WASHINGTON, April 20, 2013 — After the Senate killed a piece of gun-control legislation last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg bitterly raged, “Children lost — they’re going to die — and the criminals won.” Promising retribution, he added, “You wait until next November a year from now when people who run against them will say, ‘Look at how many more people died since they voted to stop sensible rules that would simply keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.’”
Supporters of the Senate measure, which would have expanded background checks on gun buyers, claim that the Senate voted against the wishes of America. Said President Obama, “By now it’s well known that 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks … And a few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate just voted for that idea, but it’s not going to happen, because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea. … the American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen.”
The answer to Obama’s last comment is easy; it can not happen the same way that another measure supported by 70 percent of voters hasn’t happened — voter ID laws. Neither happens because America is not a direct democracy.
There’s a great deal of impatience for the way our government works. Democrats are unhappy that the Senate didn’t pass a measure they claim is popular with 90 percent of Americans, to the point that Bloomberg wrote in an editorial, “If the nation’s laws fail to represent the views of the overwhelming majority of its people, representative democracy becomes a shallow and unsustainable exercise.”
Representative democracy isn’t designed simply to enact the will of the majority (especially when the numbers are as dodgy as that 90 percent), nor do even Democrats think so. Direct democracy can be tyrannical, and when the voters decide by referendum to do something the left dislikes — rejecting same-sex marriage, for instance — we discover that they hold “the will of the people” in as little regard as the Senate allegedly did last week.
If the Constitution grants all men and women of all races the right to vote, what does the will of the people matter on the subject? It doesn’t, as long as the institutions of our republic are strong enough to stand up to the popular will. But that’s a sword that cuts two ways; the popular will can be thwarted right or wrong. That’s the hand the framers of the Constitution dealt us.
We believe that government should listen to the voice of the people when we agree with that voice, but when we don’t, the people suddenly become a “boobocracy,” the ignorant masses, children who need a stronger hand. Liberals applaud the wisdom of the masses when it supports background checks, then deplores it when it favors tax limitations and rejects “assault weapon” bans. Religious conservatives are horrified that American opinion is marching off to Sodom and worry that same-sex marriage will destroy the republic, while conservatives in Texas sneer at the statism of the citizens of Massachusetts.
The real issue here is that the Constitution is held in low regard. It’s a document for serious grownups, not for self-centered children who treat it as either a “living document” that can be tortured to permit whatever we want to do, or as an inconvenient “suicide pact” that should be ignored because it ignores the exigencies of the day. It isn’t taken seriously as the fundamental law of the land by people who are not themselves serious.
A secondary issue is that “we” don’t trust most of America. Liberal elites don’t trust Christians, conservatives, Texans or anyone who shops at Wal Mart. They not only don’t trust them, they seem actively to dislike them. How else to explain, as Communities writer Eric Golub observed, that men like David Sirota and Tim Wise “fervently hope that the bomber is a white American, and would probably add ‘Christian,’ if asked.”
The disparate coalition of the left has no natural center, and because it’s comprised on the basis of groups, not people, it deals with interests, not principles. The interests of its various groups are incoherent, and it can survive as a movement only as long as it faces an external enemy. Sirota and Wise get that, and so do the media.
MSNBC, CNN, NPR and others immediately focused on rightwing white American men as likely perpetrators of the Boston bombing. The National Journal reported that the Patriots’ Day timing, along with the filing deadline for taxes, suggested a link with right wing groups. NPR added that the day was linked to the slaughter of the Branch Davidians, Hitler’s birthday, and Columbine, which according to NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston combine to make April “a big month for anti-government, right wing individuals.” CNN and MSNBC both immediately linked pressure cooker bombs with the right, observing that neo-Nazis enjoy reading al-Qaeda’s publications, which include recipes for these bombs.
The need to link an act like the Boston bombing to right-wingers is almost reflexive on the left, as reflexive as the scapegoating of Muslims that the media-left deplores. That wasn’t unusual; after ricin-laced letters were sent to a Republican senator and to President Obama, UPI observed that ricin is popular with right-wing terrorist groups.
We could argue that the left seeks to tie only the far right to terrorism, not everyday Republicans, or even tea partyers. Yet Vice President Joe Biden has referred to Republicans in Congress as “terrorists,” as has Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), and there are other examples of heated rhetoric describing even so moderate a Republican as Mitt Romney as rightwing. Even the erratic Biden probably doesn’t believe his own rhetoric, but that only makes the demonization hypocritical, not imaginary.
The left is fundamentally elitist, appealing to a cult of expertise (how often must it be repeated that Obama is a Harvard graduate from the top of his class?) even while fashioning itself the voice of “the people.” The senators who voted against the background check bill have successfully run for and remained in Congress, though, and the odds are good that they know the will of the people in their own states as well as Obama and Bloomberg do.
This remains a constitutional republic, whether Bloomberg likes it or not. Representatives and senators represent their districts and states, and they don’t need Bloomberg to tell them what their voters want or need. If they’ve read the voters wrong, they’ll be punished in 2014. The fear that dogs Obama and Bloomberg is that they won’t be.
James Picht is the Senior Editor for Communities Politics and teaches economics at the Louisiana Scholars’ College in Natchitoches, La., where he went to take a break from working in Moscow and Washington. But he fell in love with the town and with the professor of Romance languages, so there he stayed. Now he teaches, annoys his children, and makes jalapeno lemonade. Like Obama and Bloomberg, he’d like the Constitution a whole lot more if it made him the supreme leader of America. He tweets, hangs out on Facebook, and has a blog he totally neglects at pichtblog.blogspot.com.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.