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Ian Reifowitz   |   August 16, 2016    8:41 AM ET


When it comes to ginning up paranoid anger on the right, there is a difference between Rush Limbaugh and the average yahoo on the internet. Rush is much better at it.


A few days back I wrote about the outrage going around the intertubes regarding the first person to win a gold medal in Rio, American sharpshooter Virginia Thrasher. One website—which wasn’t going to let the truth get in the way—complained that the mainstream media ignored the fact that her victory came in the women’s 10 meter air rifle competition because, apparently, the mainstream media hates guns. Another lamented some tweets that reacted to Ms. Thrasher’s win by snarkily mentioning gun violence in the U.S. Then Rush Limbaugh took aim. He raised the temperature—and lowered the discourse—to a whole new level.


He starts by asking, innocently enough: “Did you see where Hillary Clinton praised a fencer on the US Olympic team for being the first to wear a hijab?” His website for the segment includes the image that appears below:

 

Rush includes only a part of Clinton’s text, the words. His image also shows Ms. Muhammad in a tight shot, unsmiling, in which only her (covered) head appears. Ms. Thrasher, on the other hand, is smiling and waving, and we see not only the gold medal but her red, white and blue uniform. Limbaugh’s image depicts Ms. Thrasher clearly as an American, while lacking any outward sign of Ms. Muhammad’s status as a U.S. Olympian. Granted, not every listener also goes to Rush’s website, but the juxtaposition is obvious nonetheless. Now, would you like to see the actual image of Hillary’s tweet?

 

 

It certainly didn’t hurt the contrast Limbaugh was trying to draw that Ms. Thrasher is white and blond. That’s not to criticize her, or anyone else who happens to share those characteristics. In fact I want to make clear that I’m just as proud of her victory as that of any other American at the Rio Games. That she won the first gold medal for our country is absolutely worthy of the public praise and recognition she got. She deserved every bit of it. But we know what Rush Limbaugh is. While he might have delivered the same diatribe if an American of color had won the medal Ms. Thrasher did, let’s not pretend that her picture didn’t make Rush’s job of inflaming his audience against “them” that much easier. That’s on him, not her.

Now let’s look at what Rush said next:

Hillary Clinton praised a fencer on the US Olympic team for being the first to wear a hijab.  She tweeted a photo of her with this comment:  “In Rio, Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first American Muslim athlete to compete while wearing a hijab.”

[snip] So that’s what Hillary’s tweeting, that’s the most memorable thing that’s happened. Of all the things that have happened at the Olympics, that’s what Hillary wants to tweet out? 

Unfortunately, just an hour or so after Hillary’s tweet Ms. Muhammad lost her first match and was eliminated. [NOTE: Rush got this simple fact wrong. She actually won her first match, before losing in the second round.]  So she’s the first American Muslim athlete to compete while wearing a hijab who lost at her competition.  Why celebrate a woman wearing something that’s been forced on her by a religion?  A religion run by men.  Is that impolitic to say?  It is accurate, but, you know, I may be skirting on the edge there with that comment.  I will admit this. 

But what in the world?  Maybe “celebrate” is the wrong word, but why call attention, why honor, why talk about what a great thing it is, a woman is wearing something that’s forced on her by her religion?  She may actively agree to do it, don’t misunderstand, but it’s a religion run by men that subjugates and subordinates women.  You know, the contradictions in American liberalism and socialism are just overwhelming. 

I mean, American socialism features American feminism, and yet look at how it bows down to other religions which really mistreat and disrespect women.  Does that not register with anybody else?  Or is it something you’re not supposed to say? 

Note also this.  Hillary Clinton did not tweet congratulations to the first gold medal winner at the Olympics, the first American gold medal winner….It happened to be an American woman who won the gold for marksmanship...it means shooting...the first gold medal of the games.  An American won it.  Did Hillary send any kind of a recognition tweet?  Nope.  Didn’t even probably occur to her. 

