Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s aides met recently with staffers of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to warn them: Targeting vulnerable Democrats like Arkansas’s Mark Pryor on gun control could backfire on the party, several sources told POLITICO.At issue is Pryor's choice to oppose last month's vote to strengthen the background check system for purchasing guns, an "issue" that is only controversial in the minds of a small fraction of people—most of them conspiracy cranks. Over 70 percent of the voters in Pryor's own state support the measure, rendering Pryor's weak-kneed vote all the more ridiculous, but that doesn't mean we're not all going to get a stern talking to about how bringing any of that up is going to hurt the party.
Senate Democrats point to the example of former Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln as a warning. Labor unions, angered by Lincoln’s vote against legislation they backed, helped fund a primary challenger in 2010. Lincoln narrowly won that primary, and then was swamped that November by Republican John Boozman.Actually, the lesson of Blanche Lincoln's defeat was that nobody liked Blanche Lincoln. Finding a primary challenger to knock her off was, given Lincoln's status as one of the most craven and corporatist Democratic senators on a whole host of issues, the only responsible action to take. That Lincoln fended the effort off only to be predictably crushed in the general election is not, despite the mewing of strategists, a lesson in how no Democrat should ever be challenged once in office. Perhaps the better lesson is to not screw your own voting base on issue after issue over the span of years and expect them to blow sunshine and rainbows your way come election time, but I am not an anonymous Senate Democrat and so probably do not fully understand today's modern sunshine and rainbow-blowing technology.
Pryor, for his part, is unrepentant:
“In today’s world, whether it’s a wealthy donor or a super PAC, sometimes they come in these races and throw a bunch of money around,” Pryor said in an interview. “I think in Arkansas, people know me pretty well, and they know I work very hard to try to listen and be responsive to the state. I’m always going to have people make these political threats.”Yeah, fine. How dare people blah-blah-blah, I made this decision because the people of Arkansas wanted me to, except for they almost universally didn't, and the fact that they didn't just shows how principled I am for screwing them. Or something; on political self-praise like that it's often a bit difficult to tell where the peacock's feathers end and where its ass begins. (Oh, and there's also some speculation lodged in there that if mean groups attack Pryor for his background check vote, that will make him "dig in further" and not want to support any further background check bills out of spite. This is the "petulant child" theory of politics; see Joe Lieberman for the best-known example of the phenomenon.)
We get some grief when we cite Politico for inside-the-Beltway gossipfests like this one, since politicians are all about gossipfests and pouting and preening and gawd knows they just don't get enough opportunities to anonymously do that in every other media venue. But the pouting and preening gives a fine look into the soulsucking void that is Our Elected Officials At Work, and if we didn't have an unrepentant press there to regurgitate these little squabbles we could only speculate as to what our anonymous betters were thinking—perhaps re-enacting the squabbles with a flock of chickens to add the necessary drama. That just wouldn't be the same, though I won't deny there'd be some satisfaction to be had in eating the chickens afterwards.