The Republican Party — once a proud bastion of civic and business leaders who battled Southern racism, Northern corruption and the evils of big government — has for the past several decades been itself the victim of political protection rackets. These rackets are orchestrated by fringe groups with extremist views on social issues, which Republican politicians are forced to support even if they are unpopular with intelligent, economically successful and especially female voters. Their influence was already clear by the time I joined the Bush White House staff in 2005, and it has only increased in the years since.
Republican politicians must free themselves from the N.R.A. protection racket and others like it. For starters, the party establishment should refuse to endorse anyone who runs in a primary with N.R.A. money against a sitting Republican. If the establishment refuses to support Republicans using other Republicans for target practice, the N.R.A. will take its shooting game somewhere else.
Reasonable gun control legislation will then be able to pass Congress and the state legislatures. Next, Republicans should embrace legislation like the proposed American Anti-Corruption Act, which would rid both parties of their dependence on big money from groups like the N.R.A. The Republican Party will once again be proud to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And voters will go back to feeling that their children are safe, their democracy works, and they will once again consider voting Republican.