Last weekend, there were two mass shootings in America, coming fresh off another mass shooting just last week. While Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, and Tim Ryan called the victims their constituents, it was clear that none of the candidates knew how to campaign in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy. The email count dropped sharply.
Tim Ryan and Cory Booker tied for most talkative, with 14 emails each. Kirsten Gillibrand pushed into second with 12 emails, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris both sent 11 emails. 2 emails a day was the absolute most any campaign averaged this past week, and I have certainly appreciated it.
Despite the average, the week was definitely end-heavy. On Sunday and Monday, most campaigns still weren’t sure what to say or how to react.
With 74 emails, the weekend attacks were by far the biggest topic of the week. It also highlighted, underlined, and starred the differences between the two candidates from Texas.
When writing, you’re always told “Show, don’t tell.” The basic idea is thus:
Stefan got home. He was angry and frustrated, so he ate some ice cream.
Stefan slammed his door behind him and threw his keys at the bowl he usually kept them in. He used too much force, and they slid up the rim on the far side and dropped to the floor. Huffing, he grabbed them off the floor and threw them back in the bowl, then he stomped off to the kitchen. He yanked the freezer door open and pulled out a carton of pistachio ice cream, his guilty pleasure. Discarding the lid, Stefan grabbed the largest spoon from his drawer and flung himself onto his couch, digging into the green ice cream. “Today f–ing SUCKED,” he grumbled to his aloe plant.
At no point in the second one did I say “angry” or “frustrated,” but you knew Stefan was from the words and the actions chosen. Not only did the second one convey the message, but it also conveyed the emotion. It’s a more powerful piece because it showed what was happening instead of saying it.
Now compare these email excerpts.
Content warning: Talk of the gun violence in the next couple of quotes. Reader be cautioned.
I’m heartbroken. I’m furious…Julian Castro
…I’m sick to my stomach.
A gunman opened fire on my community this past weekend.
I realized that my family’s lives could be put in danger while we go back-to-school shopping.
I’m heartbroken that — in El Paso, and in Dayton, and in Chicago — this was the reality for so many families.
And I’m heartbroken that, in too many communities, this is the reality every day.
But I’m also pissed off.
I am so proud of my hometown of El Paso. Always have been.
I tell our story wherever I go. This place of immigrants, of people from all over the planet, who came here to do better for themselves and to do better for this country. I tell people about how we are one of the safest cities in the United States. Nearly 700,000 people and we’ve averaged only 18 murders a year.
And I make sure that people know that those two things are connected. It is the very presence of immigrants and asylum seekers and refugees that has made us so safe. We don’t just tolerate our differences, we embrace them. We treat each other with the dignity and respect we are owed as human beings. It is the foundation of our success and our safety.
I’ve always thought the example set by El Paso could offer a path forward for a country that is so consumed by our differences and our divisions.
Si queremos asegurar nuestro país, I often say, necesitamos seguir el ejemplo de El Paso.
But on Saturday, we realized that we can take no comfort in our safety, in our ability to see the best in each other by seeing ourselves in one another. That, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
Though El Paso is a safe community, we are part of a country that is violent. A country that has failed to adopt laws that would allow us to perform a background check on everyone who wants to own a firearm. One that still allows weapons designed for war to be sold into our communities. We lost 40,000 of our fellow Americans to gun violence last year — inexplicable but for the stranglehold that the gun lobby has on Congress and the White House, and the fear that our elected representatives have of the NRA.
And though we are a city that prides itself as a home of immigrants, we live in America at a moment that the President seeks to make us afraid of immigrants, to see them as animals and rapists and killers, a threat to our very lives. An invasion that must be stopped. An infestation that must be stamped out.Beto O’Rourke
I have come to realize why Julian Castro’s emails rub me the wrong way. He tells. He doesn’t show his story, he just tells it. There’s no emotional connection forged or appeal to our shared humanity. He just tells me that we have a shared humanity. He tells me he understands my struggles. It doesn’t feel genuine the way Beto O’Rourke’s emails do. Even Tim Ryan is writing better when he’s talking about a tragedy hitting too close to home than Castro.
It’s hard enough to believe in politicians, especially after our current administration. Anything the candidate can do to make it easier will score them points, and any time they make me do the leg work to like them will lose them points.
I know I’ve been scolded by supporters of candidates in the past when I criticized them “without doing my research.” Apparently, reading every email they have sent in the past three months and watching them on the debate stage is not a sufficient understanding of a candidate and I cannot judge them solely on that.
That is entirely the wrong approach, in my opinion. It is my job to be an informed voter. It is not my job to seek out every scrap of information about over 20 candidates. By actually reading every candidate’s emails, I’m probably better informed than the majority of the country. If your candidate can’t make a good impression in their own words, I’m not going to spend even more time giving them the benefit of the doubt.
