The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 11, 2013

Gun debate shows that even in a democracy, a passionate minority can defeat the majority


A recent CBS News poll found that 58 percent of adult Americans say the best way to reduce the deficit is with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. One in 3 favors spending cuts alone, and 2 percent favor tax increases only.

An AP-GfK poll in February 2012 found broad support for Obama’s “Buffett rule,” which would require those earning $1 million or more to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. Nearly two-thirds of Americans supported the idea, while 26 percent opposed it. Congressional Republicans call it a nonstarter.

Partisan gridlock on deficit spending has led to repeated brinksmanship and unorthodox moves, including the year-end “fiscal cliff” showdown and the subsequent “sequestration” spending cuts.

Obama, noting strong congressional resistance to expanded background checks, asked this week if the government is getting out of step with its founding principles.

“If our democracy’s working the way it’s supposed to,” he told Connecticut residents mourning December’s elementary school massacre, “and 90 percent of the American people agree on something, in the wake of a tragedy, you’d think this would not be a heavy lift.”

Democratic consultant Chris Lehane says Obama has hit a crucial point.

“The political infrastructure is in conflict with our constitutional system of government,” which requires compromise between political parties and vested interests, Lehane said. The problem, he said, largely lies with never-ending political campaigns, massive spending by special interests and House districts drawn to be so thoroughly conservative or liberal that they don’t reflect national views on key issues.

Polls might show overwhelming nationwide support for expanded gun background checks or for a tax-hikes-plus-spending-cuts approach to deficit reduction, Lehane said. But many lawmakers “are coming from districts where those numbers do not exist.”

House Republicans say many of their members fear losing a GOP primary to a hard-right insurgent. Once they are nominated, however, it’s almost impossible for them to lose to a Democrat in the general election. For these lawmakers, the safest vote may be against even tiny tax increases or gun control measures, members of Congress say.

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