The Democratic Sit-In is the Worst Kind of Political Theater

The United States 114th Congress is facing its approval/disapproval ratings at 13% approve and 77.6% disapproval rating, according to the Real Clear Politics average. To force another vote on gun control, House Democrats are sitting in, even after the failure of 3 gun bills.

Kicked off by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), he was quickly followed by Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Scott Peters, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Chellie Pingree, Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Hank Johnson, Rep. John Yarmuth, Rep. David Jolly, Rep. Joyce Beatty, Rep. Bob Brady, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rep. Karen Bass, Rep. Joe Courtney, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Kathy Castor, Rep. Stacey Plaskett, Rep. John Larson, Rep. Janice Hahn, Rep. Tony Cardenas, Rep. Norma Torres, Rep. Steve Cohen, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Rep. Maxine Waters, Rep. Lacy Clay, Rep. Jim Himes, Rep. Cedric Richmond, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, Rep. Albio Sires, Rep. Nita Lowey, Rep. John Larson, Rep. Lois Capps, Rep. Charles Rangel, Rep. John Conyers, Rep. Dan Kildee, Rep. Betty McCollum, Rep. Doris Matsui, Rep. Ed Perlmutter, Rep. Tony Cardenas, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Rep. Joaquin Castro, Rep. Dan Kildee, Rep. Alma S. Adams, Rep. Gwen Moore, Rep. Chris Murphy, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, Rep. John Carney, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Rep. Glenn Thompson, Rep. Brenda Lawrence, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Eleanor Horton, Rep. David Cicilline, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Sen. Dick Durbin, and Nancy Pelosi, and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

This is my personal opinion, and does not reflect the views of the Rhino Press, its editors, its reporters, or its sponsors: the Democratic sit-in over gun control is a useless act of political theater. The majority of these senators and representatives will probably not care about the effect of their actions, or whether there is a vote or not, rather, they want the public attention that they “sat in to prevent terrorists getting guns” as election season starts soon.

The truth is that politics is based off money. The Democrats always decry the money in politics from pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association, 2nd Amendment Foundation, and Gun Owners of America, but they refuse to do anything about it because they get money from pro-gun control or pro-gun control supporting SuperPACs like Americans for Responsible Solutions, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Independence USA PAC. While some may argue that gun rights spent $12 million and gun control spent $1.9 million, the truth is that various PACs are funded by multi-millionaires on both sides of the political spectrum that expect various things from their representatives, which include gun rights or gun control. It would be foolish to believe that gun rights and gun control only spent $13.9 million in 2014, because these numbers lack to acknowledge PACs without the stated purpose of firearm legislation, bundling by lobbyists, and donations to SuperPACs from multi-millionaires which expect certain voting trends.



The gun-rights groups and gun control groups both profit off tragedy, gun-rights will get donations due to the calls for legislation and buying before supposed legislation occurs, and gun control will get donations and public opinion. Meanwhile, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, and nothing happens. Both gun-rights and gun control get rich off the tragedy, and both stick to their traditional speech of constitutional rights vs. gun deaths.

The truth is that both probably don’t want too much gun regulation. Without tragedies like Orlando, gun control groups and the Representatives and Senators which profit off calls for gun control cease to exist. Of course, with expanded gun regulation, gun rights groups would benefit from people trying to get their sporting arms back, and the flow of money would be inequal, as gun control would only get SuperPAC donations, while gun rights would get SuperPAC and public donations. Both the anti-gun and pro-gun industry want to get rich off you wanting to feel safe at night, and use vague and false talking points to convince people to either side.

If the House Representatives and Senators truly cared about guns and death, there would be focus on the gun deaths that occur in the inner city. While some claim that their representatives attend rallies and make talks about inner-city violence, nothing gets done because it would cause the representatives to change their views. Inner-city violence is best addressed by more investment in our inner cities, keeping jobs in America, expanding welfare programs, improving school and after-school programs, improving class mobility, improving job retention, improving the affordability of college, and improving the velocity of money.

The problem with this is that some of these ideas directly contrast with the neoliberal policies that the Democratic Party has focused on since the Clinton administration and the anti-welfare, get a job policies that the Republican Party has focused on since the Reagan administration. Both policies occurred under the same Federal Reserve Chair, Alan Greenspan, the fiscally-libertarian chair who “had made a mistake in presuming” that financial firms and the market could regulate themselves.

