I’m Not as Hopeful

Glenn:

But what happened last night highlights the potential to subvert the two-party stranglehold on these issues — through a left-right alliance that opposes the Washington insiders who rule both parties. So confident was the House GOP leadership in commanding bipartisan support that they put the Patriot Act extension up for a vote using a fast-track procedure that prohibits debate and amendments and, in return, requires 2/3 approval. But 26 of the most conservative Republicans — including several of the newly elected “Tea Party” members — joined the majority of Democratic House members in voting against the extension, and it thus fell 7 votes short. These conservative members opposed extension on the ground that more time was needed to understand whether added safeguards and oversight are needed.

It would be nice if an actual civil liberties alliance could be forged and this wouldn’t be a meaningless one-off, but as Glenn notes, the overwhelming majority of Congress still voted in favor of the Patriot Act, and when it comes up for a vote under normal rules, it will sail through the House and the Senate. And in the off-chance that something truly bizarre happens and it is defeated, you can bet your house that Obama and Holder will be out there stumping for it, telling us we desperately need it to “KEEP AMERICA SAFE.”

The people in power don’t like to give up power. It’s really that simple. Even when they are your guy and you think they are a “good guy.”






48 replies
  1. 1
    mistermix says:

    I agree — the only thing this shows is that the GOP leadership isn’t very good at whip counts. We are all PATRIOTs now.

  2. 2
    lllphd says:

    hey, this is very very difficult to admit to, as the thought is so many ways is so repugnant, but …

    i’ve been saying for months now that there are just way too many issues on which democrats and tea partiers click: the economy, jobs, and all that money going to the fat cats; the government getting out of our biznez (however, they don’t realize the great contradiction they straddle on that one); and keeping the government away from these powerful tyrannical platforms justified in the bush years by the war on tourism.

    we could even make a case that their love for the constitution coincides with ours, with the proviso of course that they would actually need to read the damn thing to realize that connection.

    at any rate, this is a good start on the triangulation of the core republican party that i was hoping might emerge. we should encourage and nurture this. in fact, i’m trying to figure out a way to meet with tea partiers to bridge the divide here in the boston area (north). they’re not numerous up here, but it would still be edifying to see how it goes.

    will keep you posted; work in progress (literally and figuratively, winkwink).

  3. 3
    cleek says:

    sometimes, they don’t like to give power up because the political consequences of having voluntarily given up “tools” and “methods” when disaster strikes are too great. it’s not so much about securing power for power’s sake as it is about not wanting to be seen as not having done “everything possible”.

    basically, we are cowards who love pinning blame so politicians have to play maximum defense, all the time.

  4. 4
    New Yorker says:

    we are cowards who love pinning blame so politicians have to play maximum defense, all the time.

    Pretty much. We’re a nation that’s scared to death of “rising crime” even though crimes rates have been plummeting for over a decade now, so don’t expect rationality on the question of keeping the country safe from terrorism.

  5. 5
    General Stuck says:

    Scarty cat nation. What do you expect? I’m with cleek on this one.

  6. 6
    Tsulagi says:

    Good post. Completely agree with your take.

  7. 7
    matoko_chan says:

    Even when they are your guy and you think they are a “good guy.”

    bzzzzzt wrong!
    they are almost never a “good guy”.
    they are only the less bad guy.

  8. 8
    Zifnab says:

    @lllphd:

    i’ve been saying for months now that there are just way too many issues on which democrats and tea partiers click: the economy, jobs, and all that money going to the fat cats; the government getting out of our biznez (however, they don’t realize the great contradiction they straddle on that one); and keeping the government away from these powerful tyrannical platforms justified in the bush years by the war on tourism.

    Unfortunately, a lot of this freedom and liberty rhetoric that goes about as far as the spending rhetoric. The moment “freedom” and “liberty” mean being nice to black people or immigrants or folks from Liberal Elitest Taxechuetts and it all goes out the window.

  9. 9
    Stillwater says:

    Not with cleek. Preserving or expanding power, both institutional and personal, is a primary and fundamental objective of executive branch office-holders. But it’s also the case for most (perhaps all) political reps. For a President or Governor, individual policies will be supported/rejected according to the calculus of 1) does this policy increase executive branch power?, and 2) does it increase/constrain my personal power?. Of course, for the President/Gov/elected representative, strictly political concerns factor in, since getting voted out of office, or alienating your party/constituency in congress, will curtail or eliminate your own political power.

