Thursday, September 5, 2013

Syria, NSA Surveillance and Other Civil Liberties Issues Threaten to Divide the Parties

You are seeing something now that I have never seen in my years observing politics.  People's positions on issues like a possible invasion of Syria, the controversy regarding the NSA electronic surveillance program and other civil liberties issues are not divided between the party affiliation but are actually driving a wedge into both parties.  Establishment-oriented Democrats and Republicans are coalescing behind the pro-government positions on the aforementioned issues.  Yet people on the left and on the right are united in adamant opposition to what these establishment Democrats and Republicans want to do.

While the establishment in both parties are, generally unsuccessfully, trying to lead public opinion in the direction of trusting government on Syria and civil liberties issues, the rank and file Democratic and Republican partisans are not going along.  A lot of that has to do with war fatigue and the increasing belief of people on the left and right that government can't be trusted.  During the last 10 years we have seen increasing numbers of people become more isolationist and more protective of civil liberties.  On the latter score, it used to just be left-wingers who complained about an increasing police state and argued to protect people's civil liberties.  But today you'll find just as many people on the right who are concerned about the loss of civil liberties, demanding that government provide due process and respect people's privacy.

How will it shake out?  My Libertarian friends are giddy that it will lead to growth in their party's ranks.  Undoubtedly some of that is true. I remain highly doubtful though that Americans' growing support of civil liberties will make the Libertarians competitive in elections.  As with any growing popular political movement, the movement always gets co-opted by a major political party.  However, what happens when that movement is split equally between liberals and conservatives who reside, respectfully, in the Democratic and Republican Parties?  This is indeed unprecedented territory.

I always found it ironic that people on the left, people who support organizations like the Occupy groups, mock the Tea Party.   They are cut out of the same cloth.  Both are populist movements based on a backlash to the increasingly authoritarian establishment in both parties.  They both deeply distrust the government.

The establishment folks in the two parties can only buck public opinion for so long.  Eventually they will have to bow to the superior numbers of folks who want their party's policies to go in a different direction.  That is most likely to play out in the 2016 presidential primary, with populist, anti-establishment candidates rising to the surface. While Democrats might still succeed in nominating an establishment candidate with Hillary Clinton, Republicans would be wise to not follow the Democrats' lead.  Voters are clamoring for a candidate who won't constantly be getting the country involved in wars in the Middle East and will respect civil liberties at home.  Republicans would be wise to nominate such a candidate.

7 comments:

Nicolas Martin said...

The Libertarian Party has taken no lead on civil liberties issues, unless you count press releases. (The LP does little besides run candidates and issue press releases, which is why the Tea Party quickly became a much more important force, as did Occupy.) Most LP candidates, such as those running for federal and state offices in Indiana barely mention the subject. It is up to the new generation of Republican libertarians like Rand and Amash to lead on the issue. If the American people are concerned then these are the libertarians who will gain advantage. The timid LP is of no consequence.

It is interesting that Marco Rubio voted against Syrian intervention. That was perhaps a bit unexpected, but he's a flip-flopper, so who knows what's next.

If Rand Paul filibusters against the war in the senate, he will instantly become the second best known politician in America.

Jon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon said...

Read Radley Balko's book, "Rise of the Warrior Cop" and then tell me how much civil liberties we have. Over the last 30 years we have eroded the third amendment until it exists in name only. As to the first amendment, if the feds issue a national security letter (NSL) to yourself the mere mention to anyone you were served is a felony punishable by five years in jail.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Jon, surely you don't mean the Third Amendment about quartering soldiers. I think you mean the Fourth.

Jon said...

Paul, he does speak about the third amendment not to the quartering of troops; "Symbolic Third Amendment” has taken a beating from what Balko calls indirect militarization of our police forces."
As to the first amendment see what happens if you discuss a National Security Letter or if you're Barrett Brown. Then there are the exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act and the exclusionary rule and no knock warrants.

Lynn Swayze Wilson said...

I am happy if the ideals spread. Party is just a mode of transport.

Flogger said...

It is too bad the LP is so disorganized they cannot make a better showing. Of course how can you compete against all that money flowing into the the Republicrat Party.

I do agree there does seem to a break in the parties. The Democrats certainly stayed away as far they could from Occupy.

IMHO I believe people are tired of being told we tighten our belts on Main Street and at the same time Wall Street gets billions in bailouts. Our Government has Too Big To Fail and Too Big Jail motto on the walls of the Justice Department.

Factories shipped off to Mexico, China or some other Third World Country. The factory jobs that built our Middle Class are gone and the Middle Class is dwindling.

The NSA Spying and intrusions into our privacy are defended by the establishment Democrats and Republicans.

I believe these issues have been building up and we starting to see resistance from the people.