By Jay Hansen
It’s not often I dedicate an entire article to simply reiterate the words, postings, and videos of other people, but the reactions to the Senate’s abject failure to pass any sort of gun control legislation are so perfect that it’s like the words were taken right off my page. I’m not talking about the assault weapons ban or the high-capacity magazine clip ban or even universal background checks. This bill would have expanded mandatory background checks to include gun shows and online purchases, but still contained several loopholes such as if the transaction took place in a rural area it would be exempt. Even that was defeated by a minority of dangerously incompetent conservatives in both Republican and Democratic parties. The bill received 54 votes, but Republicans filibustered it, as they do all legislation, and so it was defeated.
We’ll start with President Obama.
It’s not often I have praise for Obama’s words. Normally they’re tainted with political double-talk that, when decoded, translates into promises of selling out liberal principles. This is not one of those times. For once, I actually whole-heartedly approved of the President’s message. There were a few nit-picky things I would have done differently but, considering who Obama is, this is about as passionate, blunt, angry, and honest about how Washington really works as he gets. Everything he said was important to hear, especially when he pointed out that 91% of Americans and over 80% of Republicans supported making background checks prior to purchasing a gun universal for all sales. Despite this, the efforts in the Senate failed, and it’s entirely because of corruption in Washington, which I was actually a little shocked to see Obama talk about so honestly. The NRA bought our politicians, as all special interests do, and used their power over them to defeat this measure that nearly all Americans agreed upon. Seriously; I’ve never seen a majority like that on a political poll. So for once I am entirely sincere in my thanks to Obama for at least calling the situation out for what it was; a shameful failure of the American political system because of the corruption of special interest and big money.
But for a more passionate response, we have to go to my man Cenk Uygur. Buckle up.
To explain how the NRA and their bitch politicians managed to stop this bill with such a tiny minority of Americans and Senators, just watch his second video.
If a politician is willing to lie about something so brazenly, in order to do the will of a special interest group (any special interest) rather than carry out the will of their actual voting constituency, let alone do their job and defend them, why on Earth should we trust them on anything else that comes out of their mouth? If they are willing to lie on something that they can so easily be busted on, why trust them on more complex issues such as taxation, regulation, spending, worker’s rights, women’s rights, or anything else?
Senators Inhofe and Coburn were among the minority that defeated this extremely weak, watered-down bill and perpetuated these brazen lies. They’ve openly, inarguably lied to you, and yet I’d be willing to bet not a single conservative will hold that against them when election time comes. I wrote about this in an article where I tried to break politics down to a more minimalist, simplistic level for the politically simple-minded. If you’re unhappy with the way Congress is working right now, why do you keep voting for the same people?
This exact same sentiment was echoed by the final voice I have to evoke today; Gabrielle Giffords. Unfortunately, she still has great difficulty speaking (you know, because she was shot point blank in the head by a madman with an assault weapon), so it’s only the written word, but it was still a powerful, brutally yet necessarily honest, political and personal story. I won’t quote the whole thing in full hear even though I’d like to; I suggest everyone head over to her article in The New York Times and read it yourself when you have the time. I’ll still share with you some of her most poignant statements, starting off with what is very possibly the most powerful right-out-of-the-gate sucker punch I’ve ever seen come from a politician (save for maybe Alan Grayson).
SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets…
On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count…
I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending…
I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated…
Giffords ended her article by reiterating an earlier statement she had made the day the legislation was defeated, and where she passionately makes the case for the exact point I just made.
Let’s keep something in perspective here, people; there are 535 members of Congress. You only have say in who three of them are. That’s literally half a percent of the total Congressional body. If you are truly dissatisfied with the failures of Congress, particularly because of the inherent corruption of the current system of power and incentive structure, then you have to stop voting for these guys. I don’t care if you primary them or vote for their opponent in the general election only as a punishment vote; when someone’s been around as long as some of our most corrupt politicians it’s much more likely they’re part of the problem than solution.