  10. 10
    Chyron HR says:

    Oh, so now we’re back around to “If we pretend that Tea Partiers really believe the positions they espouse, then they’re actually progressives”? Yeah, that’s exactly how it’s played out the past two years.

  11. 11
    FlipYrWhig says:

    I’m with Zifnab. The “Tea Party” doesn’t give a rat’s ass about civil liberties or economic policy. The Tea Party is nothing but an outrage machine venting about how someone else, somewhere else, is getting a free ride. They don’t have policy preferences and don’t want to work with Democrats, and if you told them that what they were saying sounded like something a Democrat would say, they’d probably recoil in horror and then change their minds.

  12. 12
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Chyron HR: Many people have longed for an alliance between left-libertarians and right-libertarians. Most of them eventually graduate from college.

  13. 13
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    the overwhelming majority of Congress still voted in favor of the Patriot Act

    Overwhelming majority is less than 2/3, noted.

    Where does “vast majority” fit in? I keep wondering what all these terms mean in hard numbers.

  14. 14
    Steve M. says:

    The people in power don’t like to give up power.

    More salient in this case is that Democrats who have to run in non-safe seats, starting with the president, are terrified to retreat from any national security line in the sand, for fear of being seen as traitors (and faggots).

  15. 15
    john b says:

    glenn seems just as pessimistic as you, john. for instance:

    Despite my belief that such an alliance is both tenable and necessary — and last night’s Patriot Act vote underscores that fact — I’m ultimately quite pessimistic about its ability to produce any meaningful benefits in the near future. That’s because there are far too many impulses among ostensibly “limited government” conservatives which conflict with — and ultimately negate — any possibility for meaningful civil liberties defenses.

    . . . .

    And the newfound right-wing concern for the Constitution stems from the belief that Obama (unlike Bush) will use the Executive Branch’s ability to transgress Constitutional limits in a way that harms conservatives. It’s very self-interested — and unprincipled — advocacy: they suddenly discover their distrust of government power and belief in liberty only when they perceive that their own interests are endangered. That’s better than never discovering it — indeed, the Democrats’ failure to meaningfully oppose Bush’s seizure of radical power, even if only on self-interested grounds, will redound to their eternal shame — but such erratic interest in civil liberties makes for a very unreliable and ultimately counter-productive alliance.
    __
    Worse, other impulses in that movement render support for civil liberties abuses inevitable as long as they’re directed at other people. The nativism, the anti-Muslim bigotry, the blinding American exceptionalism, the fear-based eagerness to support anything in the name of Security, and the instinctive reverence for GOP political authority all ensure widespread support among the Right — even those factions incessantly marching under the banner of “limited government” — for the vast majority of authoritarian assaults on civil liberties.

  16. 16
    Stillwater says:

    @FlipYrWhig: They don’t have policy preferences

    And insofar as they do, and those policies are congenial to a liberal, the reason each side advocates for the those policies is not. Teabaggers want to dismantle government, liberals want a healthy functioning government.

  17. 17
    D. Mason says:

    it’s not so much about securing power for power’s sake as it is about not wanting to be seen as not having done “everything possible”.

    Sorry, I call bullshit on this. Anyone who will raise their hand and say “I’m runnning for President of the United States” is in it for the power.

  18. 18

    I think the analysis here is mostly spot on.

    You will be able to appeal on civil liberties issues to a small fringe of the Tea Party. Mostly the original Ron Paul followers, the paleocons, and the rest of the Old Right groups that no body in the establishment takes seriously anyway.

    Another small fraction might agree with you in principle, but because you’re DFHs, will instinctively disagree with you because, “**** hippies and liberals.”

    The rest will say ‘yeah, freedom’, all the while advocating building a San Diego Wall, putting land mines along the border, and throwing ‘degenerates’ in jail.

    Aside from which, I would never underestimate the ways in which the entire establishment has been captured by moneyed interests who benefit from an extremely powerful central government, Federal debt, and low tax policies. Granted, long term, this is unsustainable, but with globalization, if the **** ever hits the fan here, they can migrate overseas to a tax haven.