[snip] [Ms. Muhammad] lost her first match as a fencer.  Hillary Clinton tweeted out how honored she was, this first American athlete to wear a hijab.  So traditionally American, Hillary wanted to acknowledge it ― while ignoring the first Olympic gold medal winner: A woman marksman who blew everybody’s lights out with a rifle.  Well, the target.  She didn’t hit anybody. 

There’s so much to unpack here. We’ve got Rush attacking sexism in Islam, which of course is real and serious, but also much more differentiated than a 15-second rant would allow—just as is true regarding the level of gender equality found in many forms of Christianity.

We’ve also got him slamming Hillary specifically and feminists as a whole (whom he lumps in with socialists, somehow) for their supposed unwillingness to stand by their own principles when it comes to Islam. Conservatives here and abroad love to spew this sort of tripe, which Laurie Penny rightly characterized as “white patriarchy trying to make excuses for itself: ‘If you think we’re bad, just look at these guys.’”

The focus here is Limbaugh’s use of identity politics, defined broadly as political arguments and/or activity built around membership in a particular racial, cultural, religious, etc., group. Identity politics has real value, and is a necessary part of how we as a society combat historic, systemic inequalities. However, it can also, at times, blind supporters of a political figure to his or her flaws (something extreme partisanship can do as well), and has the potential to prioritize the politics of representation and recognition over the common good in ways that have a negative impact both on the group being represented and the broader society.

Separate from its positives and negatives, identity politics is too often incorrectly identified as being solely as a phenomenon practiced in the U.S. by people of color, LBGT folks, and members of religious minorities. In reality, identity politics is just about as old—and as white—as the Republic itself.

The first “third party” in American history was formed in direct opposition to a specific group. And no, I’m not even talking about the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party. Twenty years before they crawled out of the muck we had the Anti-Masonic Party of the late 1820s and 1830s. Identity politics is also part of how white ethnic groups gained power in cities big and small. And, of course, the most powerful form of identity politics this country has ever seen is the one most likely to be ignored—or denied—by those who benefit from it: white supremacy. And that seems an appropriate point to return to Mr. Limbaugh.

The form of identity politics Rush practices in the relatively brief segment described above is simple, but powerful: Hillary thinks it’s so great, so “traditionally American” for a U.S. Olympian to wear a hijab that, to her, it’s “the most memorable thing” about the Olympics to that point. In Rush’s presentation, Hillary is so in thrall to Islam that she will betray the feminist principles she claims to hold so deeply.

Additionally, this charge implies that Hillary will also betray the country she claims to love so deeply, that she will prioritize Muslim interests over American ones—a claim that bears directly on her fitness as commander-in-chief at a time when ISIS and other jihadist groups are committing or inspiring acts of terrorism on our shores and all over the globe.

Rush is telling his audience that Hillary Clinton cares more about the hijab-wearing Muslim who lost than the Americans who won—and, in particular, more than the white, blond young woman who showed she knows her way around a rifle. That’s how whacked out Hillary is, Rush is saying. But he assures the good people listening that they—conservatives who know real Americans shoot guns and do not wear hijabs, despite what President Obama said recently—know better.

When your candidate can’t win on issues, or qualifications, or character, this is the kind of swill you traffic in. You use identity politics to divide a nation.

 

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Igor Bobic   |   August 10, 2016    4:12 PM ET

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump maintains he was not suggesting that gun advocates take matters into their own hands if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. In a Tuesday interview hours after he made a comment referencing the Second Amendment, he said it could have “no other interpretation” other than that he was urging gun advocates to organize against Clinton’s potential Supreme Court nominees.

But that’s not how one man, who was seated behind Trump at his rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, took it. The white-bearded man in a red shirt appeared to immediately sense that the remark was out of bounds, mouthing the word “Wow.” 

On Wednesday, CNN managed to find and interview the man, Darrell Vickers of Oak Island, who told the network that he was “taken aghast” upon hearing the remark. He said he immediately turned to his seat mate and said, “I can’t believe he said it. The media will have a field day with this one.” 

But Vickers, who is voting for Trump in November, sounded more concerned about how the remark would be construed by the media, rather than what it said about the temperament and rhetoric of the GOP nominee.

