The Intolerable Gap

If you can remember the “generation gap” raise your hand.  If your hand is up you are probably a baby boomer and remember it with nostalgia.  If you are older than a baby boomer you probably remember it with angst.  If you are younger than a baby boomer you probably regard it with a snicker.  The fact is that we have been living with one kind of gap or another for many years.  The perceived gap in civil rights lead to the Civil Rights Movement.  The so-called Generation Gap lead to the tumultuous 60’s.  The perceived arms gap lead to the Arms Race.  The science gap lead to Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  Going way back, the gap between the royal vision of the colonies, and the colonial vision of the colonies lead to the Revolutionary War.  And finally, the gap between the attitudes of slave owners and those who abhorred slavery led to the Civil War.  In each case, a long perceived gap in attitude between those in power or control and an organized opposition has led to action, sometimes positive and productive, sometimes violent, but always movement from the status quo.  There seems to be a tipping point that generates a dynamic action.  Today the gap between the attitudes displayed in congress and those of the nation they supposedly represent is wide and concerning.

If we view four basic issues confronting our nation today the gap becomes evident.  Let’s first look at Gun Control.  Polling shows that 81% of American view universal background checks positively.  While there are other related issues such as outlawing assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that do not have such high support, the background check issue, the lowest common denominator, has maintained consistent support.  Yet despite that glaring fact, Congress has been unable to pass a bill that would require universal background checks.  The area of a woman’s right to an abortion is another example.  Polling shows that only 20% of Americans are unalterably opposed to abortions under any circumstances.  Yet congress continues to spew anti-abortion rhetoric and try to restrict abortion rights year after year.  87% of American have indicated support for a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States.  Yet the Immigration Bill, while expected to pass in the senate, is expected to have a very difficult go of it in the house.  Finally, we are all celebrating the Supreme Court ruling yesterday on DOMA and Proposition 8, and in fact 58% of Americans approve gay marriage.  Yet the attitudes displayed in congress are far from approval.  The gaps are evident, and I haven’t even touched on the Supreme Court voting rights decision.

Crowds surrounding the Reflecting Pool, during...
Crowds surrounding the Reflecting Pool, during the 1963 March on Washington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are taught that we live in a republic.  We learn that this means we have a representative government.  Yet it is clear that our representatives are not reflecting the will of the people in their actions and inaction.  The redistricting that took place in 2010 has created some safe conservative districts that give inordinate power to those that represent them, though the attitudes are clearly not those of the country.  The rules of congress combined with redistricting has made it very difficult to have truly representative government.  The question is what are we going to do about it?  As I illustrated, when gaps exist they lead to a movement of dynamic change, sometimes positive and peaceful, sometimes tumultuous.

We cannot allow the status quo to stand.  The elections of 2014 are our chance to make a dynamic change.  Even “safe districts” can be made unsafe with a concerted effort.  Let’s demand of ourselves and our progressive leaders that we begin to close this intolerable gap.



  1. ” Polling shows that 81% of American view universal background checks positively.”

    Except when the full ramifications are explained. Unless you are brain dead you know that politicians try to understand what voters want (because selfishly they like to get re-elected). If politicians really believed that stat the background checks would be dead easy to pass.

    Check your premises. Politicians are not being bought by the gun lobby. It is 1/100th the size of the pharmaceutical lobby. It is tiny in comparison to many lobbies in Washington. No, politicians know what voters really think and that is why background check did not pass.

    It has nothing to do with what you thing is reasonable. Sometimes polling is nothing more than propaganda.


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