The Aurora, Colo. theater shooting is yet another confirmation of a trend most ordinary Americans have missed, or prefer to deny.
The extremists have won.
Most Americans claim moderate views and are quick to compromise on governance issues in the interests of the greater good. We do it at school boards and at city council meetings, at churches and temples every day and twice on Sundays.
Yet somehow, rigid ideologues have captured the political conversation in this country.
Grover Norquist punishes any politician who dares dissent on his no-tax pledge. No taxes, end of discussion.
Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe has decreed there will be no civil discourse on Global Warming because it’s a godless hoax. End of discussion.
Rick Santorum discourages all consideration of abortion under any circumstance even if the woman is a victim of rape or incest. Or for that matter, the use of birth control by married couples. It’s in the Bible, end of discussion.
The Koch Brothers are funding efforts to stamp out any meaningful regulation of banks and financial giants even if manipulations and machinations blow up the global economy and cost taxpayers trillions, end of discussion.
The National Rifle Association has issued decades of fatwas interpreting a hazy section of the United States Constitution to mean there can never be any restriction on any sort of weapons, and who can own them. End of discussion.
On Sunday, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, told Fox News’ Chris Wallace any attempt to limit access to 100-round ammo drums for assault rifles to anyone under any circumstance would infringe on the Constitution.
“I believe so,” Johnson replied. “People will talk about unusually lethal weapons, that could be potentially a discussion you could have. But the fact of the matter is there are 30-round magazines that are just common all over the place. You simply can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm. And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedom.”
You know, if people are just bent on getting mowed down en masse by sociopaths carrying highly modified military weapons, what can a legislator do?
At Virginia Tech, at Columbine High, at movie theaters and at Saturday morning meet ups with their congresswoman at the strip mall, it’s their fault. They should have been armed and alert, ready to deal with an overwhelming attack out of the blue. Good lord, what were those 70 victims in Colorado thinking, watching a movie without 9 mm pistols in their hands, locked and loaded?
And where was Rambo?
This actually is the gun lobby position. The NRA is at this very moment fighting for 50-state conceal-carry reciprocity so we can have a nation of 310 million people armed to the teeth.
So, how do extremists win?
Easy. Extremists win with rigid discipline, unwaivering focus, intimidation and unscrupulous and anti-democratic tactics unrestrained by the sense of “fairness” and morality that handicaps the rest of us.
The best example of that currently is Michelle Bachmann’s campaign against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, whom Bachmann accuses of being a secret agent of the Muslim Brotherhood – one of many who’ve infiltrated the federal government.
Well, it turns out Grover Norquist told her. And of course, the tax vigilante and the congresswoman/former presidential candidate from Minnesota ignore the fact Abedin is married to – ready for this? – a Jew.
But Bachmann had an extreme right propaganda machine, including the Washington Times, pressing the charge daily until Sen. John McCain called her on it Friday. Score an all too rare victory for the fed-up middle.
Bachmann’s distortions are just one of the daily barrage of propaganda that flow from extremists.
In the weeks leading up to Friday’s shooting, Insider Louisville heard from our patriotic friends at Unite in Action, a fringe Tea Party group.
Here’s a passage from their latest missive:
The Supremacy Clause of our Constitution says that treaties are the “law of the land” and cannot be overwritten by acts of Congress or acts of the State Legislatures. So IF the Senate ratifies the UN Arms Trade Treaty that Obama and Hillary intend to sign July 27, the UN Gun Ban will VOID THE SECOND AMENDMENT!
The argument is so transparently absurd to anyone who passed eighth grade civics that it’s laughable. The UN … really? The most ineffectual organization on the planet is going to nullify the constitution, then take our guns. (And, yes, I have sporting/hunting guns including trap guns, bird guns and 22.-cal. can plinkers, as well as antiques. And I intend to keep them. But if I’m forced to walk around toting a weapon, we’ve lost this country to the kooks.)
In 2012, both sides practice fundraising-by-fear, but no one has perfected it like the National Rifle Association.
The NRA burns fear for fuel. The more afraid you are in a George Zimmerman world where “The Other” is going to invade your neighborhood and rob and murder you, the more likely you are to buy a weapon. And when you buy an expensive Glock or Sig sidearm with those 30-round clips Sen. Johnson is so fond of, the more money flows to the manufacturer’s lobby, the NRA.
The NRA’s stand is no weapon should be denied to anyone under any circumstances. End of argument, end of debate. As Brian Tucker told me yesterday, multiple shooters blasting away in a dark theater is the NRA’s wet dream.
The average American says, “Well, what about insane people? Should insane people really be allowed to purchase an assault rifle, then add a 100-round drum clip?”
Absolutely, says the NRA. If that insane person were denied the right to protect himself, why that would be the first step toward taking all guns away from Americans in violation of the Second Amendment. And if you dare criticize the NRA position as extreme and un-American, expect argumentum ad baculum blow back – you will pay politically.
Which has silenced both President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney, both of whom have sound gun-control records. The only person who’s shown any courage at all is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Why? Because the centrist Bloomberg’s cops have to go out and do battle with heavily armed thugs every day.
The funny thing is, no middle-of-the-road politicians seem to have the courage of their convictions, the courage to challenge the extremists. From arbortion to the deficit to gun rights, the extremists have shut the door on the American tradition of reasonable people disagreeing, but seeking common ground.
If politicians from Obama to John Yarmuth don’t have the courage to stand up on the gun lobby’s most egregious warping of the Constitution, how can we expect them to have the courage to defy the ideologues when it comes to any other debate?