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Education Policy and Social Analysis
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Education Policy and Social Analysis

EPSA Students > Basil Smikle, P&E Ph.D. student, in the NYT, April 18

Basil Smikle, P&E Ph.D. student, in the NYT, April 18

The Room for Debate section of the New York Times.

Too Concerned With Re-election to Compromise

Basil Smikle is a political strategist and an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

APRIL 18, 2013

President Obama’s rare public display of exasperation and animus after the defeat of bipartisan gun control in the Senate was unmistakable. He could only bemoan the handful of senators -- four of them Democrats -- derailing the hopes of 90 percent of America. Sadly, there are many reasons for the derailment of the gun bills, at the local level and by our legislative process.

The founding fathers were concerned about excessive and direct democracy and favored representative government, which proscribes simple majority influence on policy issues. Our Constitution and subsequent laws governing legislative processes have at times expanded or curtailed the influence of the legislative power. But even in a revered body like the Senate, the arcane rules -- like the filibuster -- undermine majority preferences instead of acquiescing to them.

Closer to home, the hard truth is that many legislators are concerned with re-election rather than building consensus around issues that preoccupy their constituents. Their election imperatives are fueled by the will of a few active voters and powerful interest groups.

Despite the trends that should indicate the opposite, research shows that political participation is declining in this country. Loopholes in campaign finance laws and the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United have encouraged organizations to infuse vulgar amounts of money and resources into campaigns. Unless we prevent senators from hiding behind parliamentary procedure and make them more responsive to the population, ordinary Americans will lose participatory power and suffer under the tyranny of the minority.
 
nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/04/18/on-gun-legislation