How to break the horror-inaction-acceptance cycle
By Ezra Levin, Indivisible co-founder
I grew up in a rural part of Texas just a couple hours from Uvalde. Watching the coverage after the elementary school massacre, I see kids who look like the kids from my elementary school. I see parents who look like the parents at my 20-month old’s day care right now. Their grief and pain is palpable. It’s hard to watch, especially with my own toddler running around full of life, squealing with joy, and exuding potential. But I’ve forced myself to watch the interviews with parents and survivors. I can give them my attention. I can feel sorrow and anger. And I can channel those feelings into action. It’s the only thing I can do that feels like a genuine response.
Attention sounds cheap and easy. But at a societal level, the attention paid to massacres of innocents follows a shockingly predictable and depressingly short pattern (see here). The time is usually measured in days, and then, collectively, the nation turns its attention to something else. Nothing changes, the country moves on, and we all wait until the next massacre for the country to temporarily turn its attention to the issue for a few days. We know these massacres will keep happening — even while writing this email, I received news of another shooting outside of a New Orleans high school graduation at Xavier University.
For those of us interested in breaking the horror-inaction-acceptance cycle, we have a simple goal: make the nation pay attention as long as possible. Because if the public pays attention long enough, it will become clear who the villains in this story are. And that will make it easier for us to deprive those villains of the political power they so desperately desire. And if they lose that power, then — and only then — will we get more than thoughts and prayers.
Three quick things to know:
- The reforms being proposed are wildly popular. Look down the long list of gun violence prevention policies — and every single one of them has massive public support. The only people who oppose them are gun zealots and MAGA Republicans bankrolled by the NRA. Our opponents in this fight are a small, radical minority — the vast majority of normal people support gun reform.
- House and Senate Democrats will attempt to pass popular reforms. The specifics aren’t yet set, but movement is happening right now. This week, the House is going to pass a package of popular gun reforms. We believe Senate Democrats will line up in support of these reforms as well. We are not yet sure if universal background checks will make it in the package — but we’ll push for it (and it has 94% public support).
- If gun reform fails, it will be the MAGA GOP who block it. Gun reform can’t get through without ten GOP votes because of the filibuster. Gun reform used to have bipartisan support — the assault weapons ban in the 1990s wasn’t even filibustered. But that’s not the modern MAGA GOP. Today’s Republicans have obstructed and are threatening to obstruct all gun safety legislation.
What to do about it:
Remember our goal is to prolong the national attention on the issue beyond the typical few days these massacres normally get. So with that in mind:
- National show of support on June 11th. Indivisible is partnering with March for Our Lives on nationwide actions in support of these gun reforms on June 11th. Our goal is to keep the focus on getting legislation passed ASAP. To do that, we need numbers — and that means you.
- Click here to find an event near you.
- If there isn’t one planned, click here to register an event near you.
- If you’re in DC, click here to register for the big mobilization on the 11th.
2. Tell your senators to speak out in support of universal background checks (click here to be connected). You know who has a big megaphone? Your senators. If they’re not out there loudly beating the drum for reform, ask them why not. We’re not yet sure if Senate Democrats will include the wildly popular universal background checks reform in their legislation, so we need to directly encourage them to do that. They’re hammering out bill details now, so time is of the essence for this call.
3. Catch MAGA extremism on camera. Your GOP electeds have two goals right now: do nothing & escape blame. The best way to prevent them from achieving those goals is to confront them directly and make them go on the record (on camera!) about their position on wildly popular gun safety reforms. Let’s get specific:
Find your elected at a restaurant or a campaign event or a public speech, and in the most friendly way possible, ask them: do you support universal background checks? And then let them answer. Follow up noting that 94% of Americans support universal background checks. Why are they siding with the 6% instead of the vast majority?
Take inspiration from Benjamin Hernandez and the Indivisible Houston team, who tracked down Ted Cruz in a restaurant and got on camera his refusal to support any type reforms.
The strategy here is simple: we are in the majority of Americans. They are extremists out of touch with the public. Make them account for their radicalism on camera for the world to see. Send it to me @ezralevin and Indivisible’s main account, and we’ll make sure you get attention.
What will this accomplish?
If we are successful in maintaining the nation’s attention on this, there are two possible outcomes:
Possible outcome #1: Enough Senate Republicans are convinced that this issue will hurt them politically, so they decide against publicly opposing the popular reforms and we get the legislation signed into law.
Possible outcome #2: MAGA Republicans ignore public opinion and block the popular gun reform bills, publicly casting themselves as the villains in this story.
I wish I could guarantee you outcome #1. I can’t. It’s extremely difficult to overcome the massive gun industry that bankrolls MAGA Republicans. But what I can promise you is that if you turn this into a political liability for these Republicans, they will have a harder time winning political power. If they lose power, then that paves the way to us actually breaking this cycle of horror, inaction, and acceptance.