Pastor Daniel Myers places his hand on crosses bearing the...

Pastor Daniel Myers places his hand on crosses bearing the names of the shooting victims at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Thursday. Credit: AP/Jae C. Hong

I don't have the expertise on guns and violence that some of my Bloomberg Opinion colleagues or many academic experts have. So I really don't know which of the gun-control policies Democrats have proposed would be helpful, which would make little difference and which would create new risks.

What I do know is that Democrats are a normal U.S. political party, which means that they are mainly pragmatic problem-solvers. That is, what U.S. political parties are usually good at is finding out what makes their constituents unhappy and attempting to do something about it. They listen to voters in their districts; to the party coalition that nominates them; to their strongest supporters. Some of their solutions may turn out to be highly ideological. Some are not. They're generally willing to cut deals to pass something, figuring that something is better than nothing. If it doesn't have the votes, or it's implemented and it doesn't work, they'll try something else.

The Democrats have been like that for well over a century. The Republicans used to be like that, too. The instinctive approaches the two parties took differed, in part because of ideology, in part because different groups made up different coalitions and in part because parties wind up with legacy policies that they support because they've always supported them.

This is how U.S. democracy works, when it works. Politicians notice things that their constituents don't like, and they come up with proposed solutions or sign on to someone else's proposed solutions. Politicians usually aren't experts at policy. They often, in fact, think really stupid things about policy. But they are — they're supposed to be — experts in the problems their constituents encounter in the course of their lives, and they consider it — they're supposed to consider it — an electoral and representational imperative to be seen as attempting to alleviate those problems. Which often entails actually trying to do so. Which often forces them to consult with experts, or to figure things out by trial and error, or at least to keep trying.

What's gone horribly wrong is that one of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has mostly abandoned all of that. All politicians seek publicity, and there's nothing wrong with that, but most Republican politicians have become expert only at saying things that play well in Republican-aligned media rather than about problems their constituents are having. And nowhere is that more clear than in their reaction to the horrible gun massacres that are now a regular part of life in the United States.

What do Republican politicians do? They offer up cliches about thoughts and prayers. They act outraged that Democrats are "politicizing" tragedies, which is to say Democrats are acting as if school massacres are problems and their jobs as politicians is to propose solutions. And if Republicans do attempt to propose solutions, they often sound … well, let's just say they're willing to sound entirely ignorant.

See, for example, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz claiming that school shootings could be ended by restricting entry to a single door, which prompted a good deal of ridicule. Or Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who said that all it takes is "to harden these targets." I'm no expert, but I do live in Texas and know that we've had mass murders in a school, in a Walmart and in a church over the last few years, and I can't even imagine "hardening" all the schools, places of worship, and grocery and big box stores. Nor, given that Patrick and the Republicans are working hard to allow anyone who wants to take weapons wherever they want, do I even understand how open-carry laws mesh with hardened targets.

My point here isn't just that these are bad ideas. I suspect that a good number of the Democrats' proposals on gun violence are bad ideas, but the Democrats are at least making real policy proposals. What Cruz and Patrick and most other Republicans are talking about aren't policy ideas at all. They're just nonsensical things to say in the wake of a shooting until the news cycle moves on, when they can be forgotten until the next mass shooting. Bad ideas can be improved, or defeated by better ideas. Nonsense words do no one any good.

(Even the Republican ideas for expanding gun rights aren't really attempts to solve constituent problems. They're best understood as attempts to stoke anger and outrage, and to find policy ideas extreme enough to prove their proponents are the True Conservatives.)

A lot of gun-regulation supporters are indignant because their policies poll well and yet are not implemented. I'll mostly defend the U.S. system, with its status quo bias and its various ways of allowing intense minorities to win policy fights. And that's not the problem, anyway. There are plenty of available compromises that could protect the interests of most gun owners while still actively attacking the problems that the U.S. and no other nation has with gun violence.

That Republican politicians are almost unanimously lacking any interest in doing anything about those problems? That's the breakdown of democracy.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. A former professor of political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University, he wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.