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When Democracy Fails

Apr. 24, 2013
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Sen. Ron Johnson
So the question is: What do we do in a democracy when our elected officials are both so cowardly and so corrupt they refuse to represent the clear life-or-death interests of 90% of the country?

The answer is not nearly as simple as we’ve always heard—just vote the bums out.

But neither is it as hopeless as many of us felt when a contemptible minority of 46 U.S. senators—nearly half of the Senate—voted against preventing criminals and the mentally ill from purchasing deadly weapons online or at gun shows without any background checks.

Wisconsin played a particularly shameful role in failing to make it more difficult for criminals and mad men to commit mass murder.

Tea party Republican Sen. Ron Johnson not only voted to continue making it easier for people who shouldn’t legally own guns to acquire them, but he also filibustered with other far-right extremists trying to prevent gun restrictions from even coming to a vote.

After the Senate minority vote blocked the will of the overwhelming majority of the country, Gov. Scott Walker declared he and Republican legislators would also oppose a state bill for universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

The opposition of Walker and Johnson was particularly cruel in light of the two mass shootings last year in Wisconsin, resulting in the deaths of worshippers at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek and women at a spa in Brookfield.

The only statewide elected official taking a pro-life position against gun violence is Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Our politics failed us even before the Senate killed background checks supported by 90% of voters and gun owners.

Senators had already eliminated other commonsense gun restrictions including banning military assault weapons from domestic use and high-capacity magazines that spray hundreds of bullets within minutes.


NRA Spent $25 Million on Recent Elections

The most frustrating part of the national gun debate prompted by the Christmas season slaughter of 20 small elementary school children and six educators in Newtown, Conn., is that none of those siding with the gun lobby against human life were remotely honest. None of them.

It’s futile to knock down the fake arguments from politicians who oppose closing loopholes that allow unlimited purchase of guns specifically designed to kill large numbers of people by criminals and the mentally ill.

Because we all know that what those politicians say has absolutely nothing to do with why they vote against gun restrictions.

Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords has been both a pro-gun politician and a victim of a mass shooting that wounded 18 others, killing six of them. In a New York Times column accurately describing the Senate vote as cowardice, Giffords told the simple truth:

“These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association (NRA), which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.”

It’s not political fear of voters since they overwhelmingly favor sensible laws to reduce mass murder. So that leaves the fear of missing out on all that blood-stained loot from the gun lobby.

The same cold financial calculation is behind Walker’s transparent grab for that same blood money and gun industry support in his planned run for the Republican presidential nomination.

That isn’t how “Schoolhouse Rock” taught us bills became laws. That’s why it’s not a simple matter of voters defeating corrupt politicians. In state after state, including ours, today’s corrupt politicians also gerrymander districts and pass laws to restrict voting rights for their opponents.

But statewide races for senator and governor can’t be gerrymandered.

And even when democracy fails, we’re much closer today to improving our absurdly irresponsible gun laws than we have been in decades.

Until President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden stepped forward, no national leader of either major party had the courage to present serious proposals to stand up to the political bullies of the gun lobby.

Now it’s hard to imagine any serious national Democratic candidate failing to continue the push for intelligent gun law reform supported by 90% of voters.

Until now, the sole political voice on guns was the NRA with its deliberate lie that more guns equaled more public safety. More guns killing more people actually means no one is safe anywhere, whether it’s in a movie theater, a temple or a first-grade class.

Today billionaire Michael Bloomberg funds an opposing organization that’s grown to nearly a thousand Mayors Against Illegal Guns from both political parties.

And we now have what should be the most effective activist political voice of all—the survivors and heartbroken families and friends of those killed because financially calculating cowards continue allowing dangerous people easy access to weapons of mass destruction.

The longer it takes for our democracy to work, the larger that group will grow.


Would white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan pose the same threat they do now if a mainstream Republican were president instead of Donald Trump?

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