If you want to see how much the Republican Party is imprisoned by its conservative base and estranged from an America and Maine possessing a mixture of political views, look at the accompanying picture.
It's from an emailed flier in which the state Republican Party advertises the "Maine GOP Firearm Training Day" to be held July 13 at the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine (SAM) headquarters in Augusta. The event is described ungrammatically as "for Maine Concealed Carry Permit."
Apparently, it's for people who have or want to have permits to carry concealed guns. Calls to Republican officials seeking an explanation were not returned.
This event and its advertising clearly play to the party's pro-gun — critics would say, gun-obsessed — base. The big graphic celebrates a variety of gun uses. The three silhouetted figures are a hooded person with a huge handgun (a classic representation of a terrorist); a man with an AK-47-type assault rifle with a telescopic sight (ditto); and a hunter with a shotgun.
"I do not see the sense politically," comments Sandy Maisel, a Colby College government professor. "Generally, those for whom gun control — and, particularly, easily available concealed weapons permits — are important issues are already well into the Republican column. The graphic just invites complaints and criticism that are unnecessary."
The daylong event is co-sponsored by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Proceeds will benefit the state party. Breakfast, lunch, reception, and a concealed-carry permit class, with firing-range time, will set you back $185.
David Trahan, the former Republican state senator who heads up SAM, says his group isn't a sponsor, but, speaking of the Republicans, "We support what they're doing."
There's a good deal of evidence that, electorally, what the Republicans are doing is shooting themselves in the feet.
Andrew Kohut, founding director of the Pew Research Center, wrote in March in the Washington Post: "The Republican Party's ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorably." He concludes it has become a captive of "a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives." But to win elections, Kohut says, a political party "must appeal to the mixed values of the electorate."
Here's local confirmation of those mixed values:
A Pan Atlantic SMS poll earlier this year found that 90 percent of Mainers support background checks on all gun buyers. This number jibed with another poll showing 85 percent support. The Pan Atlantic poll also showed 57 percent of Maine people supported a ban on assault-type weapons.
Although today's Republican Party, SAM, and the NRA may not reflect the diversity of Mainers' views, they are still successful in Augusta. This past legislative session they defeated all the gun-control measures proposed in the wake of the Newtown massacre, including background-check bills — as Trahan points out, with some Democratic support.
The gun lobby almost got a bill passed to allow people to carry concealed firearms without a permit, which has been a requirement for almost a century. The bill failed in the House by only one vote.