I think Pierce is a little too starry-eyed about Obama’s part in all this, but whatever:
Watching the administration’s momentum fade on this issue is to see a president presented with the final, practical refutation of the speech that made him famous. It turns out there is a red America and a blue America. It turns out that there is a conservative America and a liberal America. It turns out that the things that divide us are stronger than the things that unite us. Or, at least, that the things that divide us are more politically salient than the things that unite us. The failure on guns is the last, final refutation of what Barack Obama said he believed about the people of this county.
It always depended on the notion that we were all together in the creative process of self-government. The fact is, most of us aren’t. Most of us have checked out. At the encouragement of two generations of ambitious politicians, we have accepted the notion that “government” is something alien, and therefore that it is something we cannot influence. You tell me that 91 percent of Americans support background checks. Wonderful. Put them on the ballot. They’ll pass, but only 40 percent of the eligible voters will bother to go to the polls, so where’s the danger to anyone in acting contrary to the expressed public will? Who does Mitch McConnell really fear in this particular controversy? He knows that there is a solid, active core of support behind the work he’s doing frustrating the expressed public will.
This is the fool’s gold that this president has been chasing ever since he broke onto the scene. He staked his entire career — and certainly, his entire presidency — on the notion that the right person at the right time could heal the “divisions” in our society — which, he told us, were not the real products of our politics, but the temporary fever dreams of a country led astray. The fact is that those “divisions” are our politics. They’re all we have, since we have determined as a political entity, that politics and government are a show, that nothing is permanent, that the scoreboard starts at zero every day. Who will win the morning?
Recently, Washington Monthly published the most important piece of public policy journalism that has appeared anywhere since Charlie Savage’s first dispatches in the Boston Globe describing the spelunking he’d done through the dark places in the Bush Administration’s national security apparatus. It was by Haley Sweetland Evans and it describes the diligent work done on behalf of the people who stole most of the world economy in 2008 and wrecked what was left to undermine even the moderate attempts of the Dodd-Frank legislation that sought to rein in merely some of the worst excesses. Read the thing. Gaze in awe. There was very close to a national consensus during the 2008 election that we’d all been the victims of obvious crimes. There was very close to a national consensus that something serious had to be done to keep the crooks from coming back for seconds. And the one expression of that consensus is steadily being picked apart by the very same crooks and their sublet hirelings in the Congress. This piece will make absolutely no difference to anyone. And there will be absolutely no price to be paid for any of it. And we’ll all treat the next collapse of the next economy as though it were a blizzard nobody saw coming, and nobody — least of all “the government” — was able to stop.
This is not cynicism. Honest to god, it’s not. Well, some of it is, but it’s more what I believe to be a realistic appraisal of what happens when, for private purposes, the citizens of a self-governing political commonwealth are estranged from the process of creating it. This process predates Barack Obama by several decades and it is now a permanent feature of our politics that will long outlast him. Nothing is permanent. The scoreboard is resetting to zero again, and the poor man should have run for president of a better country than this.
I’m not sure what he means. Are citizens “estranged from the process” when they keep petitioning the government, and the government does the opposite of what they ask? Seems to me that for the past ten years, citizens have been fighting as hard as they can (at least, without starting a war) to take our country back. Seems to me the fault lies with the money-grubbing, power-hungry empty suits of Capitol Hill, but that’s just me.