  19. 19
    va says:

    Glenn has been pushing this theory that the left and right can wrap around and meet each other for years now. If he thinks that left and right ideologues, whose demands (sort of) coincide on occasional issues, can ever come together as a way of actually doing politics normally, he’s just deluded. The events that spawn ideological coherence between the left and right are so few, and the insanity they inspire (esp. from the right) is so intense, that I actually wouldn’t want to live in a world in which their cooperation constitutes a major political force.

  20. 20
    cleek says:

    @D. Mason:
    wanting to wield the already-significant power that’s allowed by the Constitution is different than wanting to accumulate even more, quasi-constitutional / near-dictatorial, powers on top of that.

  21. 21
    D. Mason says:

    @cleek: Ok, point taken on that. Isn’t that the trick though? These powers *are* “constitutional” don’t you see? In the eyes of someone driven by a lust for power these are far from dictatorial, they’re perfectly legitimate tools of a leader. The only person who could have a problem with such powers is someone who imagines himself under jurisdiction of same and these folks do not.

  22. 22
    Allan says:

    @lllphd: If only the top of the ticket for the Ds weren’t a blackety black Kenyamuslisoshulist.

    Hey, Randall Terry’s running for the Democratic nomination in 2012, perhaps Glenn and Jane can coalesce their Tea Party/DFH alliance around him?

  23. 23
    Stillwater says:

    @Chyron HR: Oh, so now we’re back around to “If we pretend that Tea Partiers really believe the positions they espouse, then they’re actually progressives”? Yeah, that’s exactly how it’s played out the past two years.

    Or think about it the other way around. Are teabaggers supposed to believe that secretly liberals are arch-conservatives after-all? I mean, they hate liberals, don’t they?.

  24. 24
    scav says:

    Civil Liberties, hmmm, too much govt interference, but getting govt out of the decisions of women? Nah, the wimmin like the gheys and the muuslims and the commies and the DFH’s aren’t a really part of their oh so civil agenda. Chalk me up on the ain’t no way for a meaningful coalition side. Mahatma Gandhi and He Who Shall Not Be Godwined may have both sat down to a Veggie All-you-can-eat Buffet but that does’t mean they play on the same ball team.

  25. 25
    Uloborus says:

    Hmmm. Has Obama said whether or not he supports continuing the Patriot Act? If I had to guess I’d say he’s against it, but I could see it either way – and I don’t want to guess. There’s too much guessing. Everyone can project whatever they want on him, and do.

    But he has a VERY high rate of following up on his proposals, so I’m wondering if he’s gone on record about this.

  26. 26
    bkny says:

    you can bet your house that Obama and Holder will be out there stumping for it, telling us we desperately need it to “KEEP AMERICA SAFE.”

    and right on schedule, janet napolitano ooga boogaing the terrarists are gonna kill us all; we must protect the homeland! via bloomberg:

    Terror Threat Highest Since Sept. 11 Attacks, Napolitano Says
    By Jeff Bliss – Feb 9, 2011 Radicalized U.S. residents willing to carry out attacks with “little or no warning” have helped create one of the biggest terrorist threats in years, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said today.

    “The terrorist threat to the homeland is in many ways at its most heightened state since 9/11,” she said in prepared testimony for a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee in Washington.

  27. 27
    Triassic Sands says:

    The people in power don’t like to give up power. It’s really that simple. Even when they are your guy and you think they are a “good guy.”

    Even when the guy you think is a “good guy” is doing things that a good guy wouldn’t do, or at least he can’t be considered a good guy for doing them, because they’re bad guy things.

  28. 28
    Tim says:

    And in the off-chance that something truly bizarre happens and it is defeated, you can bet your house that Obama and Holder will be out there stumping for it, telling us we desperately need it to “KEEP AMERICA SAFE.”

    The people in power don’t like to give up power. It’s really that simple. Even when they are your guy and you think they are a “good guy.”

    Love ya, John, but it’s kind of embarrassing when you put up posts like this claiming a revelation which many of us knew all along.

    Cue name calling, abusive reply comments…

  29. 29
    john b says:

    Hmmm. Has Obama said whether or not he supports continuing the Patriot Act? If I had to guess I’d say he’s against it, but I could see it either way – and I don’t want to guess. There’s too much guessing. Everyone can project whatever they want on him, and do.

    he’s for extending the patriot act. at least according to everything i’ve read about the issue recently.