“Trump has got a very unique personality, and he makes jokes off the cuff,” he told CNN. “One of the things, if we’d had the chance to talk to him, I would have taken him to the shed. Down here in the South, we don’t curse in front of women, we don't drink liquor in front of the preacher and we don’t make jokes like that in public.”

He added: “We would have taken Mr. Trump to the shed and said, ‘Don’t say things like that because people will misconstrue it.’ But it was clear to my mind, and to the people around me, that he was trying to make a joke, and, unfortunately, people like some of the media, for instance like [The] Huffington Post, will take that and screw that up and distort it. It was not meant to be that way.”

If Trump was merely making a joke, the U.S. Secret Service wasn’t amused. A USSS official told CNN Wednesday that the agency had “more than one conversation” on the topic with the Trump campaign.

Correction: Vickers told CNN "we don't drink liquor in front of the preacher," not "curse in front of the preacher," as initially reported.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.

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Igor Bobic   |   August 10, 2016    9:54 AM ET

WASHINGTON ― House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has yet again decided to give Donald Trump a pass, telling reporters the GOP nominee was merely joking when he suggested that gun advocates take matters into their own hands to stop Hillary Clinton from appointing Supreme Court justices who favor gun control.

“I’ve been a little busy today,” Ryan said after easily winning his primary Tuesday evening. “I heard about this Second Amendment quote. It sounds like just a joke gone bad. I hope he clears it up very quickly. You should never joke about something like that.”

Addressing supporters at a campaign event in Wilmington, North Carolina, earlier in the day, Trump urged voters to elect him or else Clinton would abolish the Second Amendment as president. Clinton supports additional gun control measures, but does not support abolishing the Second Amendment outright.

“If she gets to pick her judges ― nothing you can do, folks,” Trump said. “Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don’t know.”

After furious outcry from Clinton’s campaign and even some Republicans, Trump denied that he implied violence against the Democratic nominee, telling Fox News “there can be no other interpretation” of his remarks other than him urging gun advocates to organize in opposition to Clinton’s potential Supreme Court nominees.

For Ryan and other GOP leaders, however, the political calculation is clear: Stick with Trump or else risk alienating his supporters and potentially losing the House along with the Senate. Though he has voiced his disagreement with Trump after each successive outrage ― the proposed Muslim ban, the attacks against a Gold Star family, the attacks against a judge of Hispanic descent, the anti-Semitic Twitter post and the praise for the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein ― the speaker has refused to renounce the real estate mogul outright.

The endorsement of Trump makes this kind of optimistic message from Ryan completely disingenuous:

And so it’s very clear that there is going to be noise and news of the day that can clearly distract government. It can distract Congress. It can distract the people of this country.

But to me, what gets me up in the morning—what gets me excited—are ideas, good ideas, ideas that work, ideas that improve people’s lives, ideas that get our country to reach its potential. That is why we stand here and fight for ideas, and we know if we stick to it—if we keep pushing and pounding good ideas—we will cut through all of the noise.

The GOP’s white knight, who preaches civility in politics and a “Better Way” of governing, has hitched his car to the Trump train and will remain there even if it careens off a cliff (or simply endorses raising taxes).

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.

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Jeff Danziger   |   August 5, 2016   12:49 AM ET

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Marketers Should Stop Equating Guns With Manly Sex Appeal

Liana Downey   |   August 4, 2016    6:16 PM ET

U.S. gun culture is unique. Though we make up just 5 percent of the world's population, it is estimated that Americans own between 35-50 percent of all guns worldwide. Behind this U.S. gun culture stands a $13.5Bn business. And advertising has played a crucial role in the growth and continued profitability of the gun industry.

Gun manufacturers have been highly successful in employing some of the most effective marketing techniques in the book.

Gun ads have long used the technique known in the business as "fear appeal".
That is, a company identifies (or creates) a potential concern or fear for which their product is the solution.

