Monday, April 8, 2013

Leaders Wanted. Apply Within.


"There go my people, I must find out where they are going so I can lead them."

This is one of those moments when I just wish Democrats in Washington would get the ovaries to lead rather than follow.

Because that tendency to follow is what I think is going on with the status of gun control legislation in Washington right now.

I don't know when it happened, but at some point Conventional Wisdom in D.C. moved to the point where almost nobody bothers to make an actual argument in politics anymore.  If the theory on the Hill is, "you can't beat the NRA," then nobody on the Hill even tries, and every pundit in the book places his/her bets on the people losing to the NRA.

I understand it's harder work to actually persuade people than to manipulate the rules so that you don't have to do that (gerrymandering, passing congressional seats down in a family so everybody knows the name to vote for instead of learning about candidates, then using the many benefits of incumbency to hold onto a seat without actually having to do much for it).  But the easier thing is not automatically the right thing to do.

I've been outright amazed at the extent to which the Republicans seem to be eager to disenfranchise voters rather than try to persuade them in their response to this last election.

But now I'm sadly not amazed at the fact that despite 91% approval ratings for universal background checks for gun sales that Democrats aren't even trying to get that job done (no, I don't count the bill Manchin and Toomey are working on to except family sales and hunters), seemingly out of fear of losing Red-State Democratic Senate seats.

2012: By Blue and Red States

Conventional Wisdom in D.C. can get incredibly group-thinkish and stupid.  And it sometimes misses important points, like the fact that there is no such thing as a red state or a blue state.  Red State/Blue State thinking is shallow and doesn't pay attention to the actual facts on the ground.  What we have are tendencies, generally grouped by where people choose to or end up living - city and inner-suburb versus rural and outer-suburb.  If you look at the county maps for any recent election you'll see that I'm right.  And the balance of those populations in a state or district is what makes it considered a "Red" or "Blue" state or district.  And those balances are changing as we speak.

2012: By County - Those little Blue Areas are where all the cities are.

The whole Red State/Blue State idea gets even sillier as a premise when you map it by population instead of land area (because really, the land isn't what's voting, is it?):

2012: County votes, based on population instead of land area.  Mind blown?

...And if you think voters always vote their assigned color and won't change their mind based on poor arguments or poor behavior, you have only to look at the last election to see that "Red" states go "Blue" when the Republican running says something incredibly stupid.

But what I take from all of that information is that when people actually know what a candidate stands for, they tend to vote based on that information.  I'm looking at a situation in which we are early in an election season and the poll numbers look good.  And I'm seeing Democrats on the Hill just give up.  And that is infuriating to me.

I get that money and numbers and organizing are important.  But since when did actually making a good, cogent, concise argument for what you believe become passé?  When did it become okay to read the polls and govern based on them rather than, you know, leading based on one's morals and convictions?  Because I simply do not believe that a majority of elected representatives actually thinks we shouldn't have universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.  I just think they're too chicken to stand on their convictions and fight for them everywhere.

A Brief Corollary:  The run on gay marriage support is this kind of pathetic show to me.  The majority of elected Democrats and a good number of elected Republicans have probably personally supported gay marriage for quite some time.  It was/is only the political will that has been/is lacking.  I heard people go after Senator Portman for changing his mind based on his son.  But what choice has the Republican Party left its people?  They are engaged in a multi-year sprint to as far right as their little legs will take them, and the only openly-acceptable reason to hold a non-right-wing-fringe view on any social issue is a personal one.  Nobody says boo about Dick Cheney supporting gay marriage.  Same with Ken Mehlman (though you'll notice he waited until he wasn't RNC Chair before coming out).  In the same way that Democrats are pretending to have epiphanies left and right on gay marriage, more Republicans will probably start talking about their gay friends and family members in the next couple of years.

The larger issue here is the fact that rather than leading and persuading and treating the American people like grown-ups, politicians are running around panting after poll numbers on every subject and waiting to see where the wind and the crowd are going, then pandering with all their might.  And in the gun control fight it's even crazier, because even WITH positive poll numbers, and loads of solid evidence and argument on their side, politicians and pundits are maintaining that nothing will ever change in the "gun rights" racket.

And part of it feels like a guy thing (guys don't want to vote against wars, they don't want to vote against defense spending, and they don't want to vote against guns - fear of being seen as girly, I guess).

I guess politicians are betting that the NRA is more powerful and more likely to remember than parents and people who would like to see us live in a safer country.  We'll see.

Gun Control Leaders Wanted.  Apply Within.

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