The End of Progressive Defeatism

I had to run an errand last night. I had Norman Goldman on the radio. I don’t listen to him often, because I don’t trust a lot of what he says. But while I was listening, he asked his audience what they wanted to talk about; gun control or the Koch Brothers. His audience’s response made me sick to my stomach, and demonstrated why the progressive movement is a political loser these days.

The listeners (according to Goldman) chose to discuss the Koch Brothers; specifically Charles Koch’s whiny Wall Street Journal op-ed, which was published earlier in the day. Seriously. I wish I was kidding. But that isn’t even what pissed me off. No, what got my boiling mad was the reason, which had to do with there being no point in talking about guns, since the NRA has completely bought and paid for the political system, and no one will do anything about guns, anyway. Therefore, we might as well talk about those stupid Kochs. (Who, by the way, have exactly two votes between them.)

Why would something like that bother me? Because I’ve been actively advocating for better gun control for about 30 years now, and I always feel like I’m doing it alone. I know someone who lost a child in the Columbine massacre, and I made a promise that I’d never give up, and I haven’t. And I won’t.

But let me tell you something here. If you think the NRA is the biggest obstacle to meaningful gun control, think again. For that matter, if you think the Kochs are even in the top 100 of the biggest problem this country faces, get your head out of the professional left blogs and rejoin the real world. When you do, look in the mirror.

Let’s start with gun control. In a way, you have a point. The NRA gun lobbyists have purchased an entire political party; the GOP. Unfortunately, for 30 of the past 34 years, Republicans have effectively run the government. We cannot get gun control passed while they’re in charge.

So, I guess I have to ask what should be a simple question. Why are they still in charge?

The answer is, because the loudest, most visible segment of the progressive movement, who apparently listen to Norman Goldman, have decided that, since we can’t do anything about guns right now, there’s no point in talking about them and making them an issue. Seriously. These are self-described “progressives”? What’s so progressive about that attitude? And in what language does this make sense? They’ll happily talk all day about Edward Snowden, and demand that all charges be dropped against him and Julian Assange, even though the charges against Snowden will never be dropped and Assange hasn’t been charged with anything. They’ll demand that the NSA stop “spying,” which will never happen, as long as the GOP is in charge, anymore than they’ll pass gun control. They will whine and cry about the ultimately inconsequential Koch brothers until you fantasize about smacking them in the face, even though there is nothing they can do about them, either. Really; what is the point to talking about the Kochs incessantly?. Or ALEC, for that matter. Nothing can be done about either as long as the GOP is in charge. But for some reason, when they should talk about an important issue like gun control, an issue that destroys families daily, they defer to the far right, and let them have the issue.

Really, when was the last time you saw a sustained effort on the part of progressives to push for gun control? I’ve been pushing it for 30 years. When I work on issues platforms for Democratic politicians, I work my ass off to make sure gun control is on it, and I’ve been successful most of the time, even though I’ve had to fight for it several times. But most of the time, I feel alone. Except for people who have actually been directly affected by gun violence, it’s difficult to get anyone else to talk about the issue. The left doesn’t want to talk about it, except in the abstract right after a tragedy, and the right will only shout “Second Amendment!” even though I’m pretty sure they’ve never read it. One major reason gun control often seems to be a sore subject, is due to the defeatism that exists on the part of progressive “activists.” Gun control matters. The Koch brothers and Edward Snowden really do not.

I’d also point out that progressives who think we can’t do gun control are just flat wrong. Think about this; more than 90 percent of Americans are all in favor of universal background checks, and a majority are in favor of smaller magazines, and think military-style weapons are overkill and should be modified or banned. A majority also thinks we should do more to keep guns away from the mentally ill. The only thing preventing us from getting stricter gun control is the fact that Republicans are running the government.

Now, what do you think the solution to the problem is, really?

Get Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, and as many state houses as possible, and keep electing Democratic presidents, and we’ll accomplish a lot of goals, including better gun laws. Ironically, we’ll also see a severe neutralization of the Kochs. Plus, we can pass laws that weaken Citizens United and be in a position to replace one or two of the right wing Supreme Court Justices with moderates, and overturn some of this sickness.

But we can’t do any of this if the progressive movement takes a defeatist attitude, and combines it with the self destructive practice of attacking Democrats more than Republicans. Got that?

No more defeatism. We have to win. Lives are at stake.

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