March 28, 2013

Three problems with two Obama paragraphs

Dukakis in a tank - part 2. Still only for the gullible.
The President was just doing a stump speech at the White House at noon EDT today.  He said that 90% of Americans support stricter background checks:
Right now ninety percent of Americans...ninety background checks that will keep criminals and people who've been found to be a danger to themselves or others from buying a gun. More than eighty percent of Republicans agree.  More than eighty percent of gun owners agree. Think about that.  How often do ninety percent of Americans agree on anything?  It never happens.    Many other reforms are supported by clear majorities of Americans. 
And I ask every American to find out where your member of Congress stands on these ideas.  If they're not part of that ninety percent who agree that we should make it harder for a criminal or somebody with a severe mental illness to buy a gun, then you should ask them 'Why not?  Why are you part of the ten percent?'
There are a number of problems with this statement.  Here are three.

Firstly even if ninety percent of Americans "support background checks", it does not mean they support making it "harder for a buy a gun".  They may in large part agree with existing background checks, or stricter enforcement of existing background checks.  The president has played with the language to make his position seem more reasonable and more coherent.  He's talking about two different things

Secondly, the president's numbers come from where exactly?  According to PolicyMic, the president's numbers are at best a misinterpretation and at worst, a fabrication:
A new CBS poll claims that now only 47% of Americans want tighter gun laws; a significant 10% drop from polls taken just after the Newtown, Conn., shooting in December. The poll also reported that 39% of Americans want to keep the laws as they are now, with an additional 11% in favor of less strict gun laws.

Similar polls conducted immediately after the Sandy Hook tragedy reported that 57% of Americans were in favor of stronger gun laws. A similar event occurred after the Columbine shootings in which a strong bump in favor of more gun control rose immediately after the shooting, but then ultimately declined in the years after.

After the spike in pro-gun control sentiment, the NRA began quickly gaining new members — which according to reports from Fox News, was as high as 8,000 new members a day, for a certain time period. In February, President Obama’s State of the Union showed his administration’s desire to target gun control issues.
Those numbers look like 50% want the same or looser gun laws while only 47% want stricter laws.  The president asked how often ninety percent of Americans agree on anything, and noted it never happens.  He's right, it never does. His humor masks the reality of the situation.  There is no ninety percent agreement.  Particularly now.  His timing to make this speech is also suspect as the momentum behind his agenda has begun to seriously stall.

Which leads to the third issue.  The president seems to believe that ninety percent agreement isn't enough.  He wants Americans to ask why their member of Congress is part of the ten percent and not aligned with the rest of America.  The United States is a representative Republic.  Yes, there is a duty to represent but there is also a duty to lead and make decisions. That's what Congress was elected to do.  They were elected on the basis that they do represent the beliefs of their constituents.  Another problem with the notion the president puts forward, is the idea of majority tyranny.

The three countervailing branches of government, the electoral college, the equal Senate representation by state, are all meant as ways of deflecting majority tyranny.  After all, if the majority of Americans favored illegal search and seizure, or the killing of anyone over the age of seventy, that doesn't mean the majority are right, it means they are a mob.  A community organizer can appreciate a mob, a president should not, nor should he condone such a mentality.

In the end it probably doesn't matter.  The president has chosen a windmill to tilt at that he won't defeat.  His efforts are going against a shifting tide right now and it's another waste of time when jobs, the economy and the national debt demand more attention.  It may be deliberate - it may be an attempt to distract from the drastically rising costs of health care that have happened since Obamacare became the law of the land.  For America, it may actually prove better that the president focus on irrelevant issues than him trying make a real difference in the economic arena - whenever he tries to do something big, it doesn't end well for the country.  A do-nothing-relevant Obama is probably the best scenario we can hope for right now.

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