The hard truth, as it appears now

My political blogging inspiration and idol Charlie Pierce has never been especially idealistic about the workings of government, but this post today is a particular extreme of unvarnished realism, even for him. And what’s worse, he seems to be right. Read on, and find yourself becoming depressed…or validated.

Watching the administration’s momentum fade on this issue is to see a president presented with the final, practical refutation of the speech that made him famous. It turns out there is a red America and a blue America. It turns out that there is a conservative America and a liberal America. It turns out that the things that divide us are stronger than the things that unite us. Or, at least, that the things that divide us are more politically salient than the things that unite us. The failure on guns is the last, final refutation of what Barack Obama said he believed about the people of this county.

It always depended on the notion that we were all together in the creative process of self-government. The fact is, most of us aren’t. Most of us have checked out. At the encouragement of two generations of ambitious politicians, we have accepted the notion that “government” is something alien, and therefore that it is something we cannot influence. You tell me that 91 percent of Americans support background checks. Wonderful. Put them on the ballot. They’ll pass, but only 40 percent of the eligible voters will bother to go to the polls, so where’s the danger to anyone in acting contrary to the expressed public will? Who does Mitch McConnell really fear in this particular controversy? He knows that there is a solid, active core of support behind the work he’s doing frustrating the expressed public will.

Read it here.

  1. This problem is potentially very dangerous because it threatens to undermine the practice of democracy in America. The example of universal background checks on gun sales is telling. If Congress cannot pass it, despite being supported by 91% of the people, then we must openly admit that the U.S. is no longer a functioning democracy.

    I’ve had hundreds of discussions with Tea Party libertarians over the past five years. Generally speaking, they are opposed to democracy – calling it “mob rule” and insisting that the U.S. is a “republic” instead of a “democracy.” When I have pointed out that these two definitions are not mutually exclusive (the U.S. is clearly both a republic governed by the rule of law, and a democracy established by representative elections & direct initiatives, referendums, and recalls), they react with a great degree of bewilderment.

    My view may be crazy or extreme, but it does seem that American democracy is being deliberately attacked. The rhetoric comes down from above and mechanically disseminated throughout the conservative base. Circumstantial evidence is not proof of intent, but maybe we should start asking who would benefit if our democracy were to fail.

    • kipp said:

      Good points all around, and I agree wholeheartedly. In these positions and this rhetoric of Tea Party libertarians is an implicit attack on our system and philosophy of government. And if the support of 91% of Americans – a staggering number – is not enough to pass a bill, then who is our democracy, or republic, for?

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