The Atlantic

AIPAC's Struggle to Avoid the Fate of the NRA

The organization is desperately trying to maintain its bipartisan membership and avoid the pull of polarization—but it’s almost certain to fail.
Source: Brian Snyder / Reuters

Commentators sometimes compare the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to the National Rifle Association. Both are powerful, controversial, single-issue, lobbying organizations. And both have had enormous success in shaping the Washington agenda.

But in their DNA, the two groups are utterly different. The NRA thrives on culture war. It produces videos attacking “lying member[s] of the media,” “Hollywood phon[ies],” and “athletes who use their free speech to alter and undermine what our flag represents.” Last week, at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, NRA head Wayne LaPierre warned of “socialists” who seek “to deny citizens their basic freedoms.”

Many of the progressives who loathe the NRA loathe AIPAC, too. But you’ll never find AIPAC’s leaders at a CPAC conference. That’s because while the NRA feeds off of ideological and partisan polarization, AIPAC fears it. While the NRA can maintain its influence via hardcore partisanship, AIPAC can only succeed

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