"I know what you're thinking about,' said Tweedledum; `but it isn't so, nohow. `Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, `if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic." - Lewis Carrol - Through the Looking Glass
As a self described "libertarian-leaning" independent, I have struggled to find satisfaction in the voting booth. I would like to vote for candidates that are not only consistent with my beliefs [To whit: Federal government should be limited in scope, provide for common defense, protect and respect individual rights, spend and tax in a fiscally responsible manner, provide effective oversight of elected and appointed representatives, legislate carefully and slowly, and pass only laws that are tempered in the fire of partisan debate], but also offer hope of having a practical real-world policy impact on the operation of our federal government. This latter criteria excludes voting for a third party like the Libertarians, which, while generally consistent with my views, are impotent in implementing actual policy and therefore IMHO a wasted vote. The closest I have come to a satisfactory voting strategy was outlined in my post "Voting By Objective". The objectives listed above have historically been most closely addressed by voting for divided government. Problem being, this voting strategy requires holding your nose and frequently casting a vote for candidates with the stench of statist policies that are hostile to constitutional freedoms. Case in point, the 2008 presumptive nominees for President.
Lets start with the Republican John McCain. How can a limited government advocate support a candidate who has little or no regard for either the First Amendment or Habeas Corpus? George Will asks the right question of John McCain:
"McCain, co-author of the McCain-Feingold law that abridges the right of free political speech, has referred disparagingly to, as he puts it, "quote 'First Amendment rights.' " Now he dismissively speaks of "so-called, quote 'habeas corpus suits.' " He who wants to reassure constitutionalist conservatives that he understands the importance of limited government should be reminded why the habeas right has long been known as "the great writ of liberty." No state power is more fearsome than the power to imprison. Hence the habeas right has been at the heart of the centuries-long struggle to constrain governments, a struggle in which the greatest event was the writing of America's Constitution, which limits Congress's power to revoke habeas corpus to periods of rebellion or invasion. Is it, as McCain suggests, indefensible to conclude that Congress exceeded its authority when, with the Military Commissions Act (2006), it withdrew any federal court jurisdiction over the detainees' habeas claims? As the conservative and libertarian Cato Institute argued in its amicus brief in support of the petitioning detainees, habeas, in the context of U.S. constitutional law, "is a separation of powers principle" involving the judicial and executive branches. The latter cannot be the only judge of its own judgment. n Marbury v. Madison (1803), which launched and validated judicial supervision of America's democratic government, Chief Justice John Marshall asked: "To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained?" Those are pertinent questions for McCain, who aspires to take the presidential oath to defend the Constitution.
"It is absolutely false that the only unconstitutional and destructive provision of this "compromise" bill is the telecom amnesty part. It's true that most people working to defeat the Cheney/Rockefeller bill viewed opposition to telecom amnesty as the most politically potent way to defeat the bill, but the bill's expansion of warrantless eavesdropping powers vested in the President, and its evisceration of safeguards against abuses of those powers, is at least as long-lasting and destructive as the telecom amnesty provisions. The bill legalizes many of the warrantless eavesdropping activities George Bush secretly and illegally ordered in 2001. Those warrantless eavesdropping powers violate core Fourth Amendment protections. And Barack Obama now supports all of it, and will vote it into law. Those are just facts."
Jack Balkin has a different but equally depressing explanation:
"Barack Obama plans to be the next President of the United States. Once he becomes President, he will be in the same position as George W. Bush: he wants all the power he needs to protect the country... Perhaps it gives a bit too much power to the executive. But he plans to be the executive, and he can institute internal checks within the Executive Branch that can keep it from violating civil liberties as he understands them. And not to put too fine a point on it, once he becomes president, he will likely see civil liberties issues from a different perspective anyway."
What is Obama's explanation for this support? His rationale is explicit:
"Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people."
