The widespread agreement between important factions of citizens on the Left and Right illustrates important facts about how our political establishment operates
(updated below – Update II)
Yesterday, Bob Barr — former GOP Congressman, ACLU privacy consultant, and current Libertarian Party presidential candidate — endorsed the Accountability Now and Strange Bedfellows coalition. On his campaign website, this statement was issued:
A lot of media attention has been focused on our privacy or, more appropriately, the invasion of our privacy by the government. The recent law that allows the government to intercept our phone calls and emails without any legitimate probable cause is the most glaring example. Ultimately we lose some freedom with virtually every new law or government regulation, but this particular law, FISA, is the granddaddy of all invasions of our privacy.
For the last several years Bob Barr has been fighting the government’s intrusion into our privacy at every step. There have been other organizations standing shoulder to shoulder with Bob. But, the recent focus on the invasion of our privacy has motivated a whole new group of concerned activists to join together in an effort to stop the government’s encroachment into our lives.
Some of the names of the organizers of this new group, AccountabilityNowPac, may be familiar to you. They come from a large variety of backgrounds and political beliefs joined in the common interest of protecting our privacy.
If you get a chance please take a look at their web site to learn more about them.
We welcome the leaders and supporters of Accontability Now Pac to the fight to protect our freedom and liberties.
We hope and expect that this will be but the first of many prominent endorsements from both the left and civil-liberties-minded libertarian right of our campaign against the political establishment’s assault on core Constitutional liberties, privacy rights and the rule of law. Just to get a sense for how like-minded Bob Barr and many progressives are with regard to these vital issues, here is a 45-minute Bloggingheads discussion between liberal blogger (and Strange Bedfellow member) Jane Hamsher and Rep. Barr that was a virtual festival of harmony (they discuss the FISA bill here, and they discuss the left-right civil liberties coalition in Britain here).
As I’ve been writing about for some time, the radicalism of the last seven years — represented by the Bush-led GOP and enabled by large parts of the Democratic Party — is engendering a real political re-alignment in the U.S.:
Throughout the 1990s, one’s political orientation was determined by a finite set of primarily domestic issues — social spending, affirmative action, government regulation, gun control, welfare reform, abortion, gay rights. One’s position on those issues determined whether one was conservative, liberal, moderate, etc. But those issues have become entirely secondary, at most, in our political debates. They are barely discussed any longer.
Instead, what has dominated our political conflicts over the last five years are terrorism-related issues — Iraq, U.S. treatment of detainees, domestic surveillance, attacks on press freedoms, executive power abuses, Iran, the equating of dissent with treason. It is one’s positions on those issues — and, more specifically, whether one agrees with the neoconservative approach which has dominated the Bush administration’s approach to those issues — which now determines one’s political orientation.
There are literally countless examples demonstrating this realignment. Just yesterday, former Reagan official Larry Hunter wrote an Op-Ed in The New York Daily News explaining why he’s voting for Barack Obama despite intense disagreement with Obama’s likely domestic/economic agenda:
I’m a lifelong Republican — a supply-side conservative. I worked in the Reagan White House. I was the chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for five years. In 1994, I helped write the Republican Contract with America. I served on Bob Dole’s presidential campaign team and was chief economist for Jack Kemp’s Empower America.
This November, I’m voting for Barack Obama.
When I first made this decision, many colleagues were shocked. How could I support a candidate with a domestic policy platform that’s antithetical to almost everything I believe in?
The answer is simple: Unjustified war and unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights vs. ill-conceived tax and economic policies — this is the difference between venial and mortal sins. . . .
But here’s the thing: Even if my hopes on domestic policy are dashed and Obama reveals himself as an unreconstructed, dyed-in-the-wool, big-government liberal, I’m still voting for him.
These past eight years, we have spent over a trillion dollars on foreign soil — and lost countless lives — and done what I consider irreparable damage to our Constitution.
If economic damage from well-intentioned but misbegotten Obama economic schemes is the ransom we must pay him to clean up this foreign policy mess, then so be it. It’s not nearly as costly as enduring four more years of what we suffered the last eight years.
