Don't-Tread-on-Meter: Jan. 11, 2011: 13
Some events stop the news cycle, freeze politics, and start them both over on a schedule no one can control. The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and the murder of six people who were attending a meeting with her in Tucson, was one of those events. Within hours of the news, Republicans had announced that the ongoing debate over the Repeal of the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act would stop, to be picked up again in one week.
What else changed for Republicans and Tea Partiers that day? For a day or so, they were re-living the period after the original health care law was passed, when threats to members of Congress surged and blame was placed with conservative activists. Once it became clear—or clear-ish—that accused killer Jared Lee Loughner's politics were inscrutable, the Tea Party pushed back, accusing reporters of "slander," and Republicans pushed back, saying it was irresponsible for the press to bring Sarah Palin's trigger-happy rhetoric into the story.
Gun rights weren't too high on the Tea Party's 2011 agenda. Sure, a lot of activists showed up to rallies with pro-Second Amendment shirts, and some of them—in open-carry states—even brought guns. But Democrats' memories of their post-Brady Bill defeats in 1994 are so raw that gun rights weren't an election issue when Obama won or when the GOP won the midterms. The GOP's Pledge to America didn't even mention gun rights as something that needed defending. Their defense was assumed. So it came as a surprise when Rep. Peter King R-N.Y., the new chairman of the homeland security committee, announced legislation that would ban firearms within 1,000 yards of federal offices the way they're banned in some places within 1,000 yards of schools.
King's bill isn't likely to pass, but one thing no one was expecting this week was a Republican Congress unifying the Tea Party against him. For that reason, the Don't-Tread-on-Meter ticks back down one point, to 13/100.
What is the Don't Tread On Meter?
It will track the progress (or lack thereof) of the Republican House of Representatives, and the Republican conference in the Senate, in fulfilling the promises they made to Tea Party activists. The meter will hit 100 if and when the GOP does absolutely everything it promised.