Why It Will Take A Lot More Than A Protest To Stop Gun Violence

*The following is an opinion column by R Muse *

If any American failed to comprehend just how dysfunctional politics are, Democrats in the House decided to just sit down to protest the lack of action on gun safety measures, namely background checks and bans on selling terror suspects assault weapons. The Democrats’ action was to demonstrate to the voters that Republicans are too devoted to, or too terrified of, the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturer lobby to act in the people’s behalf. No matter where one comes down on the issue of gun proliferation, and regardless the majority of Americans’ support for the most basic safety regulations or a Democratic sit down strike, only a fool thinks anything will change.

On Wednesday Think Progress noted that 23 of the Republican senators who voted against background checks for gun purchases could lose their jobs in November when Americans go to the polls. In fact, the progressive site also backed up their assertion by citing that “roughly 90 percent of Americans, including 80 percent of gun owners, supported the [failed] measures.” They also noted that after the Republicans blocked the measures “voters” and gun safety advocates pledged to make the November election “a referendum on Republican politicians who are beholden to the NRA,” even citing the amount of cash the Republicans received from the gun lobby.

Here’s the problem with even insinuating that because the worst gun massacre in modern history is still fresh in people’s minds, and an overwhelming number of Americans “support” basic gun safety regulations, that the 23 Republicans up for re-election are in jeopardy of being voted out of Congress: nothing is going to change. And, the 23 Republican senators are not going to be voted out of office over their no votes on gun regulations. It is also true that House Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan, are not going to be swept out of office because Democrats staged a sit down protest to demand a vote on gun safety, a vote they would certainly lose.

Paul Ryan should have let Democrats have their vote so the House can get back to being a very high-paying job with no responsibility or accountability to the people. Of course Ryan knows Democrats are attempting to prove to the 90 percent of American voters who support gun safety legislation that they are trying to follow the will of the voters, and that when Republicans block any gun regulations they can point fingers and say the Republicans are going against the will of the people. In that sense, Ryan was not completely exaggerating about the Democrats’ sit-down protest is a publicity stunt; Democrats, Republicans, the NRA, the gun manufacturing lobby, and gun safety advocates all know there is no way in the proverbial Hell that the GOP will support gun legislation.

Yes, there is news about a “glimmer of hope” that some kind of Senate compromise to prevent people on the terror watch list from buying assault weapons is being bandied about, but that is a damn far cry from legislation requiring mandatory background checks over 90 percent of the voters support.

The point of this little screed is that American voters have very short memories, are easily terrified, and frankly, are just as stupid as a fence post. The idea, or hope, that Republicans are in danger of being voted out of office because they vote contrary to the will of the people is misplaced at best and more likely the result of severe memory failure. Don’t believe it? Just consider how successful Republicans have been at gaining seats in Congress and state legislatures in spite of legislating in direct opposition to the majority of voters’ wishes.

For example, majorities of Americans support raising the minimum wage, protecting and expanding Social Security, keeping Medicare as it is and expanding Medicaid, and yet Republicans religiously pass legislation contrary to the people’s will and still increase their power in government. Majorities of voters also reject defunding Planned Parenthood, are outraged that women’s access to contraception is limited due to the minority religious right’s demands and yet in the states and Congress Republicans reliably win elections by going against the will of the voters.

Democrats were fairly excited after Republicans went against the people’s will and shut down the government costing the taxpayers billions of dollars in late 2013 going into an important midterm election. And yet Republicans not only suffered no ill-effects from a ridiculously stupid and costly action, they actually increased their numbers in the House and took control of the Senate just nine months later. Now there is talk, and unicorn fantasies, that because Senate Republicans blocked gun safety measures 90 percent of the people support 23 sitting Republican senators “could be voted out of office.”

Look, if American voters had an ounce of intelligence, or regard for their own and the nation’s best interests, maybe Democrats would be justified in believing Republicans are making tragic career-ending moves. But recent history reveals that not only are voters not intelligent, Republicans are not in jeopardy of being swept out of Washington en masse or in significant enough numbers to change Washington’s dysfunction because they went against the will of the people. If anything,  the recent past reveals that Republicans win when they go against the wishes of the people and there are a couple of reasons why, reasons  Democrats seem incapable of grasping.

For one thing, the average voter does not follow politics enough to know it is one party blocking everything the majority of voters support. Paul Ryan didn’t have to declare the House was in recess to force a media blackout of the Democrats’ sit-in: most Americans never watch C-Span or follow the actions in Congress anyway. The other specific reason Republicans continue to succeed is because the average voter only hears what Republicans want and has trained them to hear.

In the case of gun legislation, the average voter only knows that gun safety measures are attempts by Democrats to endanger American lives by confiscating their guns and part of a scheme to violate the Constitution. Oh, it’s true when a telephone pollster asks a voter if they think terrorists should be allowed unlimited access to battlefield weapons they will say “Hell no,” or that if everyone should undergo a simple background check prior to purchasing weapons, 90 percent will definitely say “of course.” But that is not what voters hear from Republicans and why they will not throw them out of Congress for not voting for sane gun safety regulations.

It is frustrating that Republicans continue deliberately going against the voters’ wishes and still win elections, but staging a sit-down protest or flooding social media with outrage is and has not changed anything. If that were the case gun legislation, a minimum wage hike, and expanded Social Security would have passed years ago. The average voter does not have the time or wherewithal to stay glued to social media, or C-Span for that matter and if they do they either gravitate to like-minded opinions or tune out pertinent information that just might inform an intelligent and logical vote in November.

Until the American people are adequately informed, registered to vote and listen critically to what both Democrats and Republicans are saying, the sad fact is that nothing is ever going to change. Oh, people definitely feel emboldened when they see their heroes in Congress make an effort according to the majority’s demands, but that feeling never translates into votes in November. If the slaughter of 20 little children didn’t sway Republicans to support sane gun safety laws, nothing will. That includes protests by Democrats in the House and bereaved Americans sick of mass shootings raging on social media. Because when November rolls around they will have been sufficiently terrified into voting for Republicans again because besides being frightened senseless they are just plain stupid.