There are important issues on the docket in 2013, and we should discuss progressive solutions to those issues rather than get caught up in criticizing conservative ideas. (More)
Support a More Progressive Dialogue in 2013
While watching MSNBC’s Up With Chris last Saturday, the Squirrel tweeted:
RW dialogue: “RW ideas are good!” Progressive dialogue: “RW ideas are bad!” Note: Both dialogues about RW ideas. Just sayin’.
Chris Hayes and his panel were discussing National Rifle Association Wayne LaPierre’s fear mongering
press conference infomercial last Friday, as did much of the media for much of the past week. We discussed it here at BPI as well, in Sunday’s Ask Ms. Crissie Morning Feature and again in Winning Progressive’s Wednesday Morning Feature. (In fairness, the Sunday Ask Ms. Crissie column is our ‘wingnut week in review’ and Winning Progressive’s Tuesday Morning Feature was about fostering a culture of nonviolence.)
Still, if you read the progressive blogosphere and watch progressive cable news – let alone the mainstream media – much of the content consists of criticizing conservative ideas. Meanwhile, in the conservative blogosphere and conservative cable news, most of the content consists of promoting conservative ideas. The net result is that most of our political dialogue is as the Squirrel described it: progressives and conservatives discussing … conservative ideas.
It’s easy to say that conservatives live in an information bubble, and a Pew Research survey found that many do. But even if they the tune into MSNBC or read a progressive website, there’s a good chance they will find a discussion of conservative ideas. Based on the topics in our news, it’s not hard to conclude – as many conservatives did leading into the 2012 election and many still believe even after – that Americans are generally conservative.
Some of that is a matter of pitching to a broad audience. A plurality of Americans do identify themselves as conservative, although polls also show stronger support for most progressive policies. As the American Prospect‘s Paul Waldman put it:
In that spirit, during the current budgetary debate it’s a good time to remember what I think is one of the three or four most enduring and important facts about American politics and public opinion. Almost half a century ago, Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril argued that Americans as a whole were ideologically conservative but operationally liberal, meaning that in broad terms they like “small government,” but when one gets specific it turns out they like almost everything government does, and want it to do even more of it.
How can progressives bridge that ideological-operational gap and support a truly progressive political dialogue? One answer lies in discussing and advocating our own ideas more than we criticize conservative ideas.
Say what you will about Wayne LaPierre’s rants Friday and Sunday, but he changed the topic from the horrific massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown – and the shootings of police and firefighters since – to himself and his ideas. To say his ideas are range from reckless (arming teachers) to repressive (a nationwide database of the mentally ill) is to miss the point. If we’re discussing Wayne LaPierre and the gun industry’s ideas, then we’re not talking about:
- Research that shows mass shootings are holding steady or increasing – depending on the definitions used – even while deaths from violent crime have declined overall since the late early 1990s.
- Research that shows crime decreased not because of more or less restrictive gun laws, but because we hired more police, kept violent criminals in jail longer, and allowed women to make their own health care choices.
- Research that shows arming more people and giving them greater legal leeway to open fire in ‘self-defense’ does not reduce burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault, but it does result in more homicides.
- Research that shows most claims of self-defense using a gun are illegitimate even if the claimant’s story of the event is taken as truth, that guns are used far more often to intimidate and escalate arguments than in self-defense, and that armed civilians rarely shoot criminals.
- Research that shows a clear link between mass shootings and high-capacity magazines. That research does not include the theater shooting in Colorado (100-round drum), the Sikh Temple shooting in Wisconsin (19-round magazines), or the mall shooting in Oregon, the Newtown school shooting, and the ambush of firefighters this week (all with 30-round magazines).
- Research that shows violent video games do lead to more aggressive behavior, however violent video games are equally popular in countries with far less actual violence.
- Research that shows mass shooters are, overwhelmingly, white males with an aggrieved sense of privilege.
- Gun industry marketing that specifically targets that aggrieved masculinity.
Discussing these studies – conducted despite the gun industry’s attempts to shut down public health research into gun violence – casts the issue of gun safety in progressive terms. Yes, violent crime is falling overall, including gun crimes …
… except for mass shootings, the majority of which involve angry white males, buying or stealing guns designed and marketed for angry white males, and buying or stealing high-capacity magazines that turn those angry white males into chillingly efficient mass murderers.
Making it a felony to possess such high-capacity magazines, with an amnesty and buy-back period that allows gun owners to turn them in to be destroyed, will force mass shooters to stop and reload more often. That will give children more chances to flee and give courageous, unarmed adults more chances to subdue the killers, as a 74-year-old, wounded man did in Tuscon when a mass shooter opened fire at former Rep. Gabby Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” appearance in Tucson.
We progressives need to focus on progressive solutions … and not take the bait of outrageous statements made by dangerous hucksters whose only real agenda is to shift the focus onto themselves and their ideas.