Posted by: minnow | April 24, 2013

I Have My Doubts

Even with tough talk from people like Gabrielle Giffords in this piece from The New York Times it is doubtful new gun restrictions will pass in the Senate.  The truth is voters just don’t care enough to make gun violence a voting issue and most of the politicians up for re-election in the next round are willing to hedge their bets.  The election is far enough out that barring another tragedy closer to the election our fearless leaders figure their vote on Wednesday (4/17/13) won’t be remembered even though according to the Quinnipiac Polling Institute 92%  of us have no objections to stricter background checks.  Instead our “representatives” in Washington are happy to (in effect) take the money and run.

What money?  The nearly $25 million dollars the NRA spent during last fall’s election.  13 of the 45 senators who defeated the measure for stricter background checks are up for reelection in 2014.  And none of them want to make an enemy of the NRA.  Rather than giving money to candidates who oppose stricter gun laws, the NRA is famous for giving money to anyone who runs against a candidate who advocates for stricter gun laws.  It’s a cheaper way to keep politicians in line; vote wrong and your opponent gets NRA money.  And sadly the NRA remembers.

So what can be done?  Unfortunately when it comes to issues like gun violence, not much.  I’m not trying to be a wet blanket.  Personally I’d like to see a ban on all assault weapons as well as high capacity magazines.  But, these types of restrictions won’t happen until we make laws that mean our politicians cannot be bought by wealthy individuals and special interest groups.  Until we have real campaign finance reform the will of the people, the common good, will continue to play second fiddle to monetary power.

The sad reality of issues like gun reform, alternative energy issues, public education, GMO’s, organic farming concerns, and more is that the people’s voice doesn’t matter.  These issues do not hold a large enough single issue voter base to make their numbers significantly impact elections.  Thus, the 51% or even the 92% don’t matter unless they have money to back up their votes.

Campaign finance reform is a complicated issue.  Simple fixes, like putting a cap on how much money individual candidates can spend on advertizing, while a step in the right direction would only have a minimal impact unless it is accompanied by strict regulations on what special interest groups, individuals, and corporations can spend.  Requiring groups to identify themselves with more than a “paid for by…” said in the last couple seconds of a spot or a small print disclaimer at the bottom of the page, would remind the public that information even when technically accurate always has a bias.  Just imagine, if 50% of an ad’s time or space had to clearly represent its sponsor, don’t you think we’d see a lot fewer negative ads.

For now, candidates are gearing up for the mid-term elections.  Since it isn’t a presidential election fewer special interest groups will weigh-in and considerably less money will be spent on advertizing. Unfortunately fewer minorities vote in mid-term elections as well so 2014 could be a year of change but might not change in ways of progress.

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FYI: The following senators voted against stronger background checks.  The bold type senators are up for reelection or their seats will be vacant in 2014.  The blue type were newly elected in 2008 and the red plan to retire in 2014: Reid AZ, Heitkamp ND, Ayotte NH, Portman OH Rubio FL, Begich AK, Baucus MT, Heller NV, Grassley IA, Pryor AR, Burr NC, Coats IN, Isakson GA, Chambliss GA, Johnson WI, Flake AZ, Blunt MO, Cruz TX, Johanns NE, Fischer NE, Corker TN, Moran KS, Vitter LA, Hoeven ND, Wicker MS, Grahm SC, Murkoski AK, Cornyn TX, Shelby AL, Alexander TN, Thune SD, Cochran MS, Roberts KS, Scott SC, Boozman AZ, McConnell KY, Hatch UT, Coburn OK, Crapo ID, Sessions AL, Inhofe OK, Paul KY, Barrasso WI, Risch ID, Lee UT, Enzi WI.  Additionally senators who voted for the tougher background checks will be retiring in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey South Dakota, and West Virgina.  If one of these senators is from your state and doing something about gun violence is important to you keep it in mind during the election and when you go to vote.

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