Saturday, April 20, 2013

TOOMEY MOVES TO THE DARK SIDE, or Politics For The Time-Challenged

Pat Toomey is a Pennsylvania senator who we all thought was a constitutionalist, Tea-Party sort of conservative. Now, after his failed campaign to enact a new scheme for expanded background checks on gun buyers, it is clear he is no such thing. It happens. Guys go to Washington and they forget why they were sent there, or they get duped by other legislators and lobbyists into supporting things they don't understand. Or they simply succumb to the I'm-a-big-important-guy-and-the-people-who-elected-me-are-dopes syndrome. In Toomey's case, it appears that all these things played a role in his descent into Beltway thinking and Beltway culture.

If you support the right of free Americans to bear arms, the Toomey-Manchin Amendment was a truly dreadful bill. It did basically nothing about systematically identifying loonies who should be denied guns. It did nothing about felons obtaining guns illegally. It imposed enormous criminal penalties on various types of private gun transfers that have never been shown to cause any sort of problem. And, despite the caterwauling of Toomey, Manchin, Obama, and a thousand newspapers that no such a thing could ever happen, the bill would have allowed the federal government to set up a national gun registry.

I know these things because I read the amendment. It's not easy because there are references to other laws and regulations and you have to find out what those things say before you can understand exactly what the Toomey-Manchin Amendment does. It took a couple of hours, and that is time most people will not be willing to spend.

So here's a shortcut for the time-challenged citizen.

When Pat Toomey started speaking out in the press and in public forums to generate support for his proposal, he did something he has never done before in his public life. He started saying that his plan contained “common sense” gun proposals. This is never a good sign. When a politician, rather than telling you what the bill says or presenting arguments for it, tells you what your conclusion must be, the only rational response from the citizenry is to reject that politician's proposal (and that politician as well). I mean, it takes some nerve to do this, doesn't it? As a public servant, Toomey's job is to present his legislation, explain it to me and present his arguments in favor of it. But the conclusion is MY job. I'll decide whether the bill is a good one or whether it's “common sense” or simply nonsense. When a politician assumes a conclusion in this manner, it's an insult to his audience. Are we fools? Are we morons? Are we incapable of assessing data and weighing arguments and deciding what we think?

Assuming one's conclusion, or “begging the question,” was a cheap rhetorical trick when Aristotle started bitching about it 2300 years ago (and it wasn't exactly new when he showed up). Yet today, left-wing ideologues use it constantly. I put “common sense gun control” in my browser and got 68 million hits, and the first twenty pages of them were all from Democratic politicians or left-wing newspapers. EVERY leftie does this. Obama has not given a speech about guns in which he does not refer to “common sense” gun laws. Pelosi does it. Bill Clinton does it. Ed Rendell. Michael Nutter (constantly). Bloomberg (of course). And now, sadly, we must add Pat Toomey to that list.

You have all seen these phrases: “sensible laws,” “reasonable measures,” “common-sense regulations.” The left does it because their supporters don't care much about reasons or arguments; they just need to be told what the right people are thinking. (You may have noticed, for example, that approval for gay marriage has spiked upwards among black voters now that Obama has changed his public position on it. These folks were not persuaded to change their minds---they simply “evolved” once Obama did.) The left is also the home of the newly-identified low-information voter, a group that is completely uninformed and highly opinionated. They have no time for, or interest in, arguments or persuasion. The time required for a slogan or bumper sticker is the measure of their attention span for matters political. Arguments are wasted on them, but the phrase “common-sense gun control” tells them all they need to know.

This is done with every issue, not just gun control. The gay marriage issue is now called the ”marriage equality” issue by the left, for example. This turns it into a question solely of discrimination, and we all hate discrimination, don't we? Suddenly it has nothing to do with traditional values, the protection of children, inheritance law or anything else. Similarly, regarding the treatment of captured terrorists, the left tells us we need to decide whether we approve of “torture.” We do not, of course, but neither are we entirely certain that waterboarding or playing loud music fits the definition. For most of us, that is the question. For the left, however, the conclusion is simply assumed. Whatever practice they disapprove of is “torture,” and no further argument is permitted.

For you time-challenged voters, or for those who just can't be much bothered with political blather, my suggestion here can save you a lot of time. It doesn't even matter what the issue is. If a politician is presenting you with arguments for his proposal or his point of view, support him. Vote for him. Occasionally, he will be wrong but occasionally all of us are wrong. In the long run, we will all be better off. But if instead he tells you what to think and what to conclude, walk away. Show him the contempt he is showing for you. Scorn him, mock him, and vote against him the first chance you get, whether his name is Barack Obama or Pat Toomey.