No, Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Need a Plan For Passing Gun Control Legislation

Lots of political observers are surprised that Hillary Clinton is talking about guns. That’s a loser for Democrats, isn’t it? Paul Waldman isn’t so sure:

The truth is quite a bit more complicated than that — in fact, pushing for measures like expanded background checks is likely to help Clinton in the 2016 election. But if she’s going to promise to make headway on this issue, she needs to offer some plausible account of how as president she could make real progress where Barack Obama couldn’t.

Allow me to impolitely disagree. Presidential campaigns are extended exercises in affinity marketing. No presidential candidate ever has to explain how they’re going to enact legislation. The most they have to do is offer a bit of breezy blather about crossing the aisle and focusing on areas of agreement and Americans not really being as polarized as the media makes them out to be. That’s plenty.

Oh sure, there are a few thousand annoying know-it-alls like Waldman and me who are going to write blog posts about how this or that promise ain’t gonna happen because the politics are impossible. But hell, even we don’t care. We’re still going to vote for whoever we planned to vote for anyway. It’s not as if any of the other candidates are going to work miracles either.

Now, it’s true that some candidates run on a theme of competence, of “getting things done.” Scott Walker is doing it this year. Michael Dukakis did it in 1988. But I don’t think there’s any evidence that even this pale shadow of “how I’m going to get things done” has much effect on voters. They just vote for the candidate who seems to be generally on their side, or generally most reasonable, or generally good to have a beer with. The details can be left to the wonks.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.