Democratic Retreat on Civil Liberties

At Mother Jones, Adam Serwer details the Democratic Party’s platform’s ratification of the Obama Administration’s wholesale retreat on civil liberties. When stacking this sort of thing alongside the GOP’s attempt to become the Defenders of Medicare, I not only find it difficult to care who wins the next presidential election, but to understand why anyone else would.

16 thoughts on “Democratic Retreat on Civil Liberties

  1. Someone’s going to staff our massive, entrenched bureaucracy. Remember, this corps of experts actually do a lot of the work of governing. So I’d rather have a slightly less control-freak weltanschauung in the appointment of these people.

    Also, the president has a de jure free hand in foreign policy. Do you want Samantha Power starting wars on the USA’s behalf or Dan Senor? The choice is yours!

  2. The Demoncrats have realized that the GI Generation’s dying off, and thus will no longer reliably vote Demoncrat & get them elected. Thus, they need a new entitlement to hook the middle class. Hence: ObamaCare, to which Medicare will be sacrificed. The GOP has figured this out, and realized that seniors will vote GOP if they can protect MediCare from ObamaCare, thus also preventing the middle class from being captured by the Demoncrats for at least another generation.

  3. Grover,

    Bush picked Roberts. Republicans roll over when Democratic presidents nominate justices. Democrats bring out the scandals when Republicans nominate justices who aren’t anywhere near being to straying from the mainstream. 5-4 rulings in favor of limited government on the surface are always so cluttered with other claptrap that can later be used to further the power of government. I think we saw this with the ObamaCare ruling. But you are right, some will think that the SC picks will be worth it to vote for their man.

    1. On federalism, speech, and guns, Republican-appointed justices have been better for the cause of freedom. They aren’t perfect, but is any Republican nominee – including Roberts – worse than the best Dem-nominees overall?

      1. That depends on whether you think of them as an individual justice or as a tie-breaking vote. I (me, personally, I guess most people don’t think like this) have much more respect for a Ginsburg for the one or two times she voted for liberty than I do for a Roberts who voted against it one or two major times. In the ObamaCare ruling, only one of the five justices that ruled in its favor truly stabbed us in the back. That’s the Republican appointee Roberts, even if on the whole, he is better on a few issues. I think the paradigm has shifted so far that even when they do rule in favor of, say guns, it is still not in accordance with the Constitution.

  4. Sixty-one days and counting to the vote for more of the same. Love it or hate it our system is one of inertia, the incentives all favor the status quo and discourage meaningful change. Sigh. I simply look forward to the time when I no longer am confronted with talk about the election.

  5. Outside of the “What else could make this election matter” discussion, the Democratic retreat on civil liberties (overall, there are still some Congressional Democrats with far better records than Obama) poses some worrying questions for libertarians and anyone who cares about the rule of law. Is the push for an unchecked executive branch irreversible? Both parties seem willing to abandon civil liberties in the name of security, at least when they occupy the executive branch.

    1. It certainly seems irreversible. It’s not so much inertia that’s the problem; it’s that inertia only goes in the wrong direction. Change happens; it’s just bad change – escalating the war on drugs, escalating the war on immigrants, Obamacare, Medicare Part D, NCLB, Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley, you name it. But when it comes to good change – ending not just U.S. torture but extradition to governments that torture, ending indefinite detention, respecting state law on medical marijuana, truly reforming asset forfeiture, and so on – change never happens even when there is a unified federal government dominated by a party nominally committed to that kind of change.

      For a long time, PPACA has been the one thing giving me a pairwise preference for Romney over Obama, given that they seem almost indistinguishable on civil liberties and foreign policy and equally bad in different ways on other aspects of economic policy. But I’m increasingly doubting that the GOP would really do anything good even for health care if they won unified control.

      1. I’ve seen this as a challenge to libertarianism, it lacks a theory of victory/success. There’s no real discussion on how to achieve and maintain a limited government, just an argument that a limited government is best.

        Particularly on national security, it seems that there’s something systemic to the executive branch that blocks good change for occurring.

        On foreign policy, I’d rather see war in Libya than war in Iran, which I fear under Romney. And oddly Romney seems to have a more economically nationalist approach toward China, at least rhetorically. And he’s still using the same Cold War playbook to guide policies toward the Soviet Union, I mean Russia. At least on foreign policy I still give the edge to Obama. Health care can be another issue.

      2. Big government is a stable equilibrium ceteris paribus. And libertarianism is an ideal theory by which we can judge the justice of existing states rather than an alternative that could be fully realized in a world populated by the kinds of ideas and fears that motivate men and women today. Or am I being too pessimistic?

  6. The real problem is that “liberty” is an intangible, while “government” is tangible. So, instead of measuring the growth of liberty, libertarian statisticians measure government’s size/scope, but it’s quite possible for both to grow/shrink at once.

    1. You must have a pretty loose definition of liberty that doesn’t focus on freedom from coercion (or the threat of coercion). There are lots of downsides of a broader operationalization. Is there really more liberty if, say, there is no longer social disapprobation given to those who chew with their mouths open? See where I’m going?

  7. Not at all. Suppose, e.g., a government reallocates its budget from the secret police to retirement pensions. Can you really say there’s no increase in liberty, just because government spending is unchanged? Or perhaps it’s even gone up?

    1. But who measures the size and scope of government simply by government spending alone? And a reduction in government spending does not necessarily increase liberty if the state is then unable to fulfill its proper role of preventing private and foreign coercion of US citizens (at home) and US-based property. So I’m not sure we disagree.

  8. Virtually every libertarian I know of measures purely by such metrics as government spending alone.

    Yes, if the State’s unable to fulfill its proper role, then liberty goes down, not up. Including, e.g., when its powers to surveil foreign terrorists when they’re in contact w/ US citizens, & other such “civil liberties violation” decried by libertarians in the standard litany of doom.

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