The problem with modern politics is that it’s all political spectacle. We have the ability to watch our Congress and Senate from C-SPAN, but we don’t understand the complicated parliamentary procedure, riders, and amendments that are proposed every day. Laws are passed in necessary legal language, to prevent ambiguity, but most people will never understand the legaleze which bills and amendments are written in. Therefore, we only tune in whenever there’s a sit-in, or a particularly interesting filibuster, or whenever some Senator or House Representative raises his or her voice.



We have the tools and the people to translate this legaleze, but we’d rather focus on feel-good legislation and other bread and circuses than focus on politics. There’s a stigma against discussing politics in this country, and there’s a stigma on both sides about political intellectualism. Both parties don’t want the people to understand what they’re doing, so they over-simplify it to a point to “We’re keeping guns away from bad people” or “We’re keeping guns in your hands to protect yourself from bad people”. This would be an issue, but very little people actually care enough to protest, because it works.

If there was actually caring by either party about gun violence, suicides, and death, there would be sit ins for the 60 percent of handgun deaths that are suicide. There would be sit-ins for better health care access, mental health access, and de-stigmatizing mental disease. There would be sit-ins for young men and women in inner city areas without the opportunities or many of the tools that the average American has to raise and keep them out of debt, which requires an investment in the inner city, which we could have used the millions of dollars in lobbying money to help them. If we really cared about gun deaths and our veterans, we’d properly fund and regulate Veterans Affairs or provide an actual working alternative for our hundreds of thousands of veterans that are failed by this system every day, and 22 veterans kill themselves every day.

If we truly believed in constitutional rights, there would be sit-ins over the Patriot Acts, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts, National Security Agency internet surveillance, the security theater which occurs at our airports, civil asset forfeiture, strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), or police brutality. We could use the lobbying money toward focusing on these, instead of focusing on only the Second Amendment. We won’t, because these aren’t worth as much money and public support as gun control/gun rights, and money and public support are the two currencies of politics.

White House

White House

I’m not against gun control, nor am I against gun rights. I am a supporter of effective, fair, and constitutional legislation. Unfortunately, many of the gun rights and gun control bills proposed by the 114th Congress are not those. If you look at the media’s reporting of this issue, it’s hyper-partisan toward anti-gun (Vox Media, Rolling Stone, CNN, etc.) or pro-gun (Breitbart, FOX, etc.). We have commentators calling the Constitution outdated, or the Bill of Rights outdated (Rolling Stone or Huffington Post), and this is a very dangerous thing to support. We have media outlets proposing changing the very framework of our country and our rights, and historical evidence of major changes to frameworks of countries do not lead to great effects.

I leave the reader with two things. One- our system is broken by hyper-partisanism, which prevents us from ever confronting the root problems of our issues, and we continue to vote in hyper-partisan congressional representatives then wonder why no compromise or change occurs.

Two, which I view as most important for any person calling for major legislation or a change to the Constitution/Bill of Rights- it is easy to fall victim to public fervor and craft unfair legislation. However, unfair legislation is easier to change than an unfair change to our Constitution or Bill of Rights, and it’s easy for politicians to capitalize on this public fervor for their own personal ambitions of power, wealth, and/or glory. I have no confidence that the majority of Congressmen actually care about this issue, rather, they only care about their re-election campaign coming up.

Please don’t fall victim to the political theater of either the Democrats or Republicans. The Democrats cared so little about this issue that this issue that is killing Americans that they only sat in for a little more than 24 hours before quitting. As a child, I used to call that a “sleepover”. This is not the face of people that actually care about this issue, this is the face of politicians who, for the most part, only participated for the political talking point during re-election.

These actions represent the worst kind of political theater, and that’s a sad thing because this is an actual serious issue that America refuses to address.

Related News

Who We Are
Rhino Press is Houston’s largest interscholastic news organization. Launched in 2014, Rhino Press expanded from a campus newspaper to a global network of 150 high school journalists, editors, photographers, social media interns, and board members and 20,000 student readers. Today, the online platform aims to give a voice to the millennial generation and combine cutting-edge content with social media.