A Few Quick Thoughts on “Tolls vs. Guns”

A Few Quick Thoughts on “Tolls vs. Guns”


by Lowell

I’ve been chatting with people about this subject for days now, whether “tolls” or “guns” will prove to be a more potent political issue in Tuesday’s Virginia General Assembly elections. Almost everyone I’ve chatted with about this has agreed that “tolls” could be a much more potent issue, politically, than “guns.” It’s not because “tolls” are more important than “guns” – far from it; the toll issue is wildly overblown, and regardless infinitely less important than thousands of people per year losing their lives to gun violence in this country.

It’s also worth noting, as the Washington Post correctly pointed out this morning, that Virginia Republicans have concocted an almost completely false “horror story” about tolls, Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it won’t work as a political issue, especially given the hundreds of thousands of dollars Republicans are spending to bludgeon voter with their dishonest, demagogic message.

Meanwhile, when it comes to guns, everyone I’ve chatted with has agreed that, although huge majorities (80%+) of the public agree on commonsense, gun safety measures like universal background checks, not letting domestic abusers have access to guns, etc., the PASSION has always been – and continues to be – with the small minority who really really loooooooove guns. So, we’ll see what happens on Tuesday, given the $1 million+ in TV ads Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group is running in Northern Virginia and Richmond, but if past patterns hold true, it sadly could be the case that those ads don’t achieve the desired result. In fact, they COULD theoretically have the perverse effect of riling up the “gun nuts” even more than they’re usually riled up (I know, seems impossible…).

Finally, I know it’s borderline shocking (lol), but I find myself strongly agreeing with something Arlington Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey of the wrote this morning:

As one local legislator reminded me in the wake of last year’s Columbia Pike streetcar-proposal collapse, even if you have the facts on your side, if it takes you 17 minutes to explain your support for an issue and it takes your opponent 17 seconds to articulate his or her opposition, you’ve already pretty much lost the battle. 

We’ll see if “No $17 Tolls” is as potent a campaign slogan as “No Car Tax” was way back in the day. Republicans hope it is, Democrats pray it is not.

Very true on the 17 minutes vs. 17 seconds point. I was just discussing this with a Democratic candidate yesterday, that it took me hundreds of words – and more than 17 minutes – the other day to (partly) debunk the Republicans’ barrage o’ demagoguery on I-66 tolls. Meanwhile, the 30-SECOND TV ads keep on airing, with their brain-dead slogans about “$17 tolls” and how Democrats can’t be trusted to stop said tolls, even if they’ve pledged to oppose them (and even if they have no power to do much about them, regardless).

Finally, I’d remind everyone of the “abuser fees” controversy of 2007, which saw more than 100,000 people signing a petition within a few days, and with no money spent to promote the petition, against potential $1,000 fines for various motor vehicle offenses. Note that those “abuser fees” were scrapped as fast as legislators could get their butts down to Richmond to vote to deep-six them.

The bottom line is this: in Northern Virginia, and to an extent elsewhere in Virginia, if a politician so much as THINKS about touching people’s preeeeecious (yes, you can say that in your “Gollum” voice) cars, watch out! As for guns, it seems that the “silent majority” is mostly silent, while the vocal minority is VERY vocal. And remember, riled-up people tend to vote. We’ll see how this plays out on Tuesday, but as a Democrat, I’m feeling kinda nervous right now…