Catering to the 10 Percent

It's make or break time in the Senate to finally do something that will begin to address out of control gun violence in America. It's been four months since the tragedy at Sandy Hook and many Republicans in the Senate and the House are still summoning the courage to support expanding background checks for gun sales, a policy that has 90 percent support with the American people. Ninety percent! Very few legislative items receive that degree of support. What is striking is how consistent the polling is across red, swing, and blue states.

According to in-state and in-district polling recently conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the support for background checks makes Hillary Clinton's approval numbers look pedestrian (no offense Madam Secretary). In the sunshine state, Marco Rubio is going to need more than one bottle of water to explain why he was threatening a filibuster on an item that 94 percent of Floridians support. In another battleground state, Pennsylvania, 88 percent favor background checks -- making Senator Pat Toomey's decision to work with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin on background check legislation look very wise, a point the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza wrote about a few days ago. In the ultimate, must-have battleground state of Ohio, 83 percent of voters support background checks.

Traditional red states aren't much different. What's stunning is how out of touch Republican senators who have threatened a filibuster are with their own home states. In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, are out of step with 82 percent of voters who support background checks. In the Hoosier state, Dan Coats is out of step with 89 percent of voters who support it. In North Carolina, Richard Burr is opposing the wishes of 90 percent of voters in the Tar Heel state. In Oklahoma, super red Oklahoma, Jim Inhofe is out of step with 87 percent of voters. In Utah, Mike Lee, one of the ringleaders of the threatened filibuster is out of step with 83 percent of voters in his state. I think you get the point, but for some reason, Republicans don't.

The debate around background checks and the larger discussion about gun violence is just the latest example of Republicans opposing the will of the majority of the American people. Immigration reform, gay marriage, a balanced approach to solving our fiscal crisis -- these are all issues where the GOP is on the wrong side of public opinion.

It drives Democrats crazy that Republican politicians in Washington don't just come along with the rest of the country on key issues -- but the unfortunate reality of our political system is most of these Republicans are blinded by their own fear that they'll face a primary challenge if they buck the fringe of their very vocal base. That explains the almost irrational zeal Republicans have exuded opposing something that 9 out 10 voters support -- they're more concerned with the 1 out of 10, however misguided that sounds. On this issue, Washington Republicans are ignoring not only independents, but also a majority of Republicans, to tend to the concerns of gun manufacturers and the right wing who oppose anything the president supports.

It's a shame that a party can get away with opposing something that has majority support, let alone 90 percent, but that's where we are with the GOP today. It's a shame that closing loopholes in the background check system went from no-brainer to 'I hope we can beat back a filibuster.' It's a shame that a vocal minority can turn bi-partisan commonsense policy into something that is considered controversial enough for the minority to threaten a filibuster. It's a shame that what amounts to compromise and political courage to Republican politicians in Washington these days is dragging their feet to support policies that the overwhelming majority of voters, including many Republicans, agree on. That really shows you how outside of the mainstream Congressional Republicans have moved.

If the compromise on background checks forged between Sens. Toomey and Manchin makes it through the Senate, let's hope Speaker John Boehner (OH-8) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA-7) listen to the 76 percent of voters and 91 percent of voters, in their respective districts, who support background checks and bring the bill up for a vote. If GOP leaders continue to take their marching orders from the Tea Party and other right-wing extremists, then they better get used to how they felt on November 6th of this past year.