The establishments of both political parties -- whether because of actual conviction or political calculation -- are equally devoted to the National Security State, the Surveillance State, and the endless erosions of core liberties they entail. Partisan devotees of each party generally pretend to care about such liberties only when the other party is in power -- because screaming about abuses of power confers political advantage and enables demonization of the President -- but they quickly ignore or even justify the destruction of those liberties when their own party wields power. Hence, Democratic loyalists spent years screeching that Bush was "shredding the Constitution" for supporting policies which Barack Obama now enthusiastically supports, while right-wing stalwarts -- who spent years cheering on every Bush-led assault on basic Constitutional limits in the name of Terrorism -- flamboyantly read from the Constitution during the Obama era as though they venerate that document as sacred. The war on civil liberties in the U.S. is a fully bipartisan endeavor, and no effective opposition is possible through fealty to either of the two parties.
For most civil liberties incursions over the last decade, there's been at least some glimmer of opposition on the Left -- exemplified by people like Russ Feingold in the Senate and the Congressional Black Caucus and Dennis Kucinich in the House. But they've been easily overwhelmed by the civil-liberties-hating mainstream of the Democratic Party, and particularly hampered by the lack of any meaningful partners on the Right (where Ron Paul has been a solitary voice on such matters). What has been most needed -- and most harmfully non-existent -- is some minimal amount of intellectual honesty and consistency from America's conservatives, whose rhetoric of "limited government" and "individual rights" has translated into nothing other than lockstep support for ever-increasing government power and a highly authoritarian political mindset. It is that dynamic that has marginalized civil liberties advocacy -- and rendered civil liberties erosions inevitable -- no matter which party is in control.
Really, please do read his entire piece about it. It's admirably written.
At any rate, this is a really significant calculus that any moral voter (and I do NOT throw that word around lightly), must make in the ballot box. When presented with a choice of two parties committed to dismantling civil liberties, is the "best of the worst" a viable, moral choice to make? Is it appropriate to advocate in favor of someone who pushes for torture over someone who merely defends assassination? Would anyone ever want to explain to their children why that was the better option?
I think not.
So given that we're stuck with two parties in America for the foreseeable future, what are appropriate options to take?
The piece looks to a singular bit of left/right co-operation, specifically the useless (from a practical standpoint), refusal of some congress people to extend yet again, some provisions of the Patriot Act. Doubtless, it will be a meaningless protest but still:
It was one made from both sides of the aisle.
And that is signifcant. I don't know that I could or would advocate on behalf of either party. What I would definitely support is voting one's conscience and often, that's just going to have to be counter to the interests of either political wing. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are based first and foremost on the use of power (more on that in a subsequent post). A good place to start is voting for anyone that vows to relinquish a bit of that force.