In the Arena

Things We REALLY Need to Start Talking About

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Barack Obama’s victory–which becomes more pronounced every day, as the final votes are counted–has obviously opened the door to a negotiation over tax increases, in which the Republicans will have to make concessions. But there are other formerly taboo subjects that need to be discussed in Washington.

Gun control, for instance. The ever-estimable Bob Costas said it all yesterday, in primordial male land, during half time of a football game. He quoted the Fox sports columnist Jason Whitlock, who argued that if the Kansas City linebacker Javon Belcher didn’t own a handgun, he and his girlfriend would probably be alive. Well, I’m not sure that’s entirely true–Belcher was a large, strong man and it is not unknown for such men to visit fatal violence upon women…or to commit suicide by driving off a bridge. But it is unquestionably true that we have a blood tide of gun carnage in this country, and that there are smart, reasonable gun control laws that need to be enacted within the context of the Second Amendment. The National Rifle Association has become increasingly disassociated from reality; the need for constant fund-raising will do that to you. And worse, the NRA has engaged in some really rancid fear-mongering about Barack Obama’s position on gun control, which increases the possibility, now that he’s been reelected, that some nut case with a semi-automatic will try to go after the President. The truth is quite the opposite of the NRA’s fever fantasies. Obama has punted on gun control. We need to reopen that debate.

And a few others, too: Climate change, for one. Immigration, for another. The actual shape and scope of Obamacare, and the way it meshes with our other public health care plans, for another. Racial preferences, too–although I suspect the Supreme Court is about to reopen that one in a fairly spectacular way pretty soon. The point is, Barack Obama no longer faces an electoral cliff, but he does have a legacy to build. The first step is to resolve the current budget negotiation. But there must be other steps. There are too many things that our poll-driven, oversensitized-to-fundraising politicians haven’t been talking about for too long.