Why Can’t the Majority Get What They Want?
Written by: Joe Morris Doss
Almost every American feels that he or she lacks agency; we all seem to share a feeling that we have very little say in what is going on and that we are relatively helpless to do anything about what bothers or concerns us. At the Threshold is offering a series that is intended to examine that frustration. We began by recognizing how globalization is remaking the way the world works, especially the way worldwide interconnections are so new and operate so very differently. We will come back to that, but the recent events demand that we divert from that path to examine another crucially important reality that causes us to feel scared, sad, and out of control. We can’t get what we want; it is the wealthy and the powerful who get what they want instead.
A majority of Americans want gun control. The extent of gun control that is desired varies, but overall the public wants to institute enough control to make it harder for someone to get a gun for the wrong reason. Even people who use guns for sport are, as a majority, in favor of some forms of control. Yet, we cannot so much as obtain a meaningful vote on the subject in Congress.
Those in society who are on the front lines in the fight against violence, crime, terrorism, and the actions of the mentally imbalanced are the police, law enforcement officials and institutions, and the military. These are the “experts” on guns, who have first order responsibility to counter the danger of guns and whose fundamental purpose is to protect the public from the danger of guns. These are the people who are most in danger when guns and weapons are in the wrong hands. Among the officials and the institutions with responsibility as public servants, these are the least subject to direct political pressures, and who don’t need to kowtow to the phony slogans of the IRA and arms manufacturers, or pretend to ignore the fact that gun control has worked everywhere else around the world. Yet, these people and these institutions distance themselves from gun control as a political “issue.”
Our hearts go out to police officers who are killed, and it is painful to see the sincere grief they express for their fallen comrades. But should this not mean that the police understand more than others the need for preventive protection rather than limiting themselves to after-the-fact responses and willingness to take the bullets in street firefights. Is it possible that the police do not see the need to protect themselves by controlling the proliferation of guns and weapons of war? Can they really think it is someone else’s job to rid us of the danger of guns? Where is Wyatt Earp when we need him?
The same holds true for officers of the court, who are willing to send people to jail but unwilling to prevent the need to arrest and imprison them for the use of guns. The military is the biggest purchaser or arms and munitions. Where are they when we need their expertise and their power regarding the manufacture, sale, and trading of armaments that appear on the streets even though they are, supposedly, only designed only for troops in armed combat?
Gun control is the immediate issue to which we must point, but there are many other issues about which the will of the people is frustrated. Why do the wealthy pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers? Why, in the face of the gradual awakening of the vast majority of citizens to the dangers of climate change, have even modest environmental reforms been defeated time after time, and why is there so little attention being given to development of alternative forms of energy? Why have protections for employees been devastated? Why are so many people so obviously choosing to vote against their own and their family’s economic interests?
The ugly reality is that in the America of today a small minority of very wealthy people, and certain massively powerful industries, have enough money to get what they want instead of what the people want. In fact, their wealth is such – and thus they enjoy so much more “free speech” which others cannot afford – that most of the time there are plenty of voters who can be convinced that what they should want, is what they are told to want. A network of excessively wealthy people with extreme and inevitably self-serving views are bankrolling support of personally held beliefs, such as the notion that taxes, government regulation of business, and any control of gun sales are violations of freedom. These wealthy and politically motived movers and shakers are shockingly successful, and they are likely to continue to be successful until our political and judicial system finds some way to remove the controlling power of money in politics.
This insight deserved far more attention than can be granted in this space. For a revealing, almost sure to be a shocking, revelation of the problem we suggest the best selling book Dark Money, by Jane Mayer (an investigative reporter on the staff of “The New Yorker”).