David Harsanyi: Who cares what the majority wants on guns?
Well, the unthinkable happened. The Senate's sweeping gun legislation came up short on the votes required to move forward. And despite all the idealistic calls for passage and despite the fact that many pundits and advocates seem to believe that something should be law simply because "the vast majority of Americans" support it, not every issue deserves a majoritarian decision.
To begin with, whether Democrats like it or not, this issue concerns the Constitution -- where stuff was written down for a reason. That's not to say that expanding background checks or banning "assault rifles" would be unconstitutional (though you may believe they both should be). It's to say that when you begin meddling with protections explicitly laid out in the founding document, a 60-vote threshold that slows down stampeding legislators is the least we deserve.
The Founding Fathers worried that "some common impulse of passion" might lead many to subvert the rights of the few. It's a rational fear, one that is played out endlessly. Obama, who understands how to use public passion better than most, flew some of the Newtown families to Washington for a rally, imploring Americans to put "politics" aside and stop engaging in "political stunts." This is, by any measure, a preposterous assertion coming from a politician piggybacking tragic events for political gain. It would have been one thing, I suppose, if the gun control legislation written in the aftershock of a gruesome massacre had anything to do with the topic at hand. But what senators came up with would have done nothing to stop the shooter in Newtown - or the one in Aurora, Colo. Passions can be aggravated by events, but in this case, events have little to do with the policy at hand.
Cabinet positions and judges should probably not be held up over ideological concerns. But if Washington is internalizing the 60-vote threshold as the barrier to pass legislation, voters should be grateful. Considering Washington's propensity to politicize everything and its increasingly centralized power (what your health care looks like is now up for national referendums, for instance), slowing things down can only help.
I'm not operating under the delusion that any of this is good national politics for Republicans - though the arguments about obstructionism's dooming the GOP are probably overblown. No doubt, when the next disaster hits - and it will - Democrats will blame the overlords at the National Rifle Association and Republicans for the act of a madman. That's life.
But generally speaking, it'd be nice if Congress occasionally challenged the vagaries of American majority "instinct." Though it might seem antithetical to their very existence, politicians should be less susceptible to the temporary whims, ideological currents and fears of the majority. Theoretically, at least, elected officials' first concern is the Constitution. And if the need for gun control is predicated chiefly on the polls taken immediately after a traumatic national event, they have a perfectly reasonable justification to slow things down. In fact, if Washington internalizes the 60-vote threshold as a matter of routine, voters should be grateful. Considering Washington's propensity to politicize everything and its increasingly centralized power (what your health care looks like is now up for national referendums, for instance), this might be the only way left to diffuse democracy.
David Harsanyi is editor of Human Events and the author of "Obama's Four Horsemen: The Disasters Unleashed by Obama's Reelection." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.
READER COMMENTS: 3
- Another View -- John H. Sununu: Voters, pick a governor who is serious about the Pledge - 4
- Charles Arlinghaus: This government 'investment' is a bad idea - 5
- Pat Buchanan: The high price of papal popularity - 0
- Kathy Sullivan: Scott Brown does not get what 'pro-choice' really means - 15
- Deroy Murdock: Scott Brown's good case for a Republican Senate - 1
- Jonah Goldberg: Rise of the Clinton Democrats (not really) - 0
- Your Turn, NH -- Kelley Tambouris: I am a Manchester teacher, and I need more support - 23
- Political correctness could wind up killing a lot of Americans - 4
- Charles Krauthammer: Ebola vs. civil liberties - 0
READER COMMENTS: 0
- UPDATED: Driver killed in crash on Route 101A in Amherst is identified - 1
- Need a job? The NH State Prison wants you - 0
- Keene police may seek subpoenas for social media accounts in riot probe - 0
- Flood warning issued for southern NH - 1
- NHIAA Cross Country: Pinkerton favored to repeat - 0
- UNH Notebook: Ground game is Stony Brook's rock - 0
- The debut of the 'The $30,000 Nutt' - 0
- How stable is this telephone pole? - 0
- Drew Cline: Two weeks before the election, no one is talking about guns - 2
Keene riots a focus of gubernatorial debate
Health costs up for Manchester
Fixing Obamacare: Shaheen offers no way out
Fixing Obamacare: Shaheen offers no way out
Blackwater verdict stuns NH dad
Making it up: Shameless state Senate attacks