I cannot think of a more horrifyingly tragic example of the failure of representational government than the failed Senate vote today on the background check amendment to the proposed gun control legislation.
The idea is supposed to be simple. We elect representatives, they vote in our stead and according to our wishes. Typically they align with the majority, and the wishes of the majority party that elected them. Occasionally they will vote otherwise based on their experience and the nuance of the language and process of governing.
That is not the kind of vote that happened today. We can go on at length about the intrusion of proposing a filibuster to force a super-majority to support any piece of legislation, disrupting the flow of nearly all aspects of governance in the Senate. However, even that should not have mattered today.
Statistical evidence has proven that nearly 90% of Americans support universal background checks for gun purchases. You can take away a huge portion of that for margin of error and theoretical bias in the nature of the question, and you would still have a larger majority of Americans in support of that than nearly anything else. “The sky is blue” would likely be more challenging to reach such a level. We as a people do not actually agree on anything to this high a degree – basically ever.
And yet today, the 100 individuals elected two by two, state by state, like Noah’s figurative pairs, could not muster even 60% support for this concept the rest of us nearly universally agree on. This is not about conscience, or strict construction constitutional theory, it’s not even ultimately about limiting gun rights in any way beyond ensuring that no one who is not allowed to own one for other legal reasons, cannot legally purchase one. That’s it. No limitations. Nothing about clip-size, or automatic vs. semi-automatic, or hunting, or handguns, or concealed or ANYTHING else. Just paperwork to protect the seller, and the rest of us, from someone the government has already deemed unfit to own again cannot legally purchase one.
The disheartening display of absolutely pure politics over anything else on display hardens even the most idealistic part of my heart. Lobbying is part of politics. Concern over re-election is part of politics. However, that the efforts of one single lobby, and the threat of their ability to impact elections could sway nearly half of the current United States senators to vote against 90% of the American people is an abject failure of our political system.
It seems unlikely that Senator Reid will even be able to bring it back to the floor, though his no vote today was a hail mary attempt to allow for that possibility.
And yet – they could. If we demanded it. 90% of us? They represent US! A number of these senators represent you, wherever you live. Their office numbers and emails are of public record. The senate does still serve at our pleasure, and if we made noise loud enough and long enough to disrupt their ability to work (though they have clearly been doing a wondrous job of that on their own) you can bet it would suddenly be “very possible” to bring this discussion back to the Senate floor.
So, 90% of agree on background checks. I wonder what percentage of us think it is actually important enough to take direct action to make it happen? I have. I called the offices of both my senators tonight.
Would you? The U.S. Senate switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. The direct lines are available by clicking here. The Huffington Post has listed the twitter handles of all of the Senators who voted “No” here.
Call, email, tweet, but do SOMETHING. If not because you are passionate about background checks, then because you are passionate that the idea of “of the people, by the people, and FOR THE PEOPLE” is not a theoretical concept to be ignored when the will of those people is so strongly and clearly established.
If they cannot effectively enact something 90% of us agree on, how is their the slightest chance for Medicare, Social Security, Immigration, Education and the many more issues where we are truly divided.
I am not willing to let this stand. Are you?