Massacre in Orlando - Democracies must be brave

In a recent, and excellent, BBC documentary, Inside Obama’s White House, President Obama’s frustration at his inability to make real change to America’s gun laws is obvious and convincing. 

"I’m supposed to be the most powerful man in the world and I can’t get a thing done,” he complains.

The massacre of at least 50 people in a nightclub in Florida yesterday will do little to assuage Mr Obama’s anger or that felt by the relatives of this weekend’s victims.

The relatives of the hundreds of thousands other Americans who might be alive but for Wild West gun laws will feel bewildered and angry too.

However, the gun lobby remains powerful and neither Donald Trump nor Hilary Clinton dare challenge it because it would damage their White House campaigns.

This points to a crisis facing nearly all democracies — the inability of leaders to drive change, supported by a majority, if it is opposed by a powerful minority.

In Ireland, those issues range from water charges, school patronage, abortion, even the protection of tenants.

In Britain, questionable claims around sovereignty and immigration are driving fears about the EU.

On the international stage this anti-democratic stonewalling is represented by opposition to climate change regulations or the imposition of transnational tax regimes.

The Orlando massacre is a tragedy, but it is also a reminder that democracies must again find the courage to make, and impose, the right decisions, even if they are unpopular.


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