Esau was the first born of twins. A pretty good hunter, he was a favorite of his father, Isaac. His brother Jacob tended to dwell among the tents rather than hunting and working in the field. One day Esau returned from an unproductive hunt, hungry. His brother Jacob was cooking a vegetable stew. “Jacob, feed me some of your stew…I am faint,” he asked. Jacob, no push-over, said, “Sell me your birthright.” Esau figured “what good is my right as firstborn if I die?” and agreed. No attorney was nearby so Jacob demanded that Esau “swear it.” So Esau swore an oath and Jacob gave him bread, lentils and something to drink. Esau evidently had no use for his birthright. I know, you’re wondering how this little parable applies to guns. Well . . .
This story from the book of Genesis illustrates a problem we humans have when faced with choices between immediate, concrete needs and our abstract rights. As firstborn, Esau had the right to a double portion of all the property that his father had acquired and the honor and responsibility to maintain the family lineage. But being hungry, he traded the future benefit of what he had been born into for a single meal. Oops.
Americans have a set of rights, too. But the temptation Esau felt has bedeviled us for as long as we’ve been a nation. During the progressive era when the constitutionality of certain aspects of the New Deal were being debated, leaders would articulate Esau’s question, asking what good are constitutional rights if we cannot…fill in the blank for the temporal need of the moment.
I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.
The debate over the 2nd Amendment as it pertains to our political system usually revolves around who will safeguard the right to keep and bear arms. Does this pol support the 2nd Amendment? Does he or she vote the ‘right’ way? Is there someone better? These questions are asked by “single issue” RTKBA types for whom the politics of the 2nd amendment is the make or break issue.
Many gun owners don’t see it this way, though. While there may be too little discernible difference between the GOP and the Democrats, any objective analysis would tell you that, in general, the Democrat party is far more hostile to the 2nd amendment as an individual right than are the Republicans.
And please spare me examples like Dick Lugar. Save the whining about weak-kneed GOPers. I’ll stipulate that right now. But all that acknowledged, the reality is that the Democrats’ hostility to what most gun owners see as a ‘proper’ view of the 2nd Amendment is baked into the party cake. Dick Lugar is an outlier, Barbara Boxer is the mean.
Why then do so many anti-gun Democrats get support from otherwise pro-gun voters? I think it comes down to the weight one applies to constitutional rights versus temporal needs and wants. Someone who votes for a Democrat because they like what that Democrat says about corporate governance, health care reform or fill-in-the-blank is deciding that those issues matter more than their baseline hostility to gun rights that candidate’s party displays.
Fair enough, it is a free country. Vote your conscience and all that.
Nevertheless, I want to speak bluntly about what this means. The so-called progressives of today are working for a number of changes in the size, scope and role of government – particularly the federal government. Their party is, unquestionably, hostile to the 2nd Amendment as understood by anyone with at least a 6th grade education.
When I interviewed the Occupy Wall Street (St. Louis Branch) folks here in my beloved Gateway City, six out of seven were vocal supporters of the 2nd Amendment as an individual right, as a means of self-defense and as a last bastion of defense against tyranny.
All were good liberals with all the fashionable goals of equality of outcome and a willingness to give Government enormous power and authority over economic activity. They were in lockstep support of the party that receives nearly 100% of the political and financial support of the likes of the Brady Campaign. If the OWS-STL kids are successful in sweeping from power the mean old GOP, how soon before gun bans and gun control return with a vengeance? Once disarmed, where will they turn if they find the tyranny of their own choosing not to their liking?
Not to put too fine a point on it, such liberals give far greater weight to a pot of lentils today than the birthright of freedom the 2nd Amendment secures by their own admission.
Again, this is not an apologia for the Republican party. There are some smart and decent leaders in the party but they are obscured by a thick blanket of feckless wankers. In many cases, it’s a damned shame candidates from both parties can’t lose.
That said, for the GOP, candidates with a hostility to the 2nd Amendment is an unusual bug. With Democrats it’s a qualifying feature. Vote for who you want, but if you vote for the party that has worked tirelessly since the mid sixties to strip Americans of our RTKBA, leave your NRA card at home before you head to the polling station.
And, of course, enjoy your lentils.