Some thoughts on the Senate

Today the Senate was unable to muster 60 votes to allow for the debate of a greatly watered down bill to partially respond to circumstances in this country which allowed the vicious murder of 20 5-6 year olds last December. It was not a perfect bill. Things to make it more perfect were given up, because even fewer Senators could stomach the loss of revenue to arms manufacturers of this country so that a more perfect bill would have entailed.  Nevertheless, there wasn’t even a debate of this fig-leaf of a response. Because the gun industry has purchased a great enough minority of the U.S. Senate that something that was overwhelmingly popular could not pass.

Here are some thoughts:

1. The U.S. Senate was once called the greatest deliberative body every created. Yes, there was some hyperbole in the statement. But some of the greatest political oratory, honestly delivered by some of the greatest statesmen in the history of English law and government took place there. This body does not permit debates any more. Because that would expose the vapidness of these old (mostly) men. Who, I ask you, could stomach to listen to Max Baucus pretend to be a statesman, rather than a bought and paid-for creature of the highest bidder? Who knew the statesman-like reasoning of Mitch McConnell, who voted to prevent debate? Unfortunately, by choosing to hide his opinion, he’ll never be able to dispel the presumption that he is a craven marionette of the gun lobby, his grinning skull-like mask the perfect advertisement of the next massacre. Of course, he probably doesn’t lose any sleep over whether the vast majority of this country knows that he places blood money over their wishes. To think that Henry Clay once held the office he now holds!

2. These craven cowards and toadies to the gun lobby had so little shame that thy were able to deliver their votes (they don’t actually take responsibility in public) while the parents of the children of Newton and others connected with horrific gun tragedies were in the galleries. I guess being a lickspittle gives your real thick skin. Or shame is simply an out-of-date sentiment.

3. Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats had the opportunity to change the rule which has allowed the extensive use of filibuster, vastly more that at any other time in history. They chose not to bother. It might have helped if they simply restored the rule to its original version, requiring the filibustering senator to actually talk to prevent debate. That’s what showed the country what fools the Dixiecrats who opposed Civil Rights legislation were. Today they could have mailed it in and African=Americans would still be disenfranchised economically and politically. It shows that Harry Reid was worried that some day his puppet masters might require him to use the filibuster to prevent something that the public welfare required.

4. Money has so throughly corrupted this country that there may never be an escape. It’s not just that our national legislators can be (and regularly are) bought off. It’s not that they spend more time begging for money than any other activity. It’s not that they are all personally wealthy and have no empathy for the rest of us. It’s also that the economy itself has been corrupted by individual plutocrats not responsible to shareholders, public regulators, public opinion.

5. For a number of reasons there is no grass-roots. Maybe everyone has been so used to scrambling about for the next crumb that they have no interest or energy for anything else. Maybe the elites have so insulated themselves that there is no threat to them. Maybe just enough of the elites of all classes and groups in this society get bought off that nothing can be organized. Whatever it is, peaceful reform of anything that reduces profits or income of the plutocrats is out of the question for the foreseeable future.

6. The right-wing has perfected its PR. Rather than debate the merits of their preferred social organization, they have combined state-of-the-art advertising, social psychology, market manipulation with judicious “investment” in opinion-makers, politicians, and celebrities, and they have developed memes most persuasive to those least likely  to question simple authority.

7. The Reagan Revolution never died no matter what people say. The main tenet of that movement was that a citizen’s relation to government is inherently adversarial and he should assent to pay taxes or agree to regulation of behavior only for things that directly benefit him. In other words, consumerism has replaced citizenship.

Yes, only one very flawed bill was defeated. But there probably will never again be a situation more appropriate for discrete national legislative attention. Instead of looking to solve a serious problem, the right-wing used lies, misrepresentations, fear-mongering (imagine the chutzpah in this situation!), and outright corruption to first water the legislative impulse down and then defeat it. One Senator was heard to tell the grieving parents “It wouldn’t have prevented Newtown” to excuse his “no” vote. The truth of the matter is that nothing any of the gentlemen are prepared to do will prevent any tragedy. They simply don’t represent the citizens of the United States anymore.

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