There was actually another good candidate comparison via email this week in the Policy topic. In light of the weekend events, several candidates talked about their gun control stances.
Marianne Williamson was the first to address gun control on Monday afternoon.
As a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, I hereby pledge to introduce, within the first 100 days of my presidency, comprehensive firearm legislation to establish universal background checks, outlawing of bump stocks, closing of gun show and boyfriend loopholes, plus outlawing of assault weapons as well as the bullets needed to shoot them.Marianne Williamson
Just to make it clear, Williamson is not presenting this as a policy paper. The other two candidates are laying out deliberate plans, whereas this is presumably (hopefully?) just one aspect of Williamson’s plans for gun control. However, it is also all she said on the topic, other than offering prayers.
Pete Buttigieg went a step further. On Tuesday, he announced his Action Plan to Combat the National Threat Posed by Hate and the Gun Lobby. He posted this to Medium, which is the usual place to find other candidates’ policies, but it’s unusual for Buttigieg. Below is an excerpt from his action plan.
Make sure guns don’t get into the wrong hands:
1. Make background checks universal and close the loopholes that allow dangerous individuals to acquire and keep guns. After each new mass shooting, it has become routine to learn that the perpetrator acquired their guns legally. Current federal law only requires licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks on gun sales, allowing too many people who are banned from having guns to acquire them anyway. This loophole and others that allow dangerous individuals to obtain guns have to be closed.
* Institute universal background checks. The Senate should immediately pass universal background check legislation — including from all gun shows and unlicensed online sales — which was passed by the House of Representatives over 150 days ago.
* Close the “boyfriend loophole.” We need to close loopholes that will reduce the number of intimate partner homicides, including extending laws to apply to dating partners in the same way that they treat partners who have lived together as spouses.
* Close the “Charleston loophole.” Under federal law, if a federally-licensed gun dealer who has initiated a background check has not been notified within three business days that the sale would violate federal or state laws, the sale can go forward by default. We must close this deadly loophole and allow the FBI additional time to investigate potentially dangerous people. Until a background check is completed, gun sales must be prohibited from taking place.
* Close the hate loophole. Hate and bigotry have motivated some of the deadliest mass shootings in our nation’s history. In too many cases, a firearm turns bigoted threats into deadly assaults. In recent years, the number of active hate groups in the U.S. has reached an all-time high.We must pass the Disarm Hate Act, which would prohibit people convicted of hate crimes from acquiring or possessing firearms.
2. Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. In the two decades since Columbine, America has barely changed its national gun laws, besides letting an assault weapons ban expire. As a veteran, I know that military-grade weapons have no place in our neighborhoods. The same is true for high-capacity magazines, some of which can hold up to 100 rounds of ammunition and significantly increase a shooter’s ability to injure and kill large numbers of people quickly without needing to reload. We’ve already decided that certain weaponry — like tanks and rockets — are unacceptable in civilian hands. Congress should similarly reinstitute a federal assault weapons ban and ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
3. Support red flag laws that disarm domestic abusers. Red flag laws allow a judge to seize legally-owned guns if someone is determined to be an immediate threat to themselves or others. In many cases, people close to a mass shooter had observed clear warning signs of violence — such as stalking or abusing women — but were unable to act to keep the shooter from accessing weapons. Congress should pass a federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act to allow for an intervention before there is carnage.
4. Establish a nationwide gun licensing system. Comprehensive background checks can be made more effective by also requiring the gun buyer to be licensed — similar to what we require of car owners nationwide. This increases accountability for both sellers and buyers, and makes it less likely that a prohibited individual will be able to obtain a gun. Congress should also supplement universal background check legislation with federal licensing laws.
5. Resume federal funding for gun violence research. Gun violence is a public health crisis, but for the past two decades Congress has effectively cut funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) for studying gun violence. The House of Representatives allocated $50 million of funding for gun violence research at CDC and NIH, and the Senate should immediately pass it. When someone wants to make it illegal to research something, you’ve got to wonder what they’re worried we might find.Pete Buttigieg
Yes, that’s just an excerpt. Buttigieg broke the solution down into three attack plans: policy (what his administration could do), political (what other government officials could do/we could do to put pressure on the government), and civic (what can be done locally). He then broke the problem down further into combating radicalization, stopping online violent extremism, and the part listed above, keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
The leading lady in the policy discussion, Elizabeth Warren, also has a plan for gun control, though it took her until Saturday to launch it. (I actually checked her website earlier to see if gun control was one of her many policy plans after the shooting, but there was nothing there.) Here is an excerpt from Warren’s plan. I tried to pick excerpts from both her plan and Buttigieg’s that matched in the goals to make a fair comparison.
