Saturday, April 20, 2013

Agreeing To Lose

Trey Smith

I am sure that most of you have heard that this week the US Senate was unable to pass any meaningful gun control legislation. Though poll after poll shows that a wide majority of Americans approve of things like banning assault weapons and requiring universal background checks, the Senate simply couldn't muster the votes to insure passage.

Predictably, this outcome is blamed on two groups: the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Republican Party. While both of these groups certainly opposed the bills presented to the Senate, the true culprit in this legislative debacle is the Democrats! Why do I say this?
Due to procedural steps agreed to by both sides, all the amendments considered Wednesday required 60 votes to pass in the 100-member chamber, meaning Democrats and their independent allies who hold 55 seats needed support from some GOP senators to push through the Manchin-Toomey proposal. (source: CNN)
Let that sink in. At the outset, the Democrats agreed to a framework that they knew they couldn't overcome. In essence, the whole gun control debate that took place in the US Senate was nothing more than a well-choreographed charade!

It should lead one to ask why the Democrats -- who hold a strong majority in the US Senate -- would agree to this stipulation in the first place. The twofold answer is simple, if you think about it.

The most obvious reason is that the Democratic Party leadership knew going in that they would be unable to maintain party solidarity. They knew that several Democratic senators opposed the bill and nothing would dissuade them from voting against it. This outcome would not bode well for the supposedly liberal party. It might cause some progressive voters to give up on the so-called liberal party.

What to do? Well, the Democrats needed some type of political cover. They needed to come up with a strategy to shield themselves from criticism from their own political base. And this leads directly to the second reason. They wanted to be able to blame the Republican Party for this fiasco. By agreeing at the outset that the bill would need a supermajority to pass, they accomplished both aims in one swoop!

They accurately could point out that, with few exceptions, the Republicans voted en masse to oppose the bill and, by shifting the spotlight to the GOP, they could hide the fact that some of their own members didn't toe the party line. Had the Democrats NOT agreed to the supermajority rule, those Democrats opposing the measure would have been hung out there for all to see.

So, while the NRA and GOP certainly played a role, it was the Democrats who insured the outcome we got. They were far more concerned with their political image than the will of the American people!!

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