To all my liberal friends out there who are unhappy about how the gun control vote turned out yesterday and who are targeting their venom on the individual Senators who defeated the measures, I gently submit that there are some more effective questions to be asking today:
First, what institutional structures are in place that allow for a bill to receive a majority of a vote (54 of 100) in the Senate, yet still fail to pass? (Answer: here.) How might you go about affecting change to those institutions?
Second, what wider political and societal forces have been occurring over the last half century that have produced a system where many Republican Senators vote against these measures in large part due to the very real threat of losing their next primary election to a more conservative challenger? (Answer: here.) How might you best allocate your time and efforts to affect change in this area?
Third, what cultural traditions and values have been prevalent in our political system for more than three centuries that contribute to a widespread preference on the appropriate boundaries of political discussion in terms of the balance between liberty and security? (Answer: here.) What might be done to work within this constraint?
Fourth, even the gun control measures had passed the Senate yesterday, what is the likelihood of them being passed in the Republican-controlled House? (Answer: slim to none.) What might be done to address this political reality?
While all members of Congress are ultimately responsible for their votes, there are more effective places to be looking in terms of explaining what happened yesterday than placing all the blame on the Senators themselves and ignoring the wider structural realities that influence their behavior.