Time to turn the world right side up

Cross posted on The Obama Diary.

This has been a hard week.

It began with the terrorist attack in Boston.

The middle of the week brings us the continued terrorist attacks which occur on our streets every day due to gun violence and the easy availability of Time to turn the world rightside upguns. The Senate took up a measure to expand background checks for gun purchases. Although it had majority support, it didn’t have the magic number of 60 yeas, and thus died. (Also killed outright were bans on assault weapons and large magazines. More on that later.)

Let’s not kid ourselves: the background check legislation was, at best, a small step. As Brad Plummer writes in the Washington Post:
The Manchin-Toomey compromise bill was a scaled-back version of earlier proposals to extend background checks to unregulated private gun sales. Many gun experts argued that the slimmed-down proposal would have only marginal effects on gun violence. But even that small step couldn’t get through the Senate.
“But even that small step couldn’t get through the Senate.”

Let that sentence sink in. Our political culture is in such straits that a minor, flawed reform to gun laws could not get through the Senate. Never mind the stricter legislation on magazine size and a ban on assault weapons—legislation which went down to decisive defeats before the background check bill came up. And, of course, the GOP-controlled House has consigned Newtown to the memory hole. It has played no meaningful role in trying to ameliorate the gun violence epidemic infecting the nation; it’s quite happy allowing the carnage to continue. It is, a priori, the price of “freedom”.

It would be quite easy to throw in the towel. A significant chunk of politicians are bought and paid for by deep-pocketed special interests—and at a very cheap price. The worst among them sail to re-election time and again, thanks to that flow of money, and to an electorate which, let’s face it, is too stupid to realize that the men and women for whom they vote couldn’t give a damn about their real needs. Or, maybe they do realize it, but they hold those needs beneath the need to maintain a fiction of a country that never existed and is threatened by the hordes of “Others” about to swamp them.

To that, I offer this video:

This is not a man who has been cowed. This is not a man who is giving up. This is a man who believes in the perfection of the Union, and who will fight until his last day in office and bey0nd to see it come to fruition.

And consider the tweet which opened this essay. Not only did 17 out of the 18 senators from the states forming the backbone of the Democratic coalition vote for expanded background checks, but red state Democrats such as Mary Landrieu, Clair McCaskill, Tim Johnson, and Joe Donnelly—always at risk from right wing challenges—took a political risk to do the right thing. That, in the midst of the tragedy, is movement.

The four Democrats who voted to maintain the filibuster—Begich, Baucus, Heitkamp, and Pryor—should be subjected to all the opprobrium they have merited. As I’ve made clear before, I’m a big believer in the big tent; but how a Democrat could vote against the most minor step forward to stanch the plague of gun violence, while the families of the Newtown martyrs sat in the galleries, is beyond my understanding. All four should be held to account for their cowardly actions.

But let’s not forget: these four were icing on the cake. The GOP obstructionists had enough votes to scupper the bill without them. The failure is not on the Democrats, but on the Republicans. They sided with a fringe organization in opposition to 90% of the American public. They’re protecting the kind of gun rights which shouldn’t exist in any non-suicidal society. They’re protecting a vision of gun rights more in tune with the streets of Somalia, not with the needs of a 21st century industrial state. They are the ones who must be held accountable. They are the ones who must suffer the full wrath of the electorate—an electorate which they have betrayed time and again on every issue of national importance.

How are we to do this? This is a start.
Legendary tech investor and political mover Ron Conway has a stern warning for the 46 senators who rejected an amendment to expand background checks on firearms sales on Wednesday, a vote that flew in the face of public opinion.

“We will employ the most sophisticated social media campaign ever built to remove these people from office,” he said in an interview with The Chronicle.

“Mark my words,” he said. “It is shameful and the United States of America should be embarrassed by its Senate.”
Fire has to be fought with fire. The Right has the resources of the Kochs and their ilk funding them. The Left has potential resources to equal or surpass those of the Right; it’s time that they get off the sidelines.

Obama for America turning into Organizing for America is also a major component of how we drum out the GOP. It is a political organization that the astroturfers of the Right can only dream of competing against. It won Barack Obama two terms in the White House against steep odds, and is now determined to stay in the fight.

But in the end, it’s up to us. We have to channel the anger we feel into constructive action. Fund the organizations which work for real progress; volunteer to spread the word and fight the right wing lies; not be intimidated by the fearmongers of both the Right and Left. The Common Sense Caucus in this country dwarfs the rabid stalwarts of the fringes. Only when we make our voices heard, in one great swell, will things change.

This is not a sprint. The country didn’t reach this state in a few short years, or by happenstance. The state in which we find ourselves was planned for decades. It will take time to undo all the grievous damage. But it can be done, with work, determination, and that most powerful of forces: love. Love of country, love of our fellow human beings, love of those to whom we leave this world, hopefully in a better condition than in which we received it. No force of intolerance, oppression, or prevarication can stand against it.

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