Okay, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. It’s true that as columnists go, I’m probably less opinionated than most. I rarely write screeds, and the journalist in me still requires that I consider both sides of an argument. Like our president, I occasionally take flack from people who basically agree with me but sometimes think I give the other side too much credit.
Now, I’m willing to rail against our lawmakers, both Senate and House, for caving to the gun lobby and thwarting the will of 90 percent of Americans. I agree with President Obama when he said last week, “Shame on us.” It’s disgraceful to resort to procedural tactics to avoid voting on an already watered-down version of gun control being considered in the Senate. On “Meet the Press” Sunday, Montana resident and former news anchor Tom Brokaw said he questioned the idea that a full 90 percent of Americans actually favored tighter background checks and closing the existing gun-show loophole. In Montana, Brokaw said, that percentage would be in single digits. I’ve always liked Brokaw, but in my view, he’s focused on yesterday.
Having lived in Montana for almost 10 years, I understand the pro-gun culture is deeply rooted in the Rocky Mountain West. But times change. And I see in letters to the editor of our Bozeman Daily Chronicle negative responses to legislative inaction that belie the established culture. There were even suggestions that it’s time for Democratic Sen. Max Baucus to retire, written by Democrats who probably voted for him several times.
The verbal hogwash spoken by Senate members, including Baucus, was appalling. “This is not the time for knee-jerk legislative reaction to horrific gun massacres.” Well, if this isn’t the time, when would a more appropriate time be? Never?
Another senator said the fault was not lawful gun owners, but the “violence in our culture.” I could agree, except Japanese kids play the same violent video games but have a culture of politeness and reverence for elders. And they have no guns.
The NRA goes beyond supporting gun owners, manufacturers and dealers. But the real issue isn’t self-defense. The district attorney of Kaufman County, Texas, who was gunned down along with his wife at their front door recently reportedly kept four handguns in their home. The issue is power, both political and corporate, power that now has a stranglehold on the nation.
I’ve seen young politicians go to Washington with glowing enthusiasm for righting wrongs. It doesn’t take long for them to get the message:
Power wins, and if you don’t knuckle under when told to, you will disappear. We, the powerful, will see that you are never re-elected. Several Republicans I know believe the answer would be term limits. Opponents say it takes several years in office to learn how things work; that institutional knowledge would be lost. What we’re left with are career politicians who game the system to retain their own power.
We say we are tired of gridlock and want our representatives to compromise. But do we really want capitulation to corporate and political power, i.e. industry lobbyists? The average voter hasn’t time to research everything, and so may accept what others in his or her party may say. Well, I’m retired and I don’t have all that much time either. However, most things can be researched on the Internet. The problem on the web is most information is targeted to like-minded users, so registered Democrats and Republicans are likely to get only one side of an argument.
Still, times are changing. Montana Democrats are finally beginning to see that their own Sen. Baucus is letting them down, big-time. Going back to the healthcare debate, Baucus was flanked during hearings by representatives (lobbyists) for the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, etc. He was quoted early on as saying a single-payer option is “off the table.” Why would that be unless the insurance industry was wielding its influence over legislators? And now, Baucus votes against the interests of his constituents to assuage the NRA.
There’ll be other votes where Monsanto and Dow lobbyists will pressure lawmakers to weaken regulations against chemicals harmful to human health. Energy company lobbyists will fight to retain subsidies (from taxpayers) that have long outlived their original purpose. The system is broken and the fix lies with voters. When the NRA threatens our legislators, we should threaten back and tell them they better vote for what their constituents demand or they will lose power in the next election. Then hold their feet to the fire.