  30. 30
    Uloborus says:

    @john b:
    If he’s said he’s for it, then it’ll probably pass. Congress’s will seems pretty clear on this issue. I just wanted to make sure HE said he’s for it. The last two years have been a stampede of people who are sure they know what he supports.

    Whether or not he supports it, I do not support extending the patriot act and I’ll be pretty disappointed if he signs it. I’ll get over it because I love the man’s record, but it would take a damned good argument I haven’t heard yet to make that anything but a black mark.

  31. 31
    General Stuck says:

    @Uloborus:

    He is more than just for it. He wants it extended 3 years, whereas the wingers just till December. I think many people on the left, when they hear the words Patriot Act, think of the early versions of it, that were truly evil and Stalinesque, and fully un American. Later versions, and the one in effect now is much better, albeit with some odious provisions and too loose regarding standards for search and seizure.

    But the part of requiring absolute secrecy from targets has been mitigated some, at least they can consult a lawyer. It is still an unconstitutional law imo, and needs more work for protections, but was once much worse. I actually lost nights of sleep, being so pissed when it was really really awful.

    And for those thinking Obama just wants this power because he likes power, please think about that some. Dick Cheney and Bush maybe fall under this label, but do you really think Obama is that into this kind of power, absent a prevailing fear that something bad happens from terrorism, and he and dems get blamed for it, for the reason they opposed this law and got it ended. It would be pol death for him and dems in general if this were to come about.

  32. 32
    D. Mason says:

    I haven’t heard yet to make that anything but a black mark.

    I wish you would stop being so racialist.

  33. 33
    4jkb4ia says:

    Um, read the post to the end?

    Last night’s unexpected Patriot Act vote illustrates the tantalizing promise of such an alliance. Things would be vastly improved on the civil liberties front if the American Right was even minimally faithful to the political principles they claim to support. But the nature of that movement means that last night’s vote is far more of an isolated aberration than anything likely to change the bipartisan dynamic in a positive way. Indeed, the very weak status of civil liberties in the U.S. is compellingly illustrated by the fact that an alliance with this deeply unprincipled and authoritarian movement is one of the few viable means for stemming the tide of the erosion.

    I read this post first but I am reading Glenn’s post as wistful–that civil liberties can’t survive if they are the property of one party or the other because they will be decried as partisan.

    (For all I know, Glenn saw this one and edited his post)

  34. 34
    4jkb4ia says:

    As someone who has not been following this closely, I will guess that whatever Leahy gets out of SJC is essentially the final bill and will pass.

  35. 35
    Uloborus says:

    @General Stuck:
    Hmmm. Well, that reduces the size of the black mark. I guess next I need to find out just what exactly the current version DOES.

    I dunno. I just didn’t want to take this one on face value because every damn ‘Obama is bad on civil liberties’ story proved to be wild distortions based on either unsubstantiated rumor or completely ignoring the context and usual pre-Bush standards. And then on top of that I’ve heard everyone and their mother tell me they’re SURE Obama wants to X, Y, and Z and the track record there is approaching zero.

    So he officially supports the current Patriot Act, which isn’t the original nightmarish version but I might still think is pretty bad. Thank you, Stuck. I guess I do some internet research now.

  36. 36
    General Stuck says:

    @Uloborus:

    I’m not defending Obama on this, because I think supporting this law without some fixes is bad policy, bad for the country and bad for dems in general. The fact I believe that he is doing it out of pol fear and not some personal appetite for power for power sake, only mitigates my disapproval a bit. I still say the core of all this is an intellectually lazy citizenry, and a bedwetter one. Ain’t that America.

    Same with the FISA when it comes up for renewal a little later on.

  37. 37
    Uncle Clarence Thomas says:

    @General Stuck:
    .
    .

    And for those thinking Obama just wants this power because he likes power, please think about that some.

    I thought about it, a lot, and came to the conclusion that he likes the power and that he is a bad man.

    absent a prevailing fear that something bad happens from terrorism, and he and dems get blamed for it, for the reason they opposed this law and got it ended.