People can debate — and obviously are debating — the extent to which Obama is actually devoted to doing something meaningfully different on those issues (though on many vital issues, when compared to McCain, it’s hardly a close call). But what’s not reasonably debatable is that these issues simply can’t be addressed by looking at our political establishment through a simplistic Democratic v. GOP prism. That just isn’t the dividing line that shapes Government action with regard to these matters.
When writing about the Strange Bedfellows coalition last week, I examined the sleazy operating methods of Steve Farber, the chief financier of the Democratic National Convention who is a partner in his lobbying firm with scores of the most well-connected GOP lobbyists, including the former Chairman of the RNC as well as the Republican wife of Charlie Black, John McCain’s leading lobbyist-adviser. This week, Matt Stoller noted that long-time Democratic incumbent Rep. Ed Towns is having a fund-raiser hosted for him by former GOP Rep. and current Beltway lobbyist J.C. Watts, who sent around this invitation to corporations’ “public affairs officers” to induce them to attend and contribute to the Towns fundraiser:
The political establishment doesn’t even try any longer to hide how they function. To induce corporate lobbyists to attend the event, Watts just shamelessly advertises the Committees and Subcommittees on which Towns sits like it’s a menu of products that are available for purchase.
That’s very redolent of the tawdry fundraiser which the nation’s telecoms hosted for now-defeated Democratic Rep. Al Wynn; of the way in which telecoms began pouring money into Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s coffers immediately prior to his serving as their most vocal advocate; and how a long-time Obama confidante recently featured his influence with an Obama administration in order to procure corporate clients for his lobbying firm. And the entire McCain campaign is virtually nothing but lobbyist influence.
That both parties at the leadership level — in terms how they act as collective entities — are controlled by so many of the same factions and operate by so many of the same “principles” is just undeniable. As the most recent, astonishing piece of evidence, look at House Resolution 362, a resolution sponsored by Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman which spouts every neoconservative accusation against Iran and then demands — literally — that the Bush administration order a naval blockade against Iran (see clause 3), an act of war. That Resolution now has over 200 co-sponsors, roughly half of whom are Democrats (including Rep. Ed Towns — see all of them here). A similar resolution in the Senate — sponsored by Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh — now has 32 sponsors, a list that includes, in addition to Joe Lieberman and some of the most extremist GOP warmongers in the Senate, 13 Democrats as well.
As I’ve written many times (see here), there are important differences between Democrats and Republicans generally and specifically between an Obama presidency and a McCain presidency. But blindly devoting oneself to “electing Democrats” will do nothing but perpetuate the status quo. As I wrote earlier this week:
Critical political debates are at least as often driven not by the GOP/Democrat dichotomy, but by the split between the Beltway political establishment and the rest of the country. As the above-chronicled events demonstrate, all of these assaults on our core civil liberties and the rule of law are not Republican attacks with Democrats fighting against them. They are attacks launched by the political establishment against the citizenry, and they ought to be responded to as such.
The endorsement of our Accountability Now/Strange Bedfellows coalition by Bob Barr — who, to a 1990s liberal, was as close to Satan as one could get — illustrates that dynamic rather potently, as does the broad agreement on these issues among people from across the political spectrum and in opposition to our corroded political establishment.
UPDATE: Those suggesting that working with Bob Barr in any capacity makes one impure, please see here.
UPDATE II: Writing from the Netroots Nation conference, The Nation‘s Ari Melber details what he calls “Bipartisan Attacks on the Rule of Law,” and specifically highlights the fact that close Obama adviser, Professor Cass Sunstein, “cautioned against prosecuting criminal conduct from the current Administration” during a Conference panel. From Ford’s pardon of Nixon to the pardons of Iran-contra criminals to the commutation of Lewis Libby’s sentence to these current pleas that Bush lawbreakers not be held accountable, the idea that our highest government officials should be immune from consequences for breaking the law is one of the most pernicious — and most commonly held — articles of faith among our political class. It’s particularly unsurprising to hear ultimate Establishment-defender Cass Sunstein voice those pleas on behalf of Bush officials.
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