Every election cycle, the NRA uses its massive financial and political power to support the worst possible candidates and the worst possible causes. This is an uncomfortable reality of modern politics and the hold the gun lobby has over hundreds of politicians across the country, but it is not an unchangeable situation.
The good news, per a new report by the Guardian today, is that the NRA is currently so much of a shitshow it may not be able to be on top of its game in 2020. Thanks to a chaotic year of infighting and, crucially, a probe by the New York attorney general, the Guardian notes that the lobbying group’s immense political power may not be what it once was.
Former NRA spokesman John Aquilino agreed that NRA support for Trump could be crucial in 2020, but may be endangered by all the turmoil.
“The reality is that the NRA absolutely helped Trump get elected, and probably to an extent greater than most people realize,” Aquilino said “The strongest NRA states are the swing states. Trump realizes that NRA support in those swing states is more important than political party affiliation for winning.” Trump’s tweet, he added, amounted to “telling the children to stop throwing food across the table at each other and get down to business”.
The attorney general’s probe in particular appears to be the most concerning part for Donald Trump, who has pandered openly to the NRA for the entirety of his time in office—hence the tweet on April 29 essentially telling the group to get its shit together:
The organization did manage to elect a new president, Carolyn Meadows, whose job it will be to help get the organization under control in time to dump the maximum amount of propaganda into the 2020 news cycle. Meadows wasted almost no time in reaffirming the organization’s dedication to Trump.
The difference, the Guardian reports, could be huge. Look at these numbers (bolding mine):
Trump’s 2020 political prospects are expected to turn in part on the NRA repeating what it did in 2016 to back his then long-shot candidacy. The NRA spent a record $30m-plus on ads supporting Trump and mobilized its field operations in critical midwestern swing states where the gun lobby has strong grassroots, helping Trump prevail despite losing the popular vote by 3 million.
The NRA reported that it spent $54.4m on the 2016 elections to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). But two NRA sources with ties to the organization’s board told McClatchy last year that the NRA’s total spending in 2016 was at least $70m, a figure that includes spending on its field operations to mobilize voters and online ads, neither of which have to be reported to the FEC.
As much as $70 million. Yoof. But compare that to when the NRA doesn’t show up in full force, like 2018:
When Democrats regained the House in the 2018 elections, the NRA’s spending was an anemic $9.4m, only about a third of what it spent in the 2014 midterms. For the first time ever, the NRA was outspent by pro-gun control groups.
The group’s lackluster spending in 2018 was at least partly attributable to big financial losses the group posted in 2016 and 2017 that combined for a total $64m.
In other words, the more headlines you see about financial chaos at the NRA, the better. Every dollar it can’t spend on 2020 is a win for any candidate who wishes for a less-violent America.