Saturday, January 29, 2011

Don't Blame Lobbyists

In his passionate appeals for new laws restricting ammunition and magazine size, Lawrence O’Donnel has been referring to the NRA as “the most successful lobby in the history of lobbying,” and he does not mean that in a complimentary way. I am not entirely unsympathetic with him, I resigned my life membership in the NRA about the same time that George H. W. Bush did, and I did so because they had become a lobbyist group rather than the sportsman’s organization that they were founded to be. The final straw for me was their boast that they could, and would, defeat any politician on the single issue of his/her stance on gun control.

I abhor single issue politics. The idea that an otherwise acceptable legislator should be defeated because he/she does not agree with the voter on one single issue is utterly absurd. Yet when voters are asked the reason for their support of a particular politician they will almost always cite one single reason, and will be completely ignorant of that politician’s stand on any other current issue facing this nation.

Even worse, the “fact” which that voter cites as the reason for supporting that candidate will, as often as not, be completely false. It will simply be some tidbit that the voter saw in a television commercial and which struck a chord causing him/her to remember it.

“I’m voting against him because he plans to take my guns away from me.”

And so pundits and politicians alike decry the lobbyists and the money that they pour into political campaigns, they rail against the “Citizens United” ruling, and they claim that the power of “big money” is destroying democracy in this nation. And no one thinks to place any responsibility on the voters themselves. No one stops to realize that half of our voters do not bother to vote and of those who do vote a great many, I would venture to say a majority, vote stupidly because they vote based on tv commercials, paid advertisements and lies.

“I’m voting against him because he’s a Muslim from Kenya.”

When the government of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen are unresponsive to the demands of their people, the people take to the streets and create an uproar. When our government is unresponsive to the needs of its people, admittedly on a lesser scale, our people cannot even be bothered to vote them out of office.

If we want a better government, if we want a better democracy, we cannot wait for the courts, the chief executive or the legislature to do that; it is the voters who have to take the responsibility to make that happen.

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