Being the Executive Director of a non-profit that prides itself of non-partisanship, I take care to never be overtly partisan or political in public spaces, like this blog. But I am pretty pissed off about Congress voting down the gun control bill. And, actually, I think it is completely a non-partisan issue. Universal background checks are common sense. As evidenced by the fact that one of the most conservative members of the Senate, Patrick Toomey from Pennsylvania, was one of the main architects of the deal. The bill should have passed, and the fact that it didn’t is a black mark on Congress. But it needs to serve as a wake up call for us, as citizens. A major wake up call.
Just through listening to the press, my twitter feed, and my Facebook feed, it is evident that everyone I know is furious at Congress. And they should be. The 45 senators that voted against moving the bill forward have their own interests above America’s. But we, as citizens of this country, need to take a look in the mirror.
As soon as the news came out, I immediately e-mailed a good friend of mine who works in Congress, lambasting the institution he works in. He quickly responded stating that while he was disappointed, even his office, which represents a staunchly democratic district, had received at least three times as many calls from anti-gun control constituents as those in favor of the bill. Polls show that 1 in 5 gun-owners in the entire country called their members of Congress, urging them to vote against the bill. The anti-gun control lobby showed up. In a big way.
It’s easy for us to sit back, to rail against the NRA and gun owners, and complain that Congress cannot get anything done. But we need to actually show up. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to not get political.”
And this is exactly what happened. I’m a pretty big politico wonk, and over the last few years, as I’ve started Generation Citizen, I’ve talked to so many friends, colleagues, partners who claim that politics is overrated. That we can achieve change through other means. That politics is corrupt. That it’s elitist. That the system does not work. That we can get entrepreneurial. Or get involved in service. This is the common refrain throughout this country. We are sick of politics, so we avoid politics. Maybe, maybe, we vote. But besides that, we remain on the sidelines.
I’m so tired of these arguments. Politics matters. What happens in Congress matters. What further proof do you want after today? Had that gun bill passed today, lives might have been saved. But instead of getting political, we rested on our moral laurels. And change did not happen.
For those of you reading this, did you call your senators to tell them to support the legislation? I did not. And I’m ashamed that I did not. While my two senators (Gillibrand and Schumer) voted in favor of the bill, I can guarantee you that they received more calls from anti gun-control advocates than those in favor of the bill. In New York.
And that’s the problem. We keep hearing that 90% of the country supports the mandatory background checks that are in the bill. But that same 90% of the country is not calling Congress. The 10% that does called every day. Multiple times. Putting pressure on. Making sure that their politicians knew that there would be real consequences if they voted for the bill. They showed up. They got political. And we got complacent and moralistic.
There’s an argument to be made that we elect our politicians to make the correct choices. That there is a difference between right and wrong, and that we should not have to remind them of that contrast. I would like to believe in that idealistic notion of our representative democracy. But frankly, it’s not how our government works right now. Political pressure matters.
And so, that needs to be the lesson of today, of the gun control bill not passing. That we need to get political. That we actually need to call our members of Congress. Frequently. We need to do whatever is necessary to let our politicians know that there will be real repercussions if common sense legislation like universal background checks is not passed. We need to vote. We need to rally. We need to march. We need to run against politicians that voted against the bill.
Congress sucks right now. Objectively. But the only answer for us to save our country from itself is to get political. Period.