They taught me in school that democracy is a system of government of the people, by the people, for the people. So I have to wonder when I read – as I often do – that the United States is “the world’s leading democracy.” In poll after poll, I see “the people” favoring policies that the government will not – or cannot – enact.
In the depressing “debate” over gun control, for example, the will of the people is clearly being thwarted by the power of the gun manufacturing lobby. With polls showing that 90 percent of Americans support background checks and a substantial majority favor tighter regulations on gun sales, Congress is resisting any and all attempts at reform.
Meanwhile, all over the country state legislatures are adopting anti-abortion measures that clearly contradict the will of the majority of Americans who voted against similar policies in November’s general elections.
Obviously, the ballot box no longer rules in America.
The reasons are complex. But one influence seems to be growing ever more evident – intimidation of public officials by special interest groups.
Under America’s system of government, lobbyists and campaign contributors have always exerted undue influence over elected officials. This corrupting situation has become a lot worse with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that gave corporations free rein to spend as much as they want to support political candidates.
The NRA’s iron grip on the US Congress is a case in point.
The massive amount of money funneled through the National Rifle Association by weapons manufacturers is obviously the main reason for the government’s paralysis on gun control. Politicians not only have to consider the NRA’s contributions to their own campaigns, they also have to consider the threat of massive financial support for their opponents.
Even more troubling is the emergence of another kind of intimidation.
Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney canceled a public appearance Tuesday because of death threats she received. NRA security guards conspicuously displayed their weapons at the organization’s most recent press conference. And the founder of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners compared deer hunting season with election season, when gun owners would be free to “hunt Democrats.”
In support of his dangerous analogy, Dudley Brown complained that universal background checks are designed to identify gun owners so the government can seize their weapons, a notion that’s also being aired by the likes of Mike Huckabee. The former presidential candidate agreed with a talk-show caller who likened President Obama to the Nazis who seized the German people’s weapons in their imposition of dictatorship.
This hostile atmosphere is not restricted to the gun control power struggle. There’s a flood of even more troubling news reports about law enforcement officials being shot. You’ve probably wondered about the murder of a Texas District Attorney and his wife, for example, and several other execution-style killings that might be linked to criminal investigations.
I know I’ve wondered about the trend toward the apparent use of physical force to manipulate the justice system as well as the political system.
There’s a name for this kind of behavior. It’s called fascism. And the crazies who accuse President Obama of using “Nazi” style tactics should take note of the fact that it’s not the president who is resorting to intimidation but his political opponents.