Just before dinner on the night of May 26 2011, the United States Senate voted 72-23 to preserve the most audacious government surveillance and seizure powers of the Patriot Act. Groups like No Labels and Americans Elect which judge the value of policy by the bipartisan nature of their support should be happy with the Patriot Act: 41 Senate Republicans and 31 Senate Democrats voted in favor of the Patriot Act tonight. Opposition to the Patriot Act was more heavily Democratic: 18 Senate Democrats voted against the Patriot Act tonight, but only 4 Republican Democrats did. 1 Independent, the consistently anti-authoritarian Bernie Sanders of Vermont, also voted against the renewal of the Patriot Act.
|Democrats who Voted FOR the Patriot Act:
|Democrats who voted AGAINST the Patriot Act, May 26 2011
In the Bush era, most (but not all) Democrats could be counted on to vote against the Patriot Act as an act of resistance against George W. Bush’s administration. Now that Democrat Barack Obama is President, many (but not all) Democrats have shifted with facility into authoritarian positions. What lesson should we take from this? That liberal politicians cannot be trusted when it comes to the Patriot Act? I answer with a Firm NO. Senate Liberals are not to blame for the Patriot Act’s passage.
Let me justify that claim with a graph breaking down tonight’s Patriot Act vote among Democrats according to their net liberal score from our sister site, That’s My Congress. The net liberal score for each Senator so far in the 112th Congress ranges from -100 for a perfectly anti-liberal record in cosponsorship and voting to +100 for a perfectly pro-liberal record. The following graph is a frequency distribution to show how liberal the Democrats voting FOR the Patriot Act are (in green), and how liberal the Democrats voting AGAINST the Patriot Act are (in blue).
Although there is some overlap, the pattern is quite clear. None of the most liberal Democrats in the Senate voted for the Patriot Act tonight. All of the least liberal Democrats voted for the Patriot Act. Among the group in the middle of the distribution, the more liberal Senators were more likely to vote against the Patriot Act and the less liberal Senators were more likely to vote for the Patriot Act.
If you go by party alone, you won’t be able to understand how various groups within the Senate Democrats voted the way they did. It was the “No Labels” Democrats, the “Americans Elect” Democrats who kept the authoritarian policies of the Patriot Act for another four years. It was the Liberal Democrats, the pro-liberty Democrats who stuck by the spirit of the United States Constitution.
For liberty-minded people everywhere who’ve made it onto the phone list of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, it would be wise to say “no” to the nice man’s request for funds; While some of your donated funds might go to liberal Senators’ campaigns, much of your money would surely go to the authoritarian Patriot Act Democrats. For liberty-minded people who are inclined to consider voting Democratic in elections but are also inclined toward independent thought, it would be better to stop thinking of Democrats as a bloc. It may be wise to support the liberals in the bunch but to stay away from the authoritarian Democrats.
As for the odd media pieces you’ll see tomorrow proclaiming the bigness of opposition in the Senate by “tea party republicans” to the Patriot Act, well, that’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t match up with the pattern of reality. There were 4 Senate Republicans who voted against the Patriot Act. Just 4: Dean Heller, Mike Lee, Lisa Murkowski, and Rand Paul. Those four votes are appreciated, but they’re just four votes, and one of them was from Murkowski, who ran against the Tea Party in 2010. Big time Tea Party darlings Senators Kelly Ayotte, Scott Brown and Jim DeMint voted pro-authoritarian, pro-Patriot Act.