Three things about the American political system were made clear with this week’s Gun Measures Senate vote.
First, the Democratic Party cannot achieve any significant part of its progressive agenda by relying on, and bowing to the so called ‘moderate ’perpetually ‘on-the-fence’ members of its body. Those Democrats who voted ‘No’ on the core issues of the democratic agenda on gun control, like the limiting of high capacity magazines and the banning of semi-automatic weapons, also have habitually voted down other critical legislation proposed by the Obama administration’s Obamacare, parts of the stimulus package, and the financial regulation reform. Most likely, they also would fight to significantly water down or even obstruct the passage of the immigration reform. Those democrats who voted down the background checks bill — Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Ark.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) would claim that their constituency prevented them from voting otherwise. OK, but their constituency is likely to do the same for most other central issues on the democratic agenda — most likely immigration reform, and the future battles on Social Security and the budget. So, what is the point of having these Democrats under the progressive party banner — fundraise for them, campaign for them, negotiate with them — and then have them dilute every major piece of legislation and at the end be as obstructionists as the Republicans? What is the benefit of having a Democratic Senator from Arkansas or Nevada if they do not vote as Democrats and do not support the Democratic agenda? This week’s vote on the Gun Measures showed that it is finally time for the Democratic Party to clean its ranks, in the same way the Republicans did under the pressure of the Tea Partiers.
If the Democrats do the same, they may lose one or two dozen seats in the Senate (and the majority), but those left in minority would at least know where they stand, and would have the guts and the spine to defend their priorities.
Second, it should now be clear to everyone, that the Republican Party would not break its intrinsic nexus with the gun lobby, even under the pressure of mounting national tragedies and a clear trend of social militarization. The fact that the GOP actually neutralized the bills aiming to curb gun violence, with a bill which proposed state reciprocity on concealed firearms — basically calling for the loosest standards on gun possession to prevail everywhere, and a bill that would have made it easier for veterans with a troubled past to own a gun — was a sheer staged mockery and ridicule of the whole process. The fact that they voted overwhelmingly against making straw purchasing and trafficking a federal crime, simply added insult to injury, and clearly showed that given this Congress we will not be able to make an inch of progress. The Republican response to the Newtown tragedy was unequivocal — there will be no justice, no change but, if we can, even more of the same. More guns, looser requirements for their possession and the imposition of the lowest standards of ownership nationally.
So here’s the third point. This week the Senate’s vote and the relatively muted reaction of the public crowned the gun lobby ‘king’ in America. Not only in terms of its robustly demonstrated power to manipulate and profoundly influence public opinion (especially in some states) and define the majority of our Senator’s votes on the critical issues, but also by it demonstrated success of imposing its own rationality and way of thinking on guns and security at large and by locking the country in an expanding spiral of victimhood and militarization.
To touch on the last two elements of ‘kingship,’ the NRA’s advertised logic that guns are not the problem, people are, is now totally pervasive and unquestionable in America. It states that people are always the problem — they are criminals, mentally ill, unstable or simply irresponsible — basically fallible human beings. The NRA’s solution to check, control and treat people while, simultaneously pushing for a constant upgrade in firepower, sales increases (gun sales have increased from 8 million in 2005 to 29 million in 2013 according to an FBI projection) and their entry into every nook of public and private space (no more ‘gun-free zones’). The outcome of this strategy is a growing victimhood and militarization of this country. In terms of victimization, the pool of victims and their families is getting bigger and bigger. Nine school shootings happened since Newtown, and just in the last two weeks 4, 6 and 11-year-olds shot and killed a mother, a friend and oneself by accident. We are averaging about 900 gun violence deaths per month since last December. The response to this growing trend is militarization — we buy more guns to defend ourselves from more gun violence, and we talk about and plan Israeli type security installations.
Dr. Klara Bilgin,
Independent Political Analyst