The United States is not a democracy. Never was one; never was intended to be one. We live in a republic, which is somewhat different.
Instead of voting directly on every issue, we are governed by representatives. Some of these have been elected directly by popular vote since the beginning; some by direct popular vote only since early in the 20th Century and one who is elected based on a vote in the Electoral College. How the votes are cast in the Electoral College is entirely dependent on how each state apportions its electors and whether that state legally binds their electors to vote based on the popular vote.
Every citizen is entitled to vote for the representatives, senators and President who best fit their preferences and appear most likely to respond to their needs. Every citizen has access to incredible amounts of information, both positive and negative, that can help them make an informed choice.
Of course, every citizen has the right to ignore all of that information and go with their gut.
There is no obligation to tell anyone else how, or why, you voted for a candidate. Title 18, Section 594 of the U.S. Code makes it a federal offense to coerce or attempt to coerce a citizen to vote in a particular fashion in any federal election. There is no exemption for spouses or significant others, employers, parents, in-laws, neighbors or friends on social media.
Having said all that, on Wednesday, March 6, I published an article on Medium entitled “The Bernie Conundrum.” In the article I told everybody why, having supported Bernie Sanders in 2016, I could not support him in the 2020 election.
Upon reflection, I realized I had probably left myself open to being labeled a “gun nut” and being dismissed as yet another crank.
At my age (Medicare and counting) I am not particularly worried about the appellation. I have had a lifelong fascination with firearms and make no excuse for it; I think it’s perfectly reasonable. I have never been tempted to stalk the streets with the AR-15 I don’t even own, terrorizing the populace. I will admit to terrorizing small mammals with a .22 now and again many years ago but that was always on private land and always with permission. Sometimes even with encouragement.
However, criticizing me for withdrawing support over a candidate’s stand on an issue that directly impacts me and my 80 million or so fellow gun owners is a bit disingenuous and only indicates a desire to feel morally superior, even if the feeling is wholly artificial and unmerited.
Imagine a political candidate who pushed almost all the right buttons. Gung-ho for living wages, overhauling healthcare, recognition of same-sex marriages, tearing down Confederate statues and so on.
Except this candidate is committed to outlawing abortion in any way, shape or fashion.
(If you’re on the other side of the aisle, imagine a candidate who wants to stop illegal immigration, reduce government size, interference and spending, and promote a free-market economy but is pro-choice.)
This isn’t an unfair comparison. Abortion and gun ownership are very personal decisions. In fact, they are personal decisions that a strict interpretation of the Constitution would reveal are completely outside of the authority of the federal government. Both of these are issues that fall under the authority of the fifty sovereign states, if not the people themselves.
Nevertheless, they are on the national stage and being played for all their worth.
Women, with or without the advice of their healthcare providers, are better-suited to make decisions about their own reproductive health than a legislator whose expertise is limited to sex ed, the mechanics of the process and possibly being embarrassed by purchasing prophylactics and certain feminine hygiene products. There is no need for more federal regulation. There is adequate state regulation of providers and services. More regulation serves no public purpose and provides no public benefit. So it is merely vindictive and driven by people opposed to abortion.
In the same vein, gun owners are best-suited to making their own decisions about whether to own a gun, how many and what type of gun or guns meet their needs than a legislator who has absolutely no knowledge of them. For example, people who aren’t happy calling a rifle a rifle and making up a new name to make it sound scary to other people who don’t know anything about guns. As with abortions, there is no need for more federal regulation. There is adequate state regulation of firearms and firearm owners. More regulation serves no public purpose and provides no public benefit. So it is merely vindictive and driven by people opposed to guns.
There is a great hue and cry about abortions. There is also a great hue and cry about guns. If there isn’t a furor ready to hand, one will be created. Critics feel free to harass those with whom they disagree, sometimes to the point of physical abuse and, in the case of abortion, even murder.
These are both very personal decisions with serious implications. A person should feel no guilt about determining the candidate of their choice based solely on these factors. Why would anyone send a candidate to Washington or a state legislature knowing that that candidate has a mission to harm them?
Though I left the Democratic Party after the 2016 elections, I had been a sufficiently frequent contributor that I still get calls. I politely inform them I am no longer a Democrat. If they ask why, I simply tell them, “I am a gun owner; I am no longer welcome.”