You may be more familiar with this in a context a little closer to home--like the early coining of the phrase "body odor." In the old days people used to find the way others smelled kind of attractive, and apparently even went so far as to pop a peeled apple under their armpit to pass on to their lover should they need a little pheromone-laden memento to sniff when apart. But in 1910, the term "BO"--short for body odor--was coined by advertisers, and women were targeted by ads which showed men talking about the way they smelled behind their backs.

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So successful was this fear-generating strategy that the market for deodorant grew to become an $18.9 billion global market, and now for most of us (myself included), it is unthinkable to go without deodorant.

Other similar campaigns aimed at creating or exploiting anxieties followed on their heels. Bad breath, dandruff, dirty-sponge syndrome, the seven signs of aging, and now--wait for it--the seven signs of hair aging have us all feeling insecure and out there buying the offered solutions en masse.

What does this have to do with guns? Well, in the U.S., gun marketers have been uniquely successful in claiming their product is the answer to a fear--that of a home invasion. And yet-- deaths in a home-invasion situation account for less than 0.3 percent of all gun fatalities, yet HAVING a gun in the home substantially increases the chance that someone in in the house will be shot (with suicides, domestic violence and accidents involving guns and children the biggest risk factors).

And more recently, guns are being offered as the antidote to an increasing number and variety of mass shootings. After guns were used to kill 20 six- and seven-year-olds in Sandy Hook, the head of the NRA offered guns as the solution, proposing teachers be armed, an approach that has indeed been implemented in some parts of the country, and in response to the Aurora movie shooting that "Guns don't kill, Batman kills. Had someone in the audience been armed this tragedy could have been averted." And it seems that this advertising has been more effective as mass shootings have increased--according to a Gallup poll in 2000, 35 percent of Americans said they felt safer with a gun in the home compared to 63 percent in 2014.

And yet--these fears simply do not occur to the same extent (or at all) in other countries without widespread access to guns.
There have been a number of articles recently written by immigrants or visitors from countries like Canada and Japan who struggle to make sense of this logic. If you live in a country without widespread access to guns, you don't worry about being shot! The highly conservative Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, even wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, sharing his experience of implementing strict gun control measures, and the dramatic resultant drop off in gun deaths.

Of course fear is not the only strategy deployed in the marketing of guns--for many years, advertisers have worked hard to align guns with images of sexiness and manliness in the minds of consumers. Here's an image from a campaign from the 1940s :

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For citizens who have been raised in this advertising-rich environment, which comfortably equates guns and safety, sexiness, and manliness, it can be hard to see the marketing for what it is. Perhaps it is easier if we think about cigarettes--which were also presented as the ultimate sexy accessory for years (manly men, and seductive, sophisticated women), that we can start to see that there is not always truth in advertising.

Of course, advertising is just one of the strategies deployed by gun manufacturers to increase profits. Others include increasing distribution by creating new forums such as gun shows and online retailers, and of course, counteracting any efforts to limit gun accessibility (including lobbying against background checks, gun-free zones, and even prohibiting pediatricians from speaking to parents about the risk of guns in the home). However, advertising makes a big difference.

The result of all this intelligence and effort is a booming business. But the problem is that unlike people buying overpriced shampoo, the consequence of gun advertising is a no-holds barred gun culture, high rates of gun ownership (between 210-310 million guns), almost half a million non-fatal gun victimization attempts per year, and an average of 31,500 gun-related fatalities per year (and for the first time last year, more people were killed by guns in the U.S. than by cars).

Advertising also acts to influence politicians. Politicians are consumers too. They can also be tricked into feeling the fear, and buying the idea that guns are the antidote. But perhaps, more insidiously, as advertising fuels profit growth, so too does it fuel the ability of manufacturers to finance political campaigns and gain political sway. Thus while sensible solutions proposed by frustrated and frightened citizens are repeatedly blocked, other laws are passed that make guns more widely available and more accessible. And so the gun grows, the cycle continues, and the rest of the world looks on in bewilderment.

Rahel Gebreyes   |   August 2, 2016    3:53 PM ET

Felicia Pendleton is all too familiar with the gun violence problem in Philadelphia.

