Not time for Kumbaya
Our President reveres transformation. If the concept were one syllable, it would have been his campaign slogan, ditching the inaccurate “Change.” He loves transformation so much that he complimented Ronald Reagan for being “transformative,” much to the delight of the editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal and the annoyance of Bill Clinton. (He actually used the term, which I believe is technically less accurate and therefore more motivational-speaker style, “transformational.”) And where this President has staked out his own claim to be considered “transformational” is as a leader in Compromise, the political scientist who discovered the truism that the Median between Two Extremes (as defined by the Right) is the Best Policy.
Compromise is the order of the day because one of the only two parties that matter in our polity has decided that it will budge from a set of irrational precepts no matter what, not even to govern. So the other party, in order to “get something done” must abandon any hope of enacting or executing sound policy in order to achieve the sound policy of Compromise.
Given this intellectual landscape, we’ve come to expect that any great policy success of this administration is so laden with give aways and corruption of principle and narrowness of purpose, that it is as close to being useless or on balance harmful that it almost becomes a coin flip whether to bother about it. Even if something is achieved, it is likely the GOP will filibuster any appointment to posts created by the legislation, so it becomes entirely useless. This last tactic is particularly effective, since the President simply meekly withdraws the nomination as though allowing a handful of cranks in the pocket of particular industries or Neanderthal ideologues is the normal way 21st Century Superpowers ought to govern themselves.
The President is not alone in creating or endorsing horrific Compromise. He normally is in the neighborhood, however. One only needs to consider Simpson-Bowles to find an example of how the Age of Obama has replaced Good Policy with Good Gamesmanship.
We now have another example: The Manchin-Toomey Compromise on background checks.
First, a short note on the obvious. Nothing could show the power of the American Reactionaries, the degree to which our government is in the thrall of even the worse of industries so long as the owners are smart enough to spend money on trade groups, lobbyists and politicians, and the inability of this President to manage overwhelming popular outrage than the response to the Newtown tragedy. That highly lethal machines, whose only purpose is to kill humans, can be transferred and used with less accountability than a motor scooter is mind-boggling. And it’s accomplished not with any cogent thinking (frankly any video of Wayne LaPierre on Youtube cannot be surpassed in illustrating the meanings of the concepts intellectual corruption, cynicism and amorality).
As a result of the dysfunction of the political culture that prevails it was almost certain that there would be no legislative response at all, by the wise men in Washington, D.C., to the assassination of children in a public school in broad daylight by a madman armed to the teeth with the kind of lethal weapons that float around this country with no accountability whatsoever.
And then came the compromise engineered by Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey. We had already given up on any form of restriction on types of weapons or the number of 6-year-olds it was possible to assassinate in a second. And God forbid that our government, the Great Satan, have a list of who owns what guns, just like police can find out who owns what cars. Because we know that James Madison was clear that there would have been no Perfect Union unless we agreed to the Fundamental Liberty of the right to have untraceable weapons to be used in slaughtering children.
But thank God that Manchin and Toomey saved Background Checks! No, no official agency is going to okay a person’s purchase of an “arm.” We have not given up our liberties to that extent. These things aren’t Volkswagens, you know. But there would be Something. And the Pundits of DC™ said Amen, because those thinkers are not interested in policy details, only the sacredness of compromise.
But of course we Leftist cynics always have to pee in the swimming pool. And there was some concern about how a Compromise between the most conservative Democrat in the Senate and the Republican who spent his career claiming Arlen Specter was a Socialist could have any good in it. And frankly it’s more leaf than fig. But it was Something, which by definition in our political culture is better than the Nothing we’ve come to expect. And the fact that the National Rifle Association was against it had to show something, right?
Well, dear reader, it is likely to show that the NRA is cagier than our leaders. For another gun group, The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has torn the figless leaf from in front of this genitalia of a bill. They support it and name its benefits:
If you read the Manchin-Toomey substitute amendment, you can see all the advances for our cause that it contains like interstate sales of handguns, veteran gun rights restoration, travel with firearms protection, civil and criminal immunity lawsuit protection, and most important of all, the guarantee that people, including federal officers, will go to federal prison for up to 15 years if they attempt to use any gun sales records to set up a gun registry.
And so you can see that by the “sweeteners” added to get the figless leaf, it is likely that the only real response to the Newtown tragedy, namely the legislation in Connecticut, New York and Colorado, may be undone by such things as the bill’s protection of “interstate sales of handguns.” And that won’t be all, folks. Harry Reid has announced that the bill will be open to amendments by both sides. That is the side that wants to increase the number of guns in this country and the side that doesn’t want to stop it. So we can expect even more good things to come.
And that doesn’t even count what may happen in the House of Representatives. John Boehner may not even bring the up if it is not bad enough. So that will not only put pressure on the Senate to put even more terrible things in the bill, but it will cause them (assuming that the House considers a bill and passes one, which by definition will be much worse than the Senate’s) to concede even more in the House-Senate conference.
There will be no stopping then, because the forces of Something is Better than Nothing will have the momentum.
It gets to the point, dear reader, where even thinking about public issues is painful, because the results are so predictable and the lost opportunity is so heart-breaking. And that my friends is also a victory for plutocrats, arms-dealers, financial thieves, religious bigots and the rest of the groups who pull the strings of our political rulers.