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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

October 2: American Exceptionalism We Can Do Without

I’d like to add a note to what the previous Staff post had to say about President Obama’s remarks on the community college shootings in Oregon yesterday, as I expressed at Washington Monthly:

It has to be the most candid presidential reaction to breaking news in my memory; Obama even angrily mocked the ritualistic character of his own past reactions to gun massacres.
But the center of his argument is the one I keep making here: America is mainly exceptional among advanced democratic nations not in our personal or economic liberty, but in our strange belief that letting everyone stockpile weapons is essential to the preservation of our freedom, and in the consequences of that strange belief. That’s what the worship of the most extreme interpretation possible of the Second Amendment, fed by the gun lobby and politicians (mostly, though not exclusively, conservatives) has wrought. And yes, it’s something that can make you angry.

Is knowing that in other countries you cannot buy military weapons at all, or if you can you will certainly be subject to extensive scrutiny, the kind of thing that makes you “proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free!”? I hope not. But the more I hear conservatives tout the Second Amendment as the guarantor of all liberties on the theory that we need to be able to prepare for the violent overthrow of the government if we don’t like what elections or court decisions produce, the more I worry about the exceptional challenges we face in dealing with violence.

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