Back in the day, terror in my hometown of Montevideo was pretty much confined to the cops cleaning the last drunks of the night out of Sarge’s Bar or chasing my buddies and me through alleys for throwing water balloons at trucks. But now the old town has real knucklehead poster-boys for the over-armed, paranoid, anti-gummint trailer park militia movement. And they’re feeling the wrath of the Monte cops … and FBI.
The laugh line in this past week’s news out of “Mo-Town”, as we locals refer to it, was that Buford “Bucky” Rogers, his garage full of molotov cocktails and ample reserve ammo withstanding, was not believed to have any “overseas” connections. Riiight.
Based on what we heard from his proud camo-attired Pappy, I’m kinda thinking little spawn-of-pappy Buford may not be exactly too up on which sea is where, much less what it takes to get over one.
FoxNews, whose primetime hyper-ventilators pretty well wore themselves out flogging every imaginable “muslim” connection to the nearly as knuckleheaded Tsarnaev brothers in Boston, largely ignored the Montevideo terrorist. My guess is that Buford confronted them with a counter-effective narrative. How so? Because from the get-go it was clear that Buford and his family were yet another episode of an all too familiar commodity on the American landscape … low-information, gun-obsessed, talk-radio/FoxNews-fueled conservatives. Another round of forlorn characters fueled by the implausibly grandiose belief that “the government” not only knows who they are, but is personally harassing them. We see these guys every time the Tea Party rallies at a gun show. They’re as familiar to us as, well, the folks in the trailer next door.
I don’t think it matters much what happens next to my guy Buford. By the sound of it, I get the distinct impression that his “terrorism” was pretty much directed at settling local Mo-Town feuds. I’ll be stunned if we hear he had a plan — hell, the thought of Buford “planning” something is kind of funny — to attack the Federal Reserve or the Megamall or the Gander Mountain gun counter.
But there’s something politically useful about the episode. Buford’s Insane Clown Posse-style terrorism further marginalizes the country’s gun obsessed at a moment when the NRA brand has reached a level of toxicity that has to take even House Republicans’ breath away. While the NRA core celebrates its victory in defeating universal background checks, signing up a million new members since Newtown and holding a splashy convention in Houston last week, they choose to ignore something pretty fateful … for them. Namely that the greater public, which supported background checks by anything from 70% to 90%, is looking at them with fresh eyes. They see the same crowd of paunchy, goateed, middle-aged to geezerly white guys buying up assault rifles and ammo and giving Wayne LaPierre standing ovations, and are steeling themselves for the next rounds of this fight.
Crazy’s best days are behind it.
Which is why it is disappointing that House Speaker Paul Thissen — with coordination from Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, a proud Iron Ranger with all that implies — decided not to push a vote on background checks and more here in Minnesota.
Of course they don’t have the votes to actually pass it now. Obama and Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein knew that when they pushed it in D.C. But the point was … the vote. A critical step forward, if elections matter, is getting fretful yobs to press a button and go on record in a highly visible, unambiguous way saying where they stand … on something that has 70% to 90% public support against five million fanatics.
Obama made a good show of indignation after the vote, gathered with Newtown families in The Rose Garden. But he knew he wasn’t going to win … yet. Guns are a fanatical obsession for those who are obsessed with them. It’ll take three, four or a half-dozen more slugfests like the universal background check fight to get something effective.
There’s a lot of messaging work to do. But the upside is that the fanatics are doing a lot of the heavy lifting for us. Every gun-related atrocity, every news clip of an NRA spokesman, every gun nut-on-the-street interview becomes part of the gun control message.
But the first important legislative step is to make legislators pick a side.
Who with, dude? The 70% – 90%? Or the NRA/Buford Rogers/Black Snake Militia?
Time is not on the side of the gun lobby. If someone like Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, whose poll numbers slumped badly after her “no” vote, suffers political consequences, which gun control advocates will find a way to make certain she does, the NRA’s fearsome threat will be neutered. The redoubts will be the South and the hinterland trailer parks, like Buford’s daddy’s in Mo-Town.
A yea or nay vote in Minnesota would force some serious political assaying. Until recently, out-state/hinterland legislators have (correctly) assumed the only threat a gun vote poses to their careers comes from the goateed fanatics who put their lives on hold and make four dozen calls every time a gun bill pops up in the legislature. Are those legislators truly confident that is still the case?
Thissen and Bakk were no doubt queasy about forcing embarrassment on out-state DFLers who were taking the heaviest flak from the fanatics. But sometimes effective leadership strategy requires pushing your own comrades into situations they’d rather avoid. Ron Latz, from St. Louis Park, (not exactly a hot bed of ersatz-patriotic gun slingers and gummint haters), and Mike Paymar (Mac-Groveland, Highland park … ditto), two guys who pushed gun control bills, should keep on making serious noise about exactly this tactical step.
You have to make them vote. With every Buford Rogers, Insane Clown terrorist, tolerance of our wholly unfettered gun insanity weakens, and there is less peril in campaigning against the NRA.
Even in my home town.