DIFFERENCES divide and prevent progress on GVP. The truth is that Republicans oppose nearly all efforts to pass GVP bills, and conversely, Democrats are nearly unanimous in supporting GVP laws. Democrats and Republicans are hard-wired to oppose or support. Why?
In his book, WHY WE’RE POLARIZED, Ezra Klein does a deep dive into understanding the differences. One of his main tenets focuses on our worldview: ” . . . one is more fundamental than any other in determining which side of the divide you gravitate toward: your perception of how dangerous the world is. Fear is perhaps our most primal instinct . . . . people’s level of fearfulness informs their outlook on life.”
Then he gets specific. Openness to experience is associated with liberalism, while conscientiousness, preference for order and tradition that breeds a skepticism toward disruptive change, connects to conservatism. “The kinds of people most attracted to liberalism are the kinds of people who are excited by change, by difference, by diversity. . . . . By contrast, the job of the conservative, . . . is too [stand] athwart history, yelling stop, . . . mistrust change, appreciate tradition, and seeking order.” Klein quotes Hetherington and Weiler in their book PRIUS OR PICKUP? who speak of “fluid” and “fixed” psychologies: “People with what we call a fixed worldview are more fearful of potential dangers, and are likely to prefer clear and unwavering rules. . . . such as hierarchy and order . . . . By contrast, people with what we call a fluid worldview are less likely to perceive the world as dangerous . . . . and are more inclined to question and explore.”
I find these distinctions helpful in understanding the GVP divide. The question now is how can we bridge the divide of our differences to address the truth of 40,000 gun deaths each year, with nearly 2/3 being suicides, 1/3 homicides and a fraction accidental? I submit that responsible, common sense GVP laws can bridge the divide and create a bouquet of caring. Laws which nurture a bouquet of intentions that keeps guns locked-up in the home, a bouquet of laws supported by data, that authorizes weapons be temporarily removed from a person under stress, private sales managed by universal background checks, guns registered and owners licensed, liability insurance mandated for gun owners and gun manufacturers vulnerable to private suit. Truth be told, NONE of these bouquets of caring will prevent a responsible adult from purchasing a weapon. Indeed, ownership will be safer and more responsible. Truth be told, a strong majority of adults SUPPORT these laws.
How can we grow these “bouquets of caring”? Here are two ways forward. First, these bouquets are poisoned by a toxic political imbalance which prevents these laws from becoming law. Klein posits common sense corrections: 1) Getting rid of the filibuster which gives unbalanced power to the minority to stop all GVP progress; 2) Eliminating the electoral college would base elections on actual votes, as the electoral college gives too much power to the low population, conservative states which contributes to minority rule, preventing majority support for GVP laws; 3) Insuring that all qualified people can vote. Republican controlled legislatures, most from smaller states, are attempting to pass hundreds of laws to make voting more difficult for progressives and minorities who support GVP laws; 4) Granting statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. These corrections would respond to an unfair demographic reality. “By 2040, 70 percent of Americans will live in the 15 largest states. That means 70 percent of America will be represented by only 30 senators, while the other 30 percent of America will be represented by 70 senators. It is not difficult to imagine an America where Republicans consistently win the presidency despite rarely winning the popular vote, where they typically control both the House and the Senate.” Political corrections are appropriate and necessary.
Second, as a Lutheran Christian, God’s grace through Christ bridges the divide between Republicans and Democrats. The grace of love through Christ opens us to honor ALL of life as preciously created in the Image of God. Fear and political machinations girded by ideological power are supplanted by the embrace of oneness, watered by a common love which blooms a bouquet of caring.
Blessings and Peace!
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)