Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Profiles in Cowardice

There's a book on the shelf in my library authored (Note 1) by an ambitious young  politician who wanted to burnish his intellectual credentials before his first run for office. The book offers case studies of United States Senators who voted their conscience, voted their conscience when it was massively, wildly, incredibly unpopular, voted their conscience when it meant suicide in their next bid for reelection.  Today 46 Senators voted against a watered-down gun control bill that did nothing more than extend background checks from dealer sales to Internet and gun show sales.  There was no Constitutional or logical principal at stake.  Polls showed that 90% of the national population, over 85% of Republicans and 80% of  gun owners agreed with expanded background checks.

This was not a vote of conscience, it was a vote of fear.  Fear of the targeted wrath of the gun lobby, particularly the NRA.  Do not confuse the NRA with its members, who often poll rationally on gun control issues.  When it comes to politics, the NRA is a spokesperson for the gun manufacturers, who provide the bulk of the NRA's money and view human life as inconsequential when it stands in the way of selling more guns.

Today the Senate reached a new low.  The very  idea of voting on principle in the face of constituent disapproval - the profile in courage- is now unthinkable.  Today's moral issue is - can you vote on principle, with the support of your constituents, when you know the gun lobby will be gunning for you in your next reelection  bid? Today,  46 Senators (Note 2) cowered, quaked and answered, No!

Note 1 - Yes, I know JFK had feet of clay and that Profiles in Courage was probably ghosted by writers on the payroll of his father (who had a torso of clay).  I don't care.  The book, however it came about, was an inspiration to me, a congenital dissenter.  I would be happy to distribute free copies to today's Senate.
Note 2 -Actually 45, as Senator Reid voted, "No", to preserve future procedural options once he knew the bill was doomed to fail.

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