Indecision day: Republicans vote to go on home for the holiday; Decision day: UK votes on the fate of EU membership
Faced with a Sixties style sit-in by Democrats who want a vote on gun control, Republicans in the House cut the cameras, forcing the first use of Periscope in the Congress
In both the US and UK, today is a day that could change everything… but the odds are that nothing will change. In the US, Democrats in the House of Representatives, tired of inaction on gun control began a sit-in, violating the rules of the House, but dominating the news cycle, if only for 24 hours. In the UK, voters have and are going to the polls to decide the fate of a referendum that could pull the UK out of the European Union, with unforeseen consequences.
But, how to cover events that could mean so much, but may only reinforce existing impressions that nothing can change? Is it partisan politics as usual, or can the media overcome its own cynicism to revel in the possible?
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) June 22, 2016
Democrats in the House, knowing that the chambers rules are such that only legislation agreed to by the majority can be voted on, started a sit-in on the literal floor of the House demanding votes on gun control measures in the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando. Republicans would not go along, first suspending the session, forcing C-Span to turn off their broadcast cameras, then simply moving to recess the House through the July 4th holiday. Democrats, who are outnumbered in the chamber by 59 seats, could do nothing by chant and sing.
Then also used Periscope and Facebook Live to broadcast video out from the House floor – a violation of rules against cameras, though there really was nothing House Speaker Paul Ryan could do to stop it other than provoke a bigger confrontation.
“Despite the publicity stunt on the floor, House Republicans were intent on not allowing these tactics to stop us from completing this important business,” House Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokeswoman said in a statement. “With that tangible accomplishment, we will be moving on to the previously scheduled district work period.”
The House will convene in Friday for a pro-forma session, then recess until July 5, work for two days, then recess for Labor Day. Then comes the November election. In other words, the Congress, which during normal times is ineffective and rarely passes meaningful legislation, is in pre-election mode already and so not in a position to do much about a controversial issue like gun control.
But that is the cynical way to think about this. The political way to think about it is that if gun control legislation is to pass a large portion of the American public will need to be mobilized to make it happen. Look at the comment threads on nearly every story on the House move this morning, they are dominated by pro-gun readers who make it appear that a majority of Americans are not in favor of gun control legislation, despite polls that show that even 90 percent of Republican voters are in favor of preventing those on terror watch lists from buying a gun.
“We crossed one bridge, but we have other bridges to cross,” said Rep. John Lewis, Democrat from Georgia, and legend in the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s. “It took us three times to make it from Selma all the way to Montgomery.”
UK voters began going to the polls shortly after midnight in the US, and will continue to be able to vote until 10pm local time tonight, on a referendum that could pull the UK out of the European Union. Or, it will result in a narrow win for the ‘Remain’ side, further depressing many working class voters about their ability of their government to react to their needs and demands.
There are good arguments for both the ‘Remain” and ‘Leave’ sides, but the campaign instead centered on fear of the unknown and the fear of immigrants. But the campaign was very American in style, meaning virtually the serious discussions of the issues that could properly inform the public before casting such a consequential vote. No wonder, then, that the number of undecided voters actually increased towards the end of the campaign.
But polls show the ‘Remain’ side edging ahead in the final days of the campaign, possibly the result of the natural tendency of voters to consider such a move as leaving the EU as too radical a change, possibly a result of the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, killed by a right-wing supporter of “Britain First” – no one knows for sure.
In Scotland, polls that measured public opinion concerning Scottish independence, showed a close vote (though ‘Remain’ ahead), but the actual vote was not nearly as close, with many voters choosing the conservative choice of remaining in the UK at the last minute. Many in the media feel the same thing will happen tonight, that when the votes are finally tallied they will show a fairly large win for ‘Remain’. Few can imagine what the opposite result will really mean.