Pendleton’s son, 20-year-old Jayvon Mitchell-Pendleton, was shot and killed while walking on the sidewalk in North Philly’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood in March. A 15-year-old and a 20-year old have since been charged in the shooting, but Pendleton says she still doesn’t know what motivated the murder of her son.

“As far as I know, my son and his friend were just walking down the street. They were laughing and joking and they were actually ambushed. They never seen the shooters even coming,” she told The Huffington Post. 

“It’s days that I just can’t handle it. It’s really days that I just can’t handle it,” she said of the months since her son’s death. “Some days I just can’t even get up. Some days I can’t sleep. For the first two months I didn’t get sleep at all... Sometimes I sleep on my couch because I still wait for my son to come home.”

Pendleton, who spoke out about gun violence among the youth at a city council hearing in March, urged parents to play a role in preventing gun violence by keeping an eye out for illegal firearms at home. It’s an issue that resonates in Philadelphia, where there has been an uptick in homicides since 2014. She also said that society’s obsession with guns and violence is a learned behavior that starts at a young age and suggested that parents think twice about buying toy guns for their kids.

“Do away with the toy guns. Do away with the cap guns because it goes from cap guns, toy guns, to real guns,” she said. “It’s so easy to pull that toy gun trigger ― just as easy as it would be for a 15-year-old to pull the trigger [of a real one.]”

Hear more from Pendleton in the video above. 

Latest Massachusetts Dustup Over AR-15s Shows Gun Nation Isn't Ready To Talk Sensibly

Mike Weisser   |   August 2, 2016    3:50 PM ET

As we all know, the American Revolution began when a group of colonials exchanged fire with British troops in Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1776. You can visit the battlefield today, it's a national monument beautifully kept by the U.S. Park Service, located a half-hour's drive from the office of Maura Healey, who happens to be the current Massachusetts Attorney General, a.k.a., the AG.

Maura started her own little revolution last week by issuing a regulation that basically banned the purchase of AR-15 assault rifles throughout the Bay State. Current AR-15 owners (like me) can keep their guns, they can also transfer them to anyone else who can own firearms in Massachusetts, but in terms of the civilian arsenal being increased through the addition of more AR rifles, to all intents and purposes Massachusetts is now AR-rein.

Two things happened within 24 hours after the ban was announced: (1). Every, single AR in the inventory of every single gun shop in Massachusetts was sold; and, (2). The Gun-mob Nation noise machine started going full blast. The NRA got right into the act by calling the AR order "obviously incorrect;" the National Review said that her action meant that Healey could make the state gun law "mean what she wanted it to mean;" and a Republican state legislator in Massachusetts, who is known for his outspoken reverence for anything having to do with the 2nd Amendment, filed a bill to strip the AG from having any ability to alter rules and regulations over gun sales.

Now the fact that gun sales are legal commerce, the fact that someone who purchases a gun in a gun shop is, ipso facto, a consumer, the fact that the AG's office runs a very active operation known as the Department of Consumer Protection, the fact that this means the AG has the authority to promulgate and enforce rules on items that are sold to consumers in Massachusetts, none of these facts mean anything to State Senator Don Humason or his Gun-mob Nation supporters at all. Because the truth is that Gun-mob Nation doesn't want gun sales or gun ownership to be regulated because any type of gun regulations are, you know the rest of this sentence, a violation of 2nd-Amendment 'rights.' Now it just so happens that such rules are not a violation of anything within the Constitution or without. But just tell that to Senator Humason and his Gun-mob Nation friends.

In particular his Gun-mob Nation friends, who began peppering various media venues like Facebook with some of the worst, most offensive comments about Maura that have ever been seen. Calling her a 'fascist,' a ''bitch,' a 'c**t,' the language made a Donald Trump speech sound like something out of Mary Poppins. According to the Boston Globe newspaper, one big-mouth tweeted that he wanted to hire a homeless person to rape and disembowel the AG.

