Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our Democracy is Dead

An intimidated group of US Senators, in the minority, recently denied what the vast majority of Americans want in terms of a modest first step to begin to limit the reckless distribution of guns in our country:  expanded background checks that will prevent criminals and the mentally unstable from buying them.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “democracy” as “a government by the people, ”especially rule of the majority,” inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s exquisitely simple and profound declaration, “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

These latest actions by our US Senators demands that “democracy” be redefined along the following lines:  “a government by the few, its citizenry beholden to a self-serving ruling class intimidated by enabled power mongers set on realizing their own agendas, the cost to its citizenry be damned.”

To the 45 Senators who killed the bill to expand background checks for gun buyers - more than 90% of whom are Republicans:

You were elected to serve the people.
“The American people have spoken,” as you so often claim when it justifies your position; well, not your position - but the positions you choose to take, allegedly in deference to the people who vote for you.
Except when powerful, monied, influential lobbyists, and their self-serving funders believe otherwise.
And then, so do you.
You show your true colors.
You demonstrate, again and again, that you have no beliefs of your own.
No integrity.
You demonstrate over and over that your only motivation is to hold office.
Not to serve the people who put you in your office.
Just hold it.
And just who are these constituents you claim to be serving?
The American people?

You were elected to serve the people.
But in this case you have elected to serve the NRA.
Nearly ninety per cent of Americans embrace the idea of security clearances before you can buy a gun.
Seventy per cent of NRA members support it.
At one time even the NRA itself supported expansion of background checks.
The American people have spoken.
Again and again.
But the NRA, and their powerful financial backers – most of whom are gun manufacturers - have intimidated you with their utterly unfounded position against any reasonable limitations applied to the purchase of guns.
You have created false pretenses – “willfully lied,” as President Obama declared (MSNBC, et al, April 17); and have empowered a vocal minority of gun owners who believe your version of the 2nd amendment entitles them to own assault weapons and multi-round magazine clips without limitation.
It does not. 
To own any gun - without even so much as a simple, reasonable background check.
It does not.
Nor should it.
And yet an estimated 20 to 40 per cent of all gun sales now take place without any background checks whatsoever (NY Times, 18 Apr).
The cumulative effect of this blatant fear mongering is to arm the hardened minority with the ungrounded fear that our government’s (Obama’s?) ultimate goal is to disarm the entire country.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Of the nearly $25 million the NRA spent either for or against office seekers in 2012, 65 per cent of it went toward supporting Republican candidates and 30 per cent was levied against Democratic candidates (Open Secrets.org).
It is time we held these people accountable for more than their blind allegiances to the NRA.

You were elected to serve the people.
But you are in the minority:  you are 45 of 100 senators.
How does this represent a democracy, where majority is supposed to rule?
The 45 of you represent primarily rural constituents whose values and beliefs do not reflect the America we live in today (see immigration, the economy, women’s rights, climate change, same-sex marriage, voter ID laws, sex education, et al, et al).
Even at that, the majority of your states’ residents support some limitations on gun purchases, including expanded background checks.
And yet you voted against it.
How does this represent a democracy?

In only 13 states did both US Senators vote against this bill (Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming) – the vast minority.  Those 13 states represent a mere 22.78 per cent of the US population (2010 US Census Bureau) – a vast minority.
How does this represent a democracy, where majority is supposed to rule?
At the risk of sounding elitist, these states rank among the country’s highest in unemployment, out-of-wedlock children, crimes, trailer park residences – and gun ownership, and among the lowest in education and income.  They are all through and through red state Republican.  We are all Americans, but this constituency does not represent the current majority in many if not most of the prevailing issues today.
And even at that - even the majority of them support at minimum some kind of expanded background checks on gun purchases; how else would we get to a near 90% national majority on the issue?

But there’s hope.  “The ballot is stronger than the bullet,” said Abraham Lincoln in a speech in 1856, a statement that has even greater meaning today than when he said it.  Of the 33 Senate seats up for re-election in 2014, 15 of them voted against the bill to require expanded background checks for gun purchases.  Each one of them should be held accountable for their cowardly, inexcusable, unjustifiable position.  And they should be asked why they voted against it?  What specific, tangible, rational justification can they offer for voting … no??  Here they are, with their NRA ratings* noted:

            Jeff Sessions, R-Ala A+
            Mark Begich, D-Alaska N/A
            Saxby Chambliss, R-GA  A+
            Jim Risch, R- ID A+
            Pat Roberts, R-Kansas A
            Mitch McConnell, R-KY A
            Thad Cochran, R-MISS  A
            Max Baucus, D-Montana  A+
            Mike Johanns, R-Neb  N/A
            Jim Inhofe, R-OK  A+
            Lindsey Graham, R-SC  A
            Tim Scott, R-SC  A
            Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn  A
            Jim Cornyn, R-Tex  A
            Mike Enzi, R-Wyo  A

* NY Daily News, Apr 18, 2013/NY Times, Dec 19, 2012

They also need to understand that there’s more, much more, about holding office than their sycophantic relationships with the NRA.

Lincoln also said this:  “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”

A government by the people.  It is clear now that it is we the people who must assume control, who must once and for all have our way with the officials we bless with the position of serving us, but are not yet held accountable for it.  “The American people have spoken,” and we demand sensible steps toward a safer place to live and raise our children from you, or we are going to elect people who finally, truly represent us. For the sake of democracy.  For the sake of the people who count on you to do everything in your power to provide the rest of us a reasonable chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – without having to arm ourselves to get it.

You were elected to serve the people. 

Tim Arnold
23 April 2013