The Republicans’ hackneyed nonresponse to the mass killing in Las Vegas shatters the pretense we hear from the National Review and other right-wing mouthpieces that claim “conservatism” animates the GOP in the Trump era. There’s nothing “conservative” about leaving the American people vulnerable and exposed in their daily lives at any moment to the kind of horror we saw unfold in Las Vegas.
Since we can count on the Republicans to ensure that there will be no legislative action on the scourge of gun violence in America as long as they’re in power, the only “political” outcome that follows this latest massacre is that it shows the world how horrible Americans have become and that hard-right ideologues have completely captured one of our major political parties.
We’ve been shown once again that the National Rifle Association owns the Republican Party. And what does this organization Republican politicians serve so supinely really stand for? The NRA not long ago dropped a video narrated by Dana Loesch that contains such a fascistic view of dissent in this country it would be more fitting in an art house retrospective of Nazi propaganda films.
In her 2016 book, Gunning for America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture, Pamela Haag shows that it was the gun manufacturers that deployed advertising propaganda in the period following World War One to create demand for their products that conjured up the gun culture out of thin air, which had nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment.
There’s nothing “conservative” about consistently blocking any legal attempt, no matter how trivial, to help protect Americans from being slaughtered at country music festivals, schoolhouses, movie theaters, and in their workplaces. There’s nothing “conservative” about passing legislation to make it easier for people with mental illness like the Las Vegas shooter to go out and legally purchase an arsenal roughly equal in size to what you’d expect to find in an average military garrison.
Once upon a time the idea of “conservatism” meant that ruling elites had a modicum of respect for the Plebeians, a sense of noblesse oblige, because they recognized the fact that they needed them to do all the productive work in society. Conservative elites generally recognized the value of their worker bees - even to the point of paternalism. We see a vestige of this old paternalism when the Republicans hyperventilate about the “threat to our security” from terrorists or immigrants. They sound like they believe we are one society facing foreign “enemies” or “tragedies” together. Out of Many, We Are One, they seem to be saying. But that’s not what’s really going on.
The Republicans’ drearily predictable nonresponse to the biggest mass shooting in modern American history (so far) exposes two fundamental lies: 1) That they really care about the physical safety and “security” of the people; and 2) They’re “conservative.”
“Conservatism” as a worldview would care about the governing and cultural institutions of society, and try to protect and maintain their integrity, and nurture their ability to function in an orderly manner. Instead, we have chaos and insecurity. And in a democratic republic “conservatives” should care about the rights of the American people to be secure in public spaces, instead of living in fear each day of their waking lives that they might be mowed down at a moment’s notice; and for nothing.
Republicans shouldn’t be able to hide behind the “conservative” label for what they’re doing to the country. It’s not “conservative” to suppress the Constitutional right to vote, or to gerrymander districts to the point of rendering congressional elections irrelevant. Neither is it “conservative” to incessantly lie to the people you supposedly represent; or to profit personally from your office and abuse amenities financed by taxpayers. It’s not “conservative” to unleash unlimited corporate slush funds in political campaigns; or abuse the Senate filibuster like never before in U.S. history; or block a president from filling a vacant Supreme Court seat. It’s not conservative to nominate for the presidency a reality TV star who’s unfit for the office; or appoint a fossil fuel industry tool to head the Environmental Protection Agency with the sole aim of dismantling it; or putting a man in charge of the Energy Department who doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.
In his new book, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, Ta-Nehisi Caotes points out that during Trump’s presidential campaign any one of the thousands of lies and indiscretions Trump committed would’ve sunk any candidate who was not white. An African-American candidate caught on tape bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy” would’ve been jettisoned forthwith, but for Trump his white privilege always gave him a pass.
Similarly, the 64-year-old white male shooter in Las Vegas, despite being a psychopath who puts Charles Manson to shame, has, even in death, reaped the benefits of his whiteness. Had a black man or a Mexican man or a Muslim man committed the same heinous act the whole discourse around the shooting would be 180 degrees different. The shrieks for border walls and travel bans and rounding up of all the “terrorists” without due process coming from the likes of Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and the rest of the right-wing shills would be deafening.
Denying people health care keeps them on edge, society seems uncaring and harsh when there’s no guarantee that you can see a doctor when you become ill or injured. The recent Republican attempts in Congress to strip tens of millions of people of their health care were among the most heartless, corrupt, and disgusting legislative displays in U.S. history.
And trying to ram through these vast and brutal changes to the nation’s health care system (affecting one-sixth of our economy) using a parliamentary gimmick known as “reconciliation,” which was never designed for that purpose, is further evidence that we’re not dealing with “conservatives” here, but neo-fascists. And opening up the floodgates for over 300 million guns to circulate among a stressed out, overworked, and underpaid population supersizes this edginess and feeling of insecurity. The income and wealth inequality that has grown in the last 40 years has reached a point that contorts the social fabric.
Right-wing social engineering is tearing this country apart and none of these sociological experiments to which Americans have been unwillingly subjected remotely can be called “conservative.”
The Republicans like to talk about “gun rights,” but what about the right to attend a public concert without being murdered in cold blood by a maniac with an arsenal?
What about the rights of 20-year-old Quinton Robbins who was just starting his life working as a recreation assistant and coaching his little brother’s football team whose life was cut short in Las Vegas for nothing? Or Michelle Vo, 32, from San Jose, California, a U.C. Davis graduate who was attending her first country music festival before she was gunned down? Or what about the rights of Angie Gomez who graduated high school two years ago in Riverside, California and was training to become a nurse? Or Rocio Guillen Rocha, 40, of Eastvale, California, who was still on maternity leave from her job as a pizza parlor manager after giving birth to her fourth child six weeks ago only to be shot and killed? What about her rights? Or the rights of Carrie Barnette, a 34-year-old Disneyland employee who was shot in the chest? Or Chris Roybal, a 28-year-old Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, who was also shot in the chest? What about their right not to be shot in cold blood for no reason?
Republican politicians like to bleat about “victims’ rights” when they use the issue to slap down stricter sentencing laws on people of color who commit crimes. But when a 64-year-old white Fox News demographic slaughters 58 people and reignites the ongoing national debate on gun control, suddenly they’re mute.
All we get from them are “thoughts and prayers,” which are meaningless.
Had the shooter been black, Mexican, or Muslim ― slaying all those nice white folks enjoying a country music concert ― I think we’d hear from the Republicans a lot more than just “thoughts and prayers.”
As Americans we’ve now entered into a kind of forced “social contract” of sorts whereby we “agree” to be targets for mass shootings every minute of the day in exchange for the opportunity to feel “free” and “exceptional”; just because the GOP wants to stay on the sweet side of all that NRA money and political clout.