    Good call, because the worst security “lapse” in U.S. history by George Warmonger Bush ensured that he wasn’t re-elected.

    And BTW, I’m glad that balloonbaggers are not demanding that those in authority do what’s right and Constitutional for its own sake.
    .
    .

  38. 38
    General Stuck says:

    @Uncle Clarence Thomas:

    Nobody cares what you think, so knock yourself out, it’s the only decent thing to do.

  39. 39
    Tim says:

    @General Stuck:

    @Uncle Clarence Thomas:

    Nobody cares what you think, so knock yourself out, it’s the only decent thing to do.

    Oh Stucky-Stuck, you’re always such a prima donna on BJ.

    Hey, Uncle Clarence, I care what you think! :D Being told by Stuck that NOBODY at BJ cares what you think is actually a badge of honor.

    Wear it proudly as do I.

  40. 40
    Master of Karate and Friendship says:

    Even when they are your guy and you think they are a “good guy.”

    Someone at Balloon Juice wrote this? Hope springs eternal.

  41. 41
    Master of Karate and Friendship says:

    @Tim:

    That’s General Stuck’s thing, though: he never, ever misses a chance to tell someone he doesn’t care what they think. Often (though not always) accompanied by a long post about exactly why he doesn’t care, and where the person in question can stick it. Because nothing says “I don’t care” like that.

  42. 42
    Master of Karate and Friendship says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    He said, after the Tea Party took a stand on civil liberties, in an area where no one gets a free ride, by clearly outlining a policy preference that required working with Democrats.

    People really should read what they write before hitting “submit”.

  43. 43
    Master of Karate and Friendship says:

    @Uloborus:

    “Has Obama said whether or not he supports continuing the Patriot Act? ”

    White House Wants Longer Extension of Patriot Act Than Republicans

    The Obama administration said Tuesday it wants a three-year extension of Patriot Act surveillance authorities, far longer than the timeline proposed by House Republicans.

  44. 44
    Master of Karate and Friendship says:

    @General Stuck:

    And for those thinking Obama just wants this power because he likes power, please think about that some. Dick Cheney and Bush maybe fall under this label, but do you really think Obama is that into this kind of power, absent a prevailing fear that something bad happens from terrorism, and he and dems get blamed for it

    Why shouldn’t we apply that thinking to Bush and Cheney? Do you have a video of George W Bush, at the signing of the original PATRIOT Act, rubbing his hands together and saying “power! power!!!”

    Later versions, and the one in effect now is much better, albeit with some odious provisions and too loose regarding standards for search and seizure.

    Oh, well, it’s much better than Stalinism. Who couldn’t get behind that? And hey, I think everyone here at the Juice agrees that the government should have MORE power to search and seize, right?

    I actually lost nights of sleep, being so pissed when it was really really awful.

    I’m sure you did. But now that the person who wants to extend it is someone you voted for——I mean, now that it’s one iota better, you could care less if it gets extended. Now *that’s* integrity!

  45. 45
    Master of Karate and Friendship says:

    @Uloborus:

    “every damn ‘Obama is bad on civil liberties’ story proved to be wild distortions based on either unsubstantiated rumor or completely ignoring the context and usual pre-Bush standards”

    I heard a rumor that Obama hasn’t prosecuted a single Bush administration figure for violating civil liberties laws. Can anyone substantiate that? I also heard a rumor that he hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay’s black hole, that military commissions are still being used, and that executive privilege is being used to shield the White House from oversight. But I’m sure those are just rumors, right?

  46. 46
    MGLoraine says:

    It’s probably not a coincidence that DHS Sec. Napolitano chose this opportunity to monger a little fear about the ever-looming ultra-scary threat of terrorism:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....id=topnews

    Please tap my phone! Read my emails! Keep me safe! For God’s sake, don’t let the “Patriot” Act lapse!

  47. 47
    Joe Buck says:

    Congress Matters pointed out that only 8 of 50 members of the House “Tea Party Caucus” voted against the Patriot Act extension. Glenn does good work, but he was wrong on this one.

  48. 48
    brantl says:

    Cleek’s right. This is the problem, no matter what happens, because in a country this big, there’s going to be at least one incident, and they don’t feel they can afford to do any “less” in any way, than the last guys. Period.

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