An armed America: Time for a change

The gun brandishing and outbursts at town hall meetings this summer were like a brain scan of the nation.

It was surprising, for instance, how off-point some parts of the national brain were. Criticism leveled at individuals with weapons, even if porting them was legal, were out of place and inappropriate, but seemed to not phase them at all.

Arms are instruments of threat and coercion; town hall meetings are about information and reason. Guns are not friendly persuasion.

None of the vehement negative protests made sense until I realized how this was foreshadowed about three years ago at a seminar I attended. A small group of journalists, filmmakers, academics and others were invited to share ideas about what was driving public opinion when it came to immigration. In 2006, numbers in the 70 percent range favored immigration reform but legislation got stuck in Congress as if a consensus didn’t exist.

In the mid-term congressional election that year and again in 2008, voters turned out many of those incumbents who favored either punitive approaches or who obstructed change.

The losses contributed to dragging the Republican Party from a majority to a minority in Congress. It was the coming apart of the political tapestry Richard Nixon had begun as early as the turbulent 1970s when he appealed to a “silent majority” who felt alienated by the anti-war and civil right protests.

Republicans were in a similar pickle again in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan appealed to religious groups, as a new constituency, and matters of conscience got into the platform. The “socialism” bugaboo was also thrown about rather recklessly in the political rhetoric of the time.

Now, in the face of Republican contraction, the shrinking size inspires divisive rhetoric like a primal scream.

The 2006 seminar I attended had a lesson that applies today.

A survey showed that roughly a quarter of the public at large is just opposed to any kind of change most of the time, especially measures that involve public expenditures or that appear to give anybody any kind of social “advantage.” This 25 percent mainly perceives itself as bearing the cost and doesn’t calculate benefits to them or others.

About 35 percent of the public is pro-reform. This group knows we can’t continue like this without paying later and that something serious needs to be done.

The struggle is for the hearts and minds of the 40 percent in the middle. They don’t have very well formed opinions on hot-button issues. They are the folks who take cookies over when new neighbors move in and that you see mostly around in church or at the PTA meeting. They are also less susceptible to facile fear mongering.

That’s why the 25-percenters gin up the fear, run all the issues together, turn on the fear factor, and let the angst spill over. Their goal is to get 25 percent plus 1 of the 40-percenters.

Now here’s the problem: the pro-reform 35-percenters need only 15 percent of the middle 40 percent, but liberals and progressives broadcast wonk and complexity, not lifestyle and living. They may be right but their discourse is like reading the fine print of an insurance policy. The message is lost in the details.

That dynamic now stands a good chance of stalemating the kinds of changes needed in health care, education and immigration. While the reactionaries deserve to lose decisively, the liberals and progressives compromise too much and too soon to the 25 percent they will never persuade.

To put the national train back on track means refocusing on reform. That’s done by talking to the middle 40 about the stewardship of the nation through health care, education and immigration to form a more competitive country in the global economy. No-Change means pushing the country into stagnation.

Most of all, tell them the No-Change side speaks for itself. They make as much sense as taking a gun to a town hall meeting or to the PTA.

(Jose de la Isla’s latest digital book, sponsored by The Ford Foundation, is available free at He writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service.. E-mail him at joseisla3(at)


  1. woody188

    I agree, but when the members of the 9/11 Commission all come forward and state they were purposefully lied to and that the conclusions they came to are entirely false, I think it’s time to report that but corporate media doesn’t think so.

  2. Warren

    Doug’s position on this matter may come from more than just personal whim. We should respect it, ban or no.


  3. woody188

    I’m telling you I’m not crazy. And I think maybe we’ve just gotten off on the wrong foot. If you see what I’ve seen and approach it from a scientific/academic standpoint and forget all the pre-conceived notions of what you think of the USA, you will find the USA you love is no longer in existence.

    And yes, it was eavesdrop, thanks. Was in a hurry due to family matters. I spend lots of time editing posts so in general I catch most mistakes but some inevitably make it through. I actually believe my typos are less frequent than most AP stories.