The rate of incumbency and the duration of a politician’s incumbency these days is enough to corrupt even the most honorable person. Our own Senator Inhofe has served in the federal Congress for 25 consecutive years. Okies continue to complain about the federal government, but continue to vote for the same old establishment politicians that have been around for a generation or more. Next year, Senator Inhofe is up for re-election once again, and I bet Oklahomans will just ignore all the brazen lies he’s told in the debate on gun control, amongst other issues (as if there weren’t enough reasons to vote him out already).
So please heed my words when I tell you the best way to fix a broken Congress is simple; THROW. THE BUMS. OUT. Be they Republican or Democrat; corruption and complacency know no party lines.
To be fair, there are a few politicians that would be worth keeping in Congress, even though they are a vast minority at this point. Just off the top of my head, a few names that come to mind are Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rand Paul (R-KY), and maybe Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), as well as Congressmen Ron Paul (R-TX), Alan Grayson (D-FL), John Yarmuth (D-KY), maybe Keith Ellison (D-MN), and even Walter Jones (R-NC).
Sadly though, I’m not even so sure of even them any more because of S. 716. What is that, you might ask? Well, it revised an older bill known as the STOCK act which required lawmakers and high-ranking federal employees to publically disclose all “insider trading” and other financial dealings in an online database to prevent the abuse and exploitation of their exclusive access to financial sector information for personal financial gain. Lawmakers and their associating federal employees are privy to all sorts of “behind the scenes” financial information and tips about investing because of their positions and responsibilities in investigating, regulating, or just interacting with the financial sector. Insider trading is one of the most direct ways lobbyists can corrupt a politician or worse their staffers, who are the ones actually responsible for writing their legislation, scheduling meetings with lobbyists, collecting donations, and much more When the STOCK Act passed in 2012, Obama praised it as a much needed victory to help restore the “deficit of trust” between Washington and the rest of America. Well, last Friday, S. 716 was introduced to exempt all staffers working for lawmakers from this bill entirely, even though they’re privy to the same if not more information as the actual lawmakers. Not only did it pass, but it passed in record time. It only took 10 seconds to introduce, vote, and pass this bill through the Senate, 14 seconds through the House, and just four days later was signed by President Obama. Worst of all, this all happened unanimously. Every single member of Congress, including the ones I listed above, from Elizabeth Warren and Alan Grayson to both Ron and Rand Paul and even Senator Sanders all supported it.
That’s just really discouraging. Not only discouraging, but downright heart-breaking. But on top of all that, this was rushed through last week, and signed into law on a Friday afternoon in hopes that America would be too busy worrying about the upcoming background check bill to notice. Well, we noticed. We noticed your failure to provide transparency in the STOCK Act, and we noticed your even greater failure at defending the people by voting down the most common-sense, agreeable, popular piece of legislation that has come through Congress in a long, long time.
In the words of President Obama himself, many conservatives and gun-advocates are considering this devastating loss a victory. A victory for who? A victory for what? 91% of Americans supported expanding background checks. 54% of Senators supported expanding background checks. That alone is a good enough example of how poorly our representatives actually represent us, but even then despite a majority of Senators supporting it, it still failed. So I really want to know, conservative friends, who really won here? Is this progress? Is this how a representational democracy is supposed to work in your mind? Are Americans safer today than they were before this bill was defeated? Let me add to it my question from before; how can you continue to vote for someone who so obviously and brazenly lied to you? How can you vote for someone who so obviously and openly represents the will of special interest and their donors over the will of their own voting constituency? For nearly all politicians voting against this bill, this is the sad reality that has now reached a point where it can no longer be denied, which is perhaps the one good thing to come out of this. The curtain has been drawn back and we can see the feeble men behind the Great and Powerful Oz for all the sad sell-outs they are and nothing more. I only hope more people can open their eyes and see it now, because thanks to the NRA and their bought-and-paid-for whores, it’s more obvious now than ever.
What happened this week over this bill not to control guns, not to make a federal registry, not to ban assault weapons, not to ban high-capacity magazines, not to make background checks universal for all gun purchases, but just to slightly expand the current background check system was an absolute travesty of democracy.
Members of Congress are not doing their job to represent and protect the American people.
I have no choice but to hand out the greatest insult I have yet discovered to the Senators, pundits, lobbyists, and other politicians that opposed this measure.