Now don't get me wrong. Gun issues provoke strong emotions on both sides of the fence. And while I thought that the AG was absolutely correct in calling attention to the fact that removing a few, cosmetic doo-dads from an AR-15 doesn't in any way diminish the lethality of the gun. Nevertheless, gun owners have every right to voice their anger, and even State Senator Humason has the right to do a little grandstanding by filing his stupid bill.

Let me break the news to my friends in Gun-mob Nation. There's a pretty good chance that a certain person will be president next year and I don't mean Donald Trump. And there's a good chance that she will send a gun bill to Congress, but being committed to the usual process, she'll invite input from both sides. So Gun-mob Nation will have a choice -- either get a seat at the table or stand around outside. And I guarantee you that if they use the language that Massachusetts Gun-mob Nation is using against Maura Healey, they'll be standing outside.

Laura Woods Opposes Gun Safety Laws

  |   August 2, 2016    1:58 PM ET

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First Stop The Bleeding

Nancy K. Kaufman   |   August 1, 2016   12:56 PM ET

It is difficult just to keep up with the rate of death from guns, whether it be mass murder, suicide, accidents, domestic violence, or police shootings (those of police and by police officers). Every year, 117,000 Americans are shot. More than 30,000 die, of whom more than half have committed suicide. Our nation is buffeted by mass murder and viral videos that one day depict the slaughter of innocents and/or seem to incriminate those who are supposed to protect us, and the next day show us police being assassinated. In between we see clips of toddlers wielding guns found in a drawer or a handbag that end up killing siblings and parents. Talk of more "conversation" seems futile and effective action beyond reach. It would be very easy to find it all so overwhelming that we retreat and give up.

But there is ongoing pressure to fix our society by, among other things, better training police and passing common sense gun regulation -- the other side of the equation. Before the last dreadful weeks, a sort of filibuster in the Senate gained enough strength to force votes on Democrat and Republican efforts to require gun sellers to conduct background checks on all gun sales, and to close the terror gap by preventing known or suspected terrorists on the FBI's terror watch list from buying firearms or explosives. Prevented by leadership from voting in the US House of Representatives, Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and John Lewis (D-GA) led a sit-in for more than 24 hours in the well of the House itself to press for votes on similar legislation as well as other common sense gun safety measures. The Senate votes failed and the House leadership has yet to allow such a vote, but the rebellion has reenergized the movement to end gun violence.

The two measures considered by the Senate -- requiring universal background checks for all gun sales and closing the terror gap -- have picked up steam. In October, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 92 percent of Americans -- including 87 percent of Republicans -- favor background checks for all gun buyers. It is estimated that 40 percent of gun sales occur without a background check because of the private sale loophole, which exempts sales through gun shows, classified ads, and online sites. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence notes that, for example, in September 2013 about 67,000 firearms were listed for sale online from private, unlicensed sellers. And the sellers are not all just individuals looking to sell the occasional gun. On Armslist.com, one well-used website that exists to facilitate gun sales, three out of ten ads by private sellers were posted by individuals who placed five or more ads over an eight-week period. They appear to be selling guns as a side business. New York City found that three-fifths of private online firearm sellers agreed to sell to a buyer who told the seller upfront that he or she probably could not pass a background check.

Perhaps the most ludicrous instance of existing gun regulation, or non-regulation, is that a person considered too dangerous or suspicious to be allowed to board a commercial airplane is nevertheless permitted by federal law to purchase a gun. Senator Angus King (I-ME) remarked in effect that it hardly made sense to fight terrorism in the Middle East while a professed terrorist could buy guns legally in the United States to use against us, as long that person had never been convicted of a felony.

Just recently, on the evening the House adjourned until September, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and members of the House Democratic Caucus held a national speak out, "Lighting the Way," calling for a path forward on gun violence including passage of these two common sense measures. While our lawmakers are home, we must continue to focus on the epidemic of gun violence in our nation and remind our communities about the importance of voting for candidates who support gun safety -- not just with words, but with actions. When enough people use the ballot box to threaten the careers of politicians who refuse to act, change will come. When people begin voting based on that conviction, the outcome of votes in Congress will change.