The group charged with getting Democrats elected to the House sternly warned its stable of candidates and their staffs not to “politicize” the Las Vegas massacre—the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history—by talking about gun control, according to an email obtained by HuffPost and published Tuesday.
In the message, sent the morning after the shooting, which left 58 dead and another 851 people wounded, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Regional Press Secretary Evan Lukaske warned candidates across the Northeast that “You and your candidate will be understandably outraged and upset, as will your community. However, DO NOT POLITICIZE IT TODAY.”
“There will be time for politics and policy discussion, but any message today should be on offering thoughts/prayers for victims and their families, and thanking 1st responders who saved lives,” Lukaske continued.
That bit of messaging feels awfully tone-deaf coming in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, FL. Students who survived the shooting wasted almost no time in forcefully calling for gun control measures to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again and have provided a model for how to take politicians and NRA officials to task for their inaction.
As more and more Americans challenge the normalization of gun violence, a once-innocuous offering of “thoughts and prayers”—particularly by lawmakers who accept money from the gun lobby—has also become increasingly fraught, so it’s stunning that Democrats would be pushing to use that sort of language.
The DCCC told HuffPost that its advice was only intended to dissuade Democratic House candidates from speaking hastily, and that candidates were free to ignore it.
“A communications staffer who fails to provide immediate and thoughtful guidance after a national tragedy, based on the best available information at the time, is not doing his job,” Meredith Kelly, a spokeswoman for the DCCC, said.
The news also comes at a moment of increased scrutiny of the DCCC. The Intercept reported on Tuesday that the DCCC urged candidates not to back single payer healthcare—or any substantive reforms to the healthcare system, really—after reading internal polling filled with negatively framed questions about single payer. The site has also extensively reported on the organization’s efforts to act as a gatekeeper to newcomer candidates running as Democrats, withholding their resources as a means of keeping them from moving leftward of the party line.
It’s exceedingly difficult to build a mass political movement that runs completely independent of the established party machinery. Unfortunately for left and progressive activists and voters, it’s looking like the DCCC is rotten to its core.