Legislation to Reduce Gun Violence
When I am president, I will send Congress comprehensive legislation containing our best ideas about what will work to reduce gun violence.
It starts by ensuring that safe, responsible ownership is the standard for everyone who chooses to own a gun. We’ll do that by:
* Creating a federal licensing system. States with strict licensing requirements experience lower rates of gun trafficking and violence. A license is required to drive a car, and Congress should establish a similarly straightforward federal licensing system for the purchase of any type of firearm or ammunition.
* Requiring universal background checks. I’ll expand background checks via executive action — but Congress should act to permanently mandate universal background checks. And I’ll push Congress to close the so-called “Charleston loophole” that allows a sale to proceed after three days even if the background check is not complete.
* Increasing taxes on gun manufacturers. Since 1919, the federal government has imposed an excise tax on manufacturers and importers of guns and ammunition. Handguns are taxed at 10% and other guns and ammunition are taxed at 11%. These taxes raise less in revenue than the federal excise tax on cigarettes, domestic wine, or even airline tickets. It’s time for Congress to raise those rates — to 30% on guns and 50% on ammunition — both to reduce new gun and ammunition sales overall and to bring in new federal revenue that we can use for gun violence prevention and enforcement of existing gun laws.
* Establishing a real waiting period. Waiting periods prevent impulsive gun violence, reducing gun suicides by 7–11% and gun homicides by 17%. Over the past 5 years, a national handgun waiting period would have stopped at least 4,550 gun deaths. The federal government should establish a one-week waiting period for all firearm purchases.
* Capping firearms purchases. About one out of four of firearms recovered at the scene of a crime were part of a bulk purchase. Congress should limit the number of guns that can be purchased to one per month, similar to a Virginia law that successfully reduced the likelihood of Virginia-bought guns being used in criminal activity.
* Creating a new federal anti-trafficking law. Congress should make clear that trafficking firearms or engaging in “straw purchases” — when an individual buys a gun on behalf of a prohibited purchaser — are federal crimes. This would give law enforcement new tools to crack down on gun trafficking and help keep guns out of the wrong hands.
* Raising the minimum age for gun purchases. I’ll extend existing age requirements to virtually all sales, but federal law is currently conflicting — for example, a person must be 21 to purchase a handgun from a federally licensed dealer, but only 18 to purchase a rifle. Congress should set the federal minimum age at 21 for all gun sales.
We can also do more to keep military-style assault weapons off our streets. We’ll do that by:
* Passing a new federal assault weapons ban. The 1994 federal assault weapons ban successfully reduced gun deaths but was allowed to expire ten years later. Congress should again ban the future production, sale, and importation of military-style assault weapons, and require individuals already in possession of assault weapons to register them under the National Firearms Act. Just as we did successfully with machine guns after the passage of that law, we should establish a buyback program to allow those who wish to do so to return their weapon for safe disposal, and individuals who fail to register or return their assault weapon should face penalties.
* Banning high-capacity ammunition magazines. High-capacity magazines were used in 57% of mass shootings from 2009 to 2015, allowing the shooters to target large numbers of people without stopping to reload. Congress should enact a federal ban on large-capacity magazines for all firearms, setting reasonable limits on the lethality of these weapons.
* Prohibiting accessories that make weapons more deadly. Gun manufacturers sell increasingly deadly gun accessories, including silencers, trigger cranks, and other mechanisms that increase the rate of fire or make semi-automatic weapons fully automatic. Congress should ban these dangerous accessories entirely.
We should also do everything possible to keep guns out of the hands of those at highest risk of violence. We’ll do that by:
* Passing extreme risk protection laws. Extreme risk protection orders allow families and law enforcement to petition to temporarily restrict access to firearms for individuals in crisis or at elevated risk of harming themselves or others. Congress should pass a federal extreme risk law and create a grant system to incentivize states to enact their own laws that clearly define extreme risk.
* Prohibiting anyone convicted of a hate crime from owning a gun. Too often, guns are used in acts of mass violence intended to provoke fear in minority communities; more than 10,000 hate crimes involve a gun every year. Any individual convicted of a hate crime should be permanently prohibited from owning a gun, full stop.
* Protecting survivors of domestic abuse. Domestic violence and gun violence are deeply connected — in an average month, more than 50 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner. I’ll close the boyfriend loophole, but Congress should make that permanent, and expand the law to include individuals with restraining orders or who have been convicted of stalking.
* Securing our schools. Parents shouldn’t have to buy bullet-proof backpacks for their children — guns have no place on our campuses or in our schools. Congress should improve the Gun-Free School Zones Act to include college and university campuses, and apply to individuals licensed by a state or locality to carry a firearm.
