there’s a theme showing up — Republicans have a problem with women.
And they do. But from the conversations I’ve had with suburban women voters, and especially the mothers of young children I see every day as the mom of 5-year-olds myself, there’s much more to the story of the GOP’s trouble with women, and it has nothing to do with Stormy Daniels, #MeToo, Russia or the Resistance.
The problem is the feeling mothers have all day, every day, when they watch their children step through the doors of their school at drop-off or onto the school bus, if that’s how they leave in the morning. The feeling is something between awareness and anxiety. It lasts seven hours or maybe eight, 10 if it’s a long day, until their kids are home again. It comes with dark thoughts, usually in the back of their minds. Some days, with breaking news banners, the feeling is a split second of panic…
With every school shooting that has happened recently, and then faded into the pile of the ones before it, Washington has seemed more and more resigned that nothing can be done to stop the next one. Doing something before the midterms? Don’t be crazy. But the feeling outside of D.C. is, in fact, the opposite — that something must be done to stop the next one, and it should have happened already.
In particular, Murphy opines, it’s a huge mistake to assume that Republican women are in lockstep with the NRA (and for that matter, their husbands) on taking concrete steps beyond the scope of what’s been proposed to date to reduce gun violence–especially mass shootings and violence against school children. The right’s extremely well-entrenched information machine of course saturates those women with the same pro-gun messages as other conservative media consumers, but it’s counterbalanced by a fundamental sense of unease women feel regarding threats to children. Their own, and all the others. We don’t think it’s sexist to posit that women feel an innate sense of responsibility for the safety of children that men seem more capable of rationalizing away.
What does this mean for Colorado’s most perennially vulnerable member of Congress, Rep. Mike Coffman? Colorado’s long tragic history with mass shootings, including the 2012 Aurora theater shooting in the heart of Coffman’s district, could combine with the shifting public opinion on guns nationally to create a perfect storm for Coffman. Murphy singles out Coffman as a prime example of a Republican whose support for the NRA, an unquestioned article of faith for his entire career up to now, could suddenly become a critical weakness in a district that Hillary Clinton carried comfortably in 2016.
Coffman’s campaign wants voters to think nothing has changed, and nothing will change. That no matter what happens, Coffman will be able to cobble together a majority of support to hold on to his seat even as the same voters elect Democrats to other offices.
But something about this year…feels different.