    Note that zdnet article is from 2006. So they have been remotely tapping cell phones for at least 3 years already.

    Here is another that will kill you. The first illegal wiretaps set up by the Bush Administration began before 9/11 occured. So the terrorism justification for the illegal taps is entirely false. Obama continues these same programs and uses the same justifications today.

    If we stop to think about it this would also mean random taps don’t work because they didn’t prevent 9/11.

    Ready for some 9/11 truth?

    Wait for my next blog entry. It’s important enough to risk the ban from Doug. I’m just hoping he respects the journalism work in it enough to allow me to discuss that forbidden topic.

  4. Warren

    New term: Hoplophobia

    I came across this term during some web surfing. It is a clinically recognized condition described as “a mental disturbance characterized by irrational aversion to weapons” (Wikipedia). The term was first used by a firearms instructor, Colonel Jeff Cooper, in 1962. According to Cooper, “the most common manifestation of hoplophobia is the idea that instruments possess a will of their own, apart from that of their user.” According to Wikipedia, it’s not uncommon in PTSD sufferers.


  5. Procrustes

    I misinterpreted nothing. If that’s what the person meant he did a crappy job of conveying the message. Sounds to me like your being an apologist.

    As to this crap:

    Recently I’ve found they track the GPS data from our phones so they know where we are at every point in the day so long as we have our cell phones. They can turn on our cell phones remotely and ease drop in on conversations which is why all cell phones now have speakerphone capability. All without warrant. Who is the delusional one?

    I submit that people who believe that the government is using their phones to track them and to “ease drop” on them is seriously delusional. The word you are looking for is eavesdrop by the way.

  6. woody188

    I think you misunderstood. He’s saying it’s the worst government the US has ever seen, not the world.

    They snatch people off the street without charges. They torture them. They hold them indefinitely. They don’t allow them to see any charges or evidence against them or give them a chance to refute any charges. They spy on all of our telephone, email, and internet activity. Recently I’ve found they track the GPS data from our phones so they know where we are at every point in the day so long as we have our cell phones. They can turn on our cell phones remotely and ease drop in on conversations which is why all cell phones now have speakerphone capability. All without warrant. Who is the delusional one?

    Heck, this website may or may not have received an NSL from the Bush Administration because of these types of discussions taking place. They are watching you whether you want to believe it or not.

    Case in point, the recent arrest of a “terrorism” suspect for lying to Federal authorities. They didn’t find any bomb making material. He didn’t blow anything up. All they have is he lied about being friends with one of their FBI informants. But he is now in jail, just like that fellow from North Carolina. At least we assume they are in jail, since they essentially disappear after arrest. All it takes is for them to call you a terrorist and poof, you are gone quite possibly forever. Is this the USA or Communist China?

    I think Woodrow Wilson might have been the worst in damaging the USA, but Junior Bush comes in a close second and was certainly the most imperialistic US President ever. That is until Obama invades another country in the Middle East. Bush Doctrine is essentially manifest destiny under a new name and Obama is continuing it’s practice.

  7. Procrustes

    when ruled by the most subverted, corrupt, evil and violent government the world has ever known here in the US

    There is Gazelle 1928’s point. Talk like this is inflammatory and lends support to people who would hang someone for being a census taker.

    And you and those like you have deluded yourselves about the quality and value of the government. Take a look at Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, and the regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia, to name just a few of many. Anyone who believes that the US is in that league may sleep tight, but is not wrapped too tight. Seek professional help, guy, you need it.

  8. Pogo

    Only a sheeple or a subversive would want people to give up their guns when ruled by the most subverted, corrupt, evil and violent government the world has ever known here in the US.

    Tell you what, once the government has been fully disarmed, I will join the gun banners. Until then, there are millions of large plastic polygaurd FEMA coffins being piled up around the US waiting for fat sheeple to fill them.

    Sleep tight…