Tuesday, October 23 , 2018, 7:19 am | Fog/Mist 54º

 
 
 
 

Jamie Stiehm: House Democrats Stand Up to Gun Violence by Sitting Down

Something’s happening here in the People’s House. What’s going down seems exactly clear: a stage of our democracy, men and women players speaking unscripted lines that could wait no more.

Amid the historic House uprising on gun violence, civil rights hero John Lewis, 76, and Joseph P. Kennedy III, 35, walked shoulder to shoulder at the sit-in on the floor of the chamber.

They made a burst of stardust, past and present, South and North, black and white.

Lewis, the only man alive who spoke at the March on Washington, led congressional Democrats to seize the floor and shut down the majority state of play.

House voices became a chorus of anger aimed at Republicans for resisting two votes to tamp down gun violence after the ghastly Orlando, Fla., crime scene of 100 casualties.

House Democrats demanded the same votes the Senate took June 20 after a 15-hour filibuster led by a lanky Connecticut Yankee, Democratic Sen. Christopher Murphy.

A freshman senator, he faced the fire of the Senate doing nothing after the Newtown school shooting in his state. The Senate votes failed, but Democrats were elated to move the stone, aka Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Creating universal background checks for gun buyers and prohibiting those on the FBI’s terrorist watch list are the measures Democrats are pressing for.

We will be silent no more. Give us a vote! No more victims! I’ll get a sleeping bag and stay all night! This microphone belongs to the American people! There are no Republicans in this chamber.

No pun intended.

The June sun and strawberry moon over the Capitol made Senate Democrats envy the hundred House members having the time of their lives speaking, singing, chanting, praying, shedding tears and demanding votes on gun violence from House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., whose high chair sat empty.

The unresponsive Wisconsinite was in the doghouse, for “hiding” and being “bought” by the rigid gun lobby. “Mr. Speaker, where the hell are you?”

In a rare show of party cohesion, at least 30 senators, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., came over to sit down (in seats) and listen — but not speak.

House members, freed from tight time constraints placed on them, showed off passion and brio — though the absent Ryan had ordered the floor microphones and cameras turned off. The acoustics of the large chamber, for the State of the Union, were better than I knew.

The uproarious House sit-in, sequel to the genteel Senate filibuster on gun violence, was a more diverse mix. Nonviolent revolution was in the air.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., whose father was the mayor of Baltimore, displayed political finesse as if playing the part of salon hostess.

I gazed down from the press gallery full of scribes, spellbound from old to young — like Luke Russert of NBC News.

No kidding, it felt like the 1960s revived, especially as an aging Black Panther emerged.

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., stood up and spoke like a preacher. Never more proud in 23 years in Congress, he said to the sea of Democratic lawmakers.

Rush, a radical in his younger days, is also the only politician ever to have defeated President Barack Obama (in a House race).

I gazed at some favorite characters in the crowd. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., sat with a school friend, the liberal Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., likely to succeed her in the 2016 cycle.

They took a selfie together with Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., whom Van Hollen just defeated in a bitter primary contest. Healing and reconciliation.

Lewis, revered on both sides in Congress, speaks of the “Beloved Community” and a “Spirit of History” from time to time. That’s here and now, you and me, sitting down and standing up — in an arc of progress for all.

In Walking with the Wind, the Georgia Democrat concludes his 1998 memoir: “As a nation, if we care for the Beloved Community, we must move our feet, our hands, our hearts, our resources, to build and not to tear down.”

At the end of the day, Lewis writes, “we are one people, one family, one house — the American house.”

The Bard could not have written the lines better.

Jamie Stiehm writes about politics, culture and history as a weekly Creators Syndicate columnist and regular contributor to U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter: @jamiestiehm. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.