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America shot itself in the head, not its foot


Harvey Dzodin

Former vice president of ABC-TV and political appointee in the Jimmy Carter administration

The American experiment is under siege and poll after recent poll suggest that it may have shot itself in the head, not its foot. As the American cartoonist, Walt Kelly famously said, “we have seen the enemy and he is us”. The enemy in this case is neither Russia nor China, but homegrown radical reactionary elites steadily, foolishly and greedily destroying the very fabric of the country from within for.

Beginning even before I served in the Jimmy Carter Administration, sinister antidemocratic authoritarian forces over the past half-century have rewritten the United States Constitution, having effectively seized control of the federal judiciary and the Congress. The most egregious example is overturning two centuries of settled jurisprudence redefining the Constitution’s Second Amendment’s limited right to bear arms only within the context of state militias to now give ordinary citizens broad rights to own and use weapons, including high-powered, lethal assault weapons that were invented solely for use in war to kill and maim with reckless abandon.

The Second Amendment states that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Until 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court had consistently held that the text of the 1791 amendment, part of the U.S. Bill of Rights, had to be read in its entirety. But in District of Columbia vs. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia, the father of the warped legal doctrine of originalism, which requires the impossible analysis of what was in the minds of those who authored the Constitution and its subsequent amendments, wrote in his majority opinion that the military reference was merely introductory and looking at the words in their eighteenth century context, the clear meaning is to “guarantee an individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” That’s any confrontation, from a single criminal to numerous state actors.

My Harvard Law School professor, Justice Stephen Breyer, recently retired from the Court, wrote a separate dissent. He argued, consistent with earlier precedents, that the Second Amendment only protects militia-related, not self-defense-related, interests, and it does not provide absolute protection from government intervention in these interests.

How did this 180 degree turn happen?

First, elite libertarians and anarchists, highly suspicious of virtually any government regulation and paranoid about a hidden “deep state” that functioned outside of constitutional constraints, had lavishly funded legal scholarship for decades to overturn the clear meaning of the Second Amendment. One of the ringleaders, who typify this cabal, was co-counsel in Heller, President of the libertarian Cato Institute think tank, and Scalia acolyte, Robert Levy. Cato, you remember was the influential Roman Senator who supported preservation of conservative Roman values then in decline.

Second, by hook or by crook, they packed all levels of the judiciary with like-minded judges and justices, nominated by the right-thinking Federalist Society for their shared reactionary viewpoints. Scalia was its original faculty advisor. All current Republican-nominated justices are members, following their now-deceased pied piper into the twilight years of America’s greatness.

Third, they funded the best politicians that money could buy. They did so to gain access and influence to get their reactionary agenda enacted despite opposition from a majority of voters. To guarantee their success, by selectively drawing state and federal districts to minimize the power of liberals and minorities, they made sure that conservatives like them, many White Supremacists, would continue to hold the reins of power.

Fourth, in a bloodless coup in the 1970s, they commandeered control of what had been a sleepy gun safety organization since the 19th century, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and with the rise of conservative Republicans, morphed it into the premier gun rights lobby. Using finely honed carrot-and-stick approaches, the NRA has been so powerful that it strikes fear into the heart of any public official who dares oppose it. The NRA has two major tools: a huge treasury to shower compliant officials with campaign contributions or fund theiring gun-loving competitors, and a well-publicized report card grading how officials voted on key NRA issues.

But like the country itself, the NRA has seen better days. This “charity” is rotting from within, riven with financial improprieties, scandals, and leadership squabbles. Recent revelations have shown that they’ve veered off-course, preferring self-service to delivering for its members.

At the head of this collapsing empire is its CEO Wayne La Pierre, the current subject of a civil law suit by the New York Attorney General for being overly compensated and for spending lavishly on himself, his wife and staff members and their families on personal items, such as expensive suits, chartered jet flights, make-up, etc., to the tune of $64,000,000.

LaPierre has blood on his hands and has resulted in spiraling gun violence injury, death and heartache, given all the gun mayhem occurring under his watch. Since 1968 there have been more gun deaths in America than U.S. casualties in all wars from the American Revolution through Afghanistan.

There have been 331 school shootings from the 1999 mass shooting at Colorado’s Columbine High School to this May 24th mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas resulting in 185 children, teachers and staff killed, and 369 injured. LaPierre’s cynical solution is not commonsense gun safety legislation like banning assault rifles and universal background checks but that teachers, janitors and staff should be armed. As he infamously said “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”

But sadly for the victims and their families, the clueless LaPierre is dead wrong. In Uvade, 376 supposedly good guy police with guns who took an oath to serve and protect did nothing for 74 minutes against a single bad guy with a gun resulting in 19 child and 2 adult deaths. Senator Ted Cruz, always one to find a solution, suggested that all schools should essentially become prisons with every door locked at all times. So much for the land of the free and the home of the brave!

No wonder recent polling increasingly shows that America is broken.  In a December, 2021 Schoen Cooperman Research poll, a majority of Americans In the nationally projectable sample,  believed that democracy in the United States is in danger of disappearing.  Only 26% of respondents said they felt that U.S democracy was secure for future generations, while 51% agreed with the statement, “U.S. democracy is at risk of extinction.” Over the last year, two-thirds said that the country was more divided. Indeed, 53% were very concerned “about political extremism going forward”, while 32% were somewhat concerned.

Even more troubling is that the latest results in a two decades-old poll Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics of young people 18-29 released in April show that 36% of respondents agree that “political involvement rarely has any tangible results, up from 22% in 2018. More than half, 56%, believe that “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing”. And 49% of them believe that the U.S. is on the wrong track, with a mere 13% seeing that the country is headed in the right direction.

A New York Times/Siena College poll released earlier this month shows that a majority of American voters across nearly all demographics and ideologies believe their system of government does not work, with 58% saying that the U.S. model of democracy needs major reforms or a complete overhaul.

Worst of all, however, in a just fielded poll conducted in light of the January 6. 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, University of California at Davis scientists attempted to discover how willing Americans are to engage in political violence given the challenges U.S. democracy has recently faced. Extreme political polarization, skepticism about government and democratic institutions, increasing gun violence and rising firearm sales, together with the prevalence of implausible conspiracy theories and blatant misinformation have combined into a toxic mixture.

A shocking 7.1%, equivalent to 18 million Americans, answered that they would be willing to kill a person to advance an important political goal. And 3%, equivalent to 7 million people, believe that political violence is usually or always justified.

Even Trump’s Deputy National Security Advisor, Matthew Pottinger, testifying on July 21st before the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, had to admit that the event itself “fed a narrative that our system of government doesn’t work, that the United States is in decline.”

Not a single poll I could find showed a contrary narrative.

Looking at these ominous signs, America’s future looks precarious. With Republicans likely to regain control of both houses of Congress in January, and with Trump or a Trump with a brain, likely to regain the presidency in January, 2025, I fear for the future of my country and for the future of all humanity.

This post first appeared on Timesnewswire, please read the originial post: here

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America shot itself in the head, not its foot