Particularly mystifying are the Obama supporters who were so critical of the Clinton ad, but now give Obama a free pass on a FISA flip flop that invokes the same fears, but with serious and long lasting implications for the rule of law. Glen Greenwald goes on to warn of the dangers in this kind of uncritical support for a candidate:
"...no good comes from lending uncritical support to a political leader, or cheering them on when they do bad and destructive things, or using twisted rationalizations to justify their full-scale assault on your core political values. The overriding lesson of the last seven years is that political figures, more than they need anything else, need checks and limits. That is just as important to keep in mind -- probably more so -- when you love or revere a political leader as it is when you detest one... What Barack Obama did here was wrong and destructive. He's supporting a bill that is a full-scale assault on our Constitution and an endorsement of the premise that our laws can be broken by the political and corporate elite whenever the scary specter of The Terrorists can be invoked to justify it... In 1799, Thomas Jefferson echoed that: "Free government is founded in jealousy, not confidence . . . . Let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitutions." Between (a) relying on the limitations imposed by the Constitution or (b) placing faith in the promises of a political leader not to abuse his unchecked power, it isn't really a difficult choice -- at least it ought not to be, no matter who the political leader in question happens to be."
Voting for an all Democratic Government in 2009 with expanded majorities and a potential filibuster-proof Senate is not the answer. It will certainly create more problems than it solves.
For more, Damozel at Buck Naked Politics has a good compilation of blogger reaction to the Obama flip-flop, while Ed Morrissey at HotAir outlines Obama's history on the issue.
What to do? If you are frustrated as I am about the choices we have for President, and reluctant to contribute to either campaign, Political Action Committees focused on specific issues like stopping the FISA compromise bill can provide a more satisfying alternative. A tip of the hat to Ka1igu1a at Freedom Democrat for pointing me to one very interesting example, bringing Progressives and Libertarians together in the TheStrangeBedfellows Alliance:
"... the Blue America PAC is targeting Blue Dog Democrats like Steny Hoyer for their continued roles as complicit enablers of Bush's sham FISA bill. However, it should be noted that a more encompassing movement effort has recently sprung up, forged by both progressive and libertarians that will be using the Blue America PAC as a Phase I of of a multi-Phase strategy. It's being dubbed the Strange Bedfellows alliance. The headliners in this alliance are the ACLU, Glenn Greenwald, The Ron Paul Money Bomb team over at Break the Matrix, Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, Matt Stoller of Open Left, and Ari Melber of The Nation."
FWIW, the alliance now also includes mw at Divided We Stand United We Fall.
If you are not looking to make a contribution, but still want to help fight the FISA compromise that will come to Senate floor this week, McJoan at DailyKos is tracking the progress of the bill and key Senators to contact. Although the fix is in, and it is likely that this pig will pass (after some Kabuki theater by Harry Reid and Barack Obama to provide themselves political cover) it is important to keep a very bright spotlight on the players in this show.
UPDATE: Speaking of spotlights...
If you are not pissed off enough about the Democratic Party capitulation on FISA, this should do it:
SPOTLIGHT: Telco PACs Gave $8K to Dems Who Changed Their Vote on FISA
BERKELEY, CA—Last week, on June 20, the House of Representatives approved a compromise bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA). The bill sets new electronic surveillance rules that effectively shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits resulting from the government’s warrantless eavesdropping on phone calls and viewing of emails of private citizens in the U.S. Approximately 40 lawsuits have been filed with potential damages totaling in the billions of dollars. On March 14 of this year the House passed an amendment that rejected retroactive immunity for phone carriers who helped the National Security Agency carry out the illegal wiretapping program without proper warrants. Ninety-four House Democrats voted in favor of this measure--rejecting immunity--on March 14, then ‘changed’ to vote in favor of the June 20 House bill--approving immunity. “Why did these ninety-four House members have a change of heart?” asked Daniel Newman, executive director of MAPLight.org, “Their constituents deserve answers.” MAPLight.org's research department compiled PAC campaign contributions from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint and correlated them with the voting records of all House members who voted on last week’s FISA bill. (The analysis used data from CRP; contributions were from January 2005 through March 2008). Here are the findings: Comparing Democrats' Votes (March 14th and June 20th votes): Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint gave PAC contributions averaging: $8,359 to each Democrat who changed their position to support immunity for Telcos (94 Dems) $4,987 to each Democrat who remained opposed to immunity for Telcos (116 Dems) 88 percent of the Dems who changed to supporting immunity (83 Dems of the 94) received PAC contributions from Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint...
Technorati tags: Barack Obama, libertarian, 2008 election ,Divided Government, FISA, Democrat, Republican.