If we want real, long-lasting change, we must also hold the gun industry accountable, including online sites that look the other way when sellers abuse their platforms. We’ll do that by:
* Repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Nearly every other industry has civil liability as a check on irresponsible actions, but a 2005 law insulates firearms and dealers from civil liability when a weapon is used to commit a crime, even in cases when dealers were shockingly irresponsible. No one should be above the law, and that includes the gun industry. Congress should repeal this law, immediately.
* Holding gun manufacturers strictly liable for the harm they cause through a federal private right of action. Gun manufacturers make billions in profit by knowingly selling deadly products. Then they are let completely off the hook when people take those deadly products and inflict harm on thousands of victims each year. State tort law already recognizes that certain types of products and activities are so abnormally dangerous that the entities responsible for them should be held strictly liable when people are injured. Congress should codify that same principle at the federal level for guns by creating a new private right of action allowing survivors of gun violence to hold the manufacturer of the weapon that harmed them strictly liable for compensatory damages to the victim or their family.
* Strengthening ATF. The NRA has long sought to hobble the ATF, lobbying against staffing and funding increases for the agency and getting its congressional allies to impose absurd restrictions on its work even as the agency struggled to meet its basic responsibilities. Congress should fully fund ATF’s regulatory and compliance programs and remove the riders and restrictions that prevent it from doing its job.
* Regulating firearms for consumer safety. Today there are no federal safety standards for firearms produced in the United States. We can recall unsafe products from trampolines to children’s pajamas — but not defective guns. Congress should repeal the provision of law that prevents the Consumer Product Safety Commission from regulating the safety of firearms and their accessories.
* Tightening oversight for gun dealers. Today there is no requirement for federally-licensed gun shops to take even simple steps to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. Congress should pass basic safety standards for federally-licensed gun dealers, including employee background checks, locked cabinets, and up-to-date inventories of the weapons they have in stock.
* Holding gun industry CEOs personally accountable. I’ve proposed a law that would impose criminal liability and jail time for corporate executives when their company is found guilty of a crime or their negligence causes severe harm to American families — and that includes gun industry CEOs.Elizabeth Warren
Warren’s plan was split into Take Executive Action, Create Structural Changes, and the above Pass Legislation. She goes into a lot of detail. Clearly, both Buttigieg and Warren have done their homework on this topic.
Warren has definitely led the pack on making policies and plans important in this primary season, but it is important to note that having policies alone doesn’t make someone a good candidate for President. If your preferred candidate is releasing policies, make sure you actually read them and agree with what they’re proposing. Your candidate might have a plan for that… but is it a good plan? For example:
Invest in personalized gun technology that makes it difficult or impossible for someone other than a gun’s owner to fire it, and ensure that they’re for sale on the marketplace.
Provide a tax credit for the full value of upgrading a gun to use these systems, or work through the buyback program to allow “trades” of non-personalized guns to personalized ones.Andrew Yang
Is Andrew Yang proposing password-protecting or fingerprint-locking guns?
(Note: much of Yang’s policy aligns with Buttigieg’s and Warren’s above. If you want to read more, go to his website, which is where I got the above excerpt from.)
A surprising number of campaigns asked for donations not to themselves, but to organizations helping the victims of the shootings or fighting gun violence. Tim Ryan and Beto O’Rourke led these asks. O’Rourke continued asking for help for the victims of the ICE raids, while Ryan provided self-care advice. Pete Buttigieg and Tim Ryan asked me to call my senators, while Joe Biden asked me to call Mitch McConnell.
Despite all the asks for helping others, the campaigns did ask for a lot of money for themselves.
Tulsi Gabbard was only interested in getting more polls to qualify for the debates this week. Money wasn’t a huge issue for her (and she didn’t mention the shootings at all). Only Marianne Williamson tried to profit directly off the shootings. In her Monday email talking about the events, she said:
Your support is what got us campaign to this point, and your support is what keeps things going. Please give generously so we can continue to penetrate the field of old-think and bring forth something new for America. It is love, not fear, that will pave the way to a new and better possibility for the 21st Century.Marianne Williamson
On a lighter note, it seems to be sticker season round two! I’ve decided to let you see all of the swag offers I’ve received this week and included links if you want to participate.
In addition to the exclusive 10% discount code for his merch shop (only good through this weekend!): 99ARQECDF625 , I could donate anything to get this snazzy sticker!
Bullock is offering stickers for $5 from his campaign store, but look at all the places they’ve been popping up!
For a donation of what you feel is fair (but most people give $8, you know, if you’re not sure what is fair), you can get this sticker of the 2016 campaign slogan!
Taking the sticker game to the next level, Bennet throws in a choice: sticker or button for whatever you can give!
My favorite design has to go to Inslee, who didn’t realize that wearing glasses to the debate would be such a big deal.
I can tell you right now that none of the women candidates would have thought that.
It’s certainly a conversation starter!