The defeat in the U.S. Senate of universal gun-buyer background checks includes some brutal lessons in political math.
An overwhelming majority of Americans support background checks for people who buy guns. Polls show the numbers at close to 90 percent in favor.
There were 54 Senate votes in favor of the plan. By anybody's math, that's a clear majority (though no where close to that 90 percent mark). And a quick breakdown of those 54 votes indicates that those senators in favor represent something like 61 percent of the American populations, since most came from bigger population states.
But that still wasn't enough because of the Senate's arcane devotion to a rule governing filibusters. Republicans threatened to hold up any gun control vote if supporters couldn't reach the 60-vote threshold needed to cut off a filibusters.
Of course, the Democrats who control the Senate could have changed that rule but backed down. And that means a minority of (mostly) Republican senators were able to kill all significant gun control reforms.
So chalk up another victory for the NRA and our own Newtown-based, gun-industry lobby, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and the hard-line conservatives that run the national GOP.
But it raises the question of whether those folks will eventually pay a big, big price for violating the will of the vast majority of Americans. Could they have overplayed their hand this time, and fashioned the political weapon that will cripple their power in the future?
Oh ya, there's also the issue of whether the Democrats have the balls to actually pick up that weapon and use it.
"Suppose you were an idiot," Mark Twain once remarked. "And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."