President Barack Obama announced he will not endorse or campaign on behalf of any Democratic candidates who refuse to endorse new gun control measures in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday night.
“I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform,” Obama wrote in the editorial. “And if the 90 percent of Americans who do support common-sense gun reforms join me, we will elect the leadership we deserve.”
In the past, Obama’s pledge likely would have affected a sizable number of Democrats from rural and conservative districts who took strong pro-gun positions. But over time, those Democrats have steadily evaporated.
Only four Democrats voted against a universal background check bill in 2013, and of those only one, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, is still in office. Heitkamp won’t be up for reelection until 2018, and she may not have wanted Obama’s help winning reelection anyway. As a result, Obama’s promise is more of a statement that strongly pro-gun Democrats are not welcome in the party.
The op-ed follows his executive order on gun control issued this week, which circumvents Congress in order to compel more gun sellers to carry out background checks for buyers. Obama shed tears while calling for national action to end gun violence in a public address Tuesday, announcing the executive order.
As he did in his speech Tuesday, Obama compares gun control to civil rights achievements, such as ending slavery, in the op-ed.
“Change will be hard,” he wrote. “It won’t happen overnight. But securing a woman’s right to vote didn’t happen overnight. The liberation of African-Americans didn’t happen overnight. Advancing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans has taken decades’ worth of work.”