On Democrats and Civil Liberties

I’m still thinking through the implications of the turn to Hansen’s secular stagnation thesis and I plan to get back to it this weekend when I’ve had some time to ponder a few issues.

For today however, I’m going to switch tracks a little bit to talk about Democrats, Republicans, gun control, civil liberties and voting patterns. Let me throw in a disclaimer about me and guns: I’m not fond of guns, I don’t own a gun and I think there is a case to be made for some sensible gun safety laws. That said, I’m not anti-second amendment and I don’t think our problems will be solved by a “war on guns”. But there are 9 other amendments in the original Bill of Rights and a few important ones since that seem to get lost in discussions of whether or not the Constitution guarantees me the right to walk into Chipotle with an Uzi on my shoulder.

More to the point, as a hard core, near absolutist civil libertarian (not a capital L Libertarian), I’ve often found myself in disagreement with liberals and Democrats on some issues, but much more so with conservatives and Republicans. So I’ve wondered, how do Republicans get to wear the mantle of “defending the Constitution” even as a Republican appointed dominated Court seems content to dismantle important civil liberties protections.

This editorial From Investor’s Business Daily ,”Democrats attack three of the 10 Amendments in the Bill of Rights” which I came across rather randomly got me thinking a bit though. My first response was “here we go again”; yet another silly right wing attack on Liberals. Alas, upon reading, I had to conclude that the article actually made a couple of points, though I’m a little suspicious of the underlying commitment to Civil Liberties . To the author’s credit the editorial linked to   Glenn Greenwald’s  comments on some similar issues.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you couldn’t help but notice that the  House Democrats staged a sit in to attempt to force a vote on a gun control measure. Most of my fellow Democrats were enthused. But what I didn’t hear a lot about was the provision in the bill to deny anyone on the no fly list the right to buy a gun. At first, this seems like a no brainer: we don’t want violent extremists of an persuasion to be able to just go out and buy a gun and kill 50 people. No doubt, some of the people on the no fly list deserve to be on that list and are dangerous. But no one knows how you get on that list and how you get off. So given (whether you agree or not) that the Supreme Court says there is a Constitutional right to own a gun, if you deny that right by virtue of being on a no fly list, you are in fact denying due process. Fair enough: the editorial is actually right on this.

Now here’s my beef. Why are conservative Republican congressmen and women now all of a sudden up in arms about the no fly list? I agree entirely and completely with Glenn Greenwald that the Democrats have more than caved on the erosion of civil liberties we’ve faced in the name of the “War on Terror”: the Party as an organization (not individual Democrats and Liberals) has outright embraced it enthusiastically. But unless I missed something, I haven’t seen any efforts by the Republican House Majority to reign in the National Security State. To the contrary. You can rest assured that if you come out and challenge it there is a hard core cadre of conservatives out there to accuse you of endangering the  country’s security.

From there however, the editorial slid into the typical Liberal bashing I anticipated citing a few quotes out of context to try and prove that the Democrats want to abolish the Second Amendment.

And then it slid downhill to attack the Democrats for trying to impose limits on campaign contributions. This is only an attack on the First Amendment if you believe money really equals speech and if you believe the Fourteenth Amendment was not about protecting the rights of freed slaves but insuring that corporations that were being victimized by State and Federal Governments would get equal protection?

From there the editorial went on to make valid points about efforts to limit “hate speech”. But this does not step many conservatives from trying to enact laws to limit speech that they deem to be “unpatriotic”. And at the same time, there are a lot liberals who have oppose hate speech laws. Still, the perception that we are awash in political correctness run amok seems to be a rallying cry for at least some Trump voters.

So let’s get real: neither party is really serious about protecting our civil liberties. But when I look at the voting records of Supreme Court Justices on important cases such as Utah v. Strieff, it seems that  the so called liberals on the Court, though far from perfect,  are more likely to actually defend Civil Liberties. And this was very clear in Sotomayor’s recent opinion.

As it turns out, I’m not so enthusiastic about the Democrats’s sit in though I still don’t understand why the Republicans couldn’t bring it to the floor and offer an amendment.

I find the prospect of a Trump Presidency to be beyond terrifying yet the more I see of Hillary, the less I like, especially if Civil Liberties are an important benchmark.

So where does a voter like me go if Civil Liberties is an important determinant of my vote?

The critical determinant, I think is,  if you want to defend Civil Liberties do you want more Justices like Soto Mayor or more like Roberts?

I want more Justices like Sotomayor.





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