MSNBC's Hayes: 'Far-Right Fringe' NRA 'Might Be Spelling Their Own Demise'

On Friday's All In show, with the words "The Sickness" displayed on screen behind him, MSNBC host Chris Hayes began the show with a commentary in which he tagged the NRA as a "far-right fringe organization" that "might be spelling their own demise" by celebrating the defeat of the universal background check proposal. Hayes:

While they did win the short-term victory with the background check bill, that vote could ultimately prove to be the NRA's undoing. Because, in a lot of ways, it's a classic wedge-issue vote, in that it separated the NRA from mainstream gun owners. And if they lean into that vote, as they appear to be doing, and mistake it for a victory, they might be spelling their own demise because Americans will come more and more to see them for what they are, which is a right-wing fringe organization.

Early on in the segment, after complaining that the NRA successfully worked to defeat the gun control deal after helping to negotiate it, Hayes found the pro-gun group's actions "admittedly, a semi-impressive -- if kind of gross and unseemly -- party trick on the part of the NRA. But it's a trick they're incredibly proud of today."

A bit later, he asserted:

People are starting to recognize that the NRA is not a nonpartisan organization, it is a creature of the American political right. It is interested in victories by the American political right. It grows out of the culture of the American political right. It has increasingly come to embrace the fringe margins of the American political right.

He added:

I mean, if you want tangible evidence of that, just look at who's speaking at tonight's conference. Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, John Bolton -- John Bolton, seriously -- Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin, Scott Walker. I mean, this could be the lineup for the closing night of CPAC.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Friday, May 3, All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC:

CHRIS HAYES: But we begin tonight with a premature and probably politically ill-advised victory lap going on right now in Houston, Texas. The National Rifle Association's annual meeting and exhibition is in full swing tonight, and one of the clear themes to emerge among today's star-studded cast of convention speakers was victory -- victory over the proposed expansion of background checks for gun buyers which went down last month under a filibuster. A proposal the NRA was itself -- let's remember -- invited to help negotiate. The NRA, of course, politely accepted the offer, helped water down the proposal, and then swiftly put everything they had into defeating it.

That was, admittedly, a semi-impressive -- if kind of gross and unseemly -- party trick on the part of the NRA. But it's a trick they're incredibly proud of today.

(...)

Yes, the NRA helped kill the expansion of background checks proposed in the Senate last month. And, yes, that proposal was small and popular and seemed at first likely to pass. But this is not the big victory tonight's NRA speakers seem to think it is. Quite the opposite, in fact, because celebrating the victory of killing background checks last month is a narrative in which the story ends last month. But the story did not end last month. Since then, we've learned from research done by Public Policy Polling, that more than half a dozen Senators from both parties who voted with the NRA to kill background checks are suffering in the polls as a result. And the President, the Vice President, and the top Senate Democrat behind the background check bill have all vowed to press forward.

And here's the strategic problem for the NRA as this political fight continues. The NRA purports to be a nonpartisan group. And that's where their power lies -- in being nonpartisan and keeping Democrats in parts of the country with high gun ownership afraid to cross them. That is something the NRA has, in the past, been very successful at. Until recently, Senator Harry Reid himself was one of those Democrats. He is, after all, from a gun-friendly state, was endorsed for reelection by the NRA in 2004. The same year, probably not coincidentally, he did not support extending the assault weapons ban. And even when the NRA didn't endorse him in 2010, he was still maintaining a B rating from them.

The NRA has been such a major political power because they've been able to hold sway over moderate red and purple-state Democrats like Harry Reid. But as the NRA becomes more and more clearly a partisan right-wing organization, it loses sway over not only the Harry Reid's of the world, but moderate Republicans who are taking hits in the polls for ink toeing the increasingly unpopular NRA line.

People are starting to recognize that the NRA is not a nonpartisan organization, it is a creature of the American political right. It is interested in victories by the American political right. It grows out of the culture of the American political right. It has increasingly come to embrace the fringe margins of the American political right. I mean, if you want tangible evidence of that, just look at who's speaking at tonight's conference. Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, John Bolton -- John Bolton, seriously -- Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin, Scott Walker. I mean, this could be the lineup for the closing night of CPAC. In fact, Sarah Palin showed up with pretty much the same material she used in her CPAC speech.

(FORMER GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (R-AK)

That is a pretty hilarious performance trick. Of course, the last time Sarah Palin saw her friends at the NRA conference was at CPAC earlier this year. It's just another stop on the right-wing road show. Listening to any of the NRA speeches tonight, it's clear that this is not some broad, nonpartisan, Second Amendment movement. This is a far-right fringe movement full of exactly the kind of non-gun-related pet causes you'd expect to hear from any other far-right fringe movement.

(CLIPS OF SEVERAL REPUBLICAN SPEAKERS)

You'll notice there was nothing in that montage about guns at all, nothing about guns. The NRA's power absolutely depends on being able to channel the mainstream of gun ownership in America. But don't confuse the 10 million (LATER CORRECTED TO 100 MILLION) gun owners in this country with the gang on stage. While they did win the short-term victory with the background check bill, that vote could ultimately prove to be the NRA's undoing. Because, in a lot of ways, it's a classic wedge-issue vote, in that it separated the NRA from mainstream gun owners. And if they lean into that vote, as they appear to be doing, and mistake it for a victory, they might be spelling their own demise because Americans will come more and more to see them for what they are, which is a right-wing fringe organization.

And as soon as they become known primarily as a fringe organization, rather than the mainstream representative of governance everywhere, they become less powerful. Nothing better exemplifies that shift than the man who's about to take over as the NRA's next president. His name is Jim Porter. Here's just a taste of his politics.

JIM PORTER, INCOMING NRA PRESIDENT, DATED JUNE 10, 2012, CLIP #1: -started by some Yankee generals who didn't like the way my Southern boys had the ability to shoot in what we call the "War of Northern Aggression." Now, y'all might call it the Civil War, but we call it the "War of Northern Aggression" down South.

PORTER CLIP #2: -the most greatest charges that we can have today is the train the civilian in the use of the standard military firearm so when they have to fight for their country, they're ready to do it. Also, when they're ready to fight tyranny, they're ready to do it. Also, when they're ready to fight tyranny, they have the wherewithall and the weapons to do it. I charge you, ladies and gentlemen, that that is a very important charge for all of us to take up.

HAYES: That is the new president of the NRA.

Now, last night I stood here and I talked about a gun culture that manufacturers and designs and markets guns for kids. And I got a lot of responses from people rightly pointing out there are many different kinds of gun culture. Gun culture is not a unified thing, but the organization we're talking about tonight is an organization that is wedded to the darkest part of gun culture. The most paranoid, the part that's into armor-piercing bullets, the part that won't even tolerate the idea that anyone would object to a five-year-old being given a gun. That's the part of gun culture the NRA represents, and that's the part of gun culture the NRA is committed to promoting and advancing.