I would not consider myself a “politics person.” For most of my life, my political knowledge was basically limited to the name of the president and whatever I picked up when my dad listened to talk radio. It seems that everyone considers politics a dirty field, full of corrupt power-hungry people who only want money.
And yet, now I find myself suddenly quite interested in politics. Well, maybe not politics so much… But that other part of a government career-- you know, the governing? That’s where it gets interesting.
Part of it is this election: this is the first election I can vote in, and therefore the first election I’ve really paid attention to, but holy god are they always like this? It seems like this is way too crazy to have been happening once every four years for over two hundred years. On one side we have the first female presidential candidate of a major party in the history of the United States, and on the other side we have an television star/billionaire whose campaign and hateful speech preys on the fears of 21st century America. Both of them are so hated by the other side it’s alarming.
Part of it is the legislation being passed and being contested by the Supreme Court. Gay marriage was legalized across the country. President Obama’s immigration reform was just stalled in the Supreme Court. Lawmakers are frightfully behind the new world of technology, the current system failing to address the privacy and security issues created by the incredible globalization of the Internet.
Part of it is the government shutdown a few years ago. Seriously, what was that about? Can we stop something that ridiculous from happening again? I live nearby a wildlife reserve where there are a few looking platforms by the side of the road, so people can park and look through binoculars at the land. During the shutdown, they placed barriers in front of it so you couldn’t drive up. I tried to visit certain government websites for my government homework and I was not allowed to access them. Seriously?
Part of it is the gun control debate that is happening right now. I can’t stop checking twitter, news sites, periscope, searching for the latest updates of the sit-in in the House. My feelings about the sit-in are mostly positive. Was it a publicity stunt? Yes. Was it “just a publicity stunt?” No. It was frustration that bubbled into a public demonstration in response the years of gun violence that went without action in Congress. It was taking a stand and saying “inaction is not an option. Not voting is not an option. Leaving this behind is not an option.” I believe that is was at least partially a “publicity stunt,” but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The Democrats in the House achieved tremendous attention and support from the American public, which as the representatives of the American public, is a great thing to have.
The bill in question that they were supporting is not one that I personally support: the terrorist watch list is too large and nebulous to be used as a metric for buying guns. Many people are on that list for reasons like being somehow tenuously connected with a potentially dangerous person. I personally support the bill that Senator Collins is proposing, which would restrict gun sales for those on the no-fly list, a much smaller list that requires a real reason to be on. However, I do support universal background checks for ALL gun sales, and funding for a study on the health effects of guns, two other measures that the Democrats are attempting to garner favor for. Furthermore, at this point frustration has reached a point that we have to do something. Denying gun sales to those on the terrorist watch list and universal background checks are overwhelmingly favored by citizens across party lines. Why is the Republican leadership so adamantly opposed to these bills?
This was an almost entirely unprecedented event in the House. Although sit-ins have been staged before, one of this level of disruption and attention is unheard of. The Republican leadership dismissed it as “immature” and “disruptive.” Supporters, including the hundreds of people who gathered inside and outside of the House, cheered them on “true democracy” and “taking a stand.” Although the legislation itself may not pass, the Republicans unquestionably lost the public opinion on this: it’s hard to defend being against a sit-in led by an actual Civil Rights activist trying to get a vote about denying guns to potential terrorists. The rhetoric is just not on your side with that one. When you add that Paul Ryan turned the cameras off-- which was unquestionably stupid, as it propelled a huge number of people to online streams-- and that the way Republicans attempted to ignore the sit-in came off as callous and disrespectful to the victims of gun violence, they didn’t stand a chance.
See, I was only going to go through a few reasons why I’ve gotten interested in politics, and then I spent three paragraphs on the gun control debate. It’s just INTERESTING. I used my lunch break today to watch the senate livestream as they voted on whether or not to table Senator Collins’ bill. It was way, way more into it than I was expecting to be, and extremely excited that it didn’t get tabled (by only a very small margin…).
Part of it is the EU Referendum vote, aka Brexit. Which I’m currently watching live and is NERVE-WRACKING.
All in all, to be entirely honest, most of this is almost certainly watching every episode of the West Wing in the past three months.