Two weeks ago, when the PRISM and Obama telephone surveillance scandal was just breaking, I suggested that Netroots Nation might be a good opportunity for Democrats to challenge their party’s leadership over their role in creating an electronic spying network so huge that it searches and seizes private data about the communications of practically every American every day of the year. I wrote, “Netroots Nation is an annual gathering of online activists who typically applaud Democratic Party politicians. We have discovered that Democratic Party politicians have joined with George W. Bush’s Republicans to body slam our online privacy, so it’s time for Netroots Nation to start talking back to the Democratic Party, don’t you think?”
Netroots Nation took place this weekend, and many attendees there grasped the historical moment and engaged in just the sort of talking back to Democratic politicians that I had hoped for. Most notably, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was repeatedly booed by the audience as she gave a speech justifying the National Security Agency’s systematic violation of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.
Why would progressives boo Nancy Pelosi? Well, try this on for size: Nancy Pelosi told the audience that when Barack Obama creates a titanic electronic spying network against Americans, it’s totally different than when George W. Bush does the same thing. “You should reject any notion that President Obama’s actions have anything to do with what President Bush was doing or was done,” Pelosi admonished the audience.
Did Pelosi think that the people in the Netroots Nation audience were idiots? Barack Obama’s policy of allowing military intelligence agents to listen in to Americans’ telephone calls, read our emails, and watch us as we surf the web is a direct outgrowth of George W. Bush’s policies. Anyone who has paid attention to the news over the last decade can see that.
Pelosi received more pushback when she unloaded another Democratic Party excuse: “The real problem is outsourcing our national security,” she said, saying that the real criminal is Edward Snowden, not the NSA. This is a top-down talking point created within the Democratic Party during the early days of the scandal. Bill Press, Ed Schultz, and other Democratic Party mouthpieces in the media have repeated it over and over again, trying to redirect angry Democratic activists into believing that it’s ok for the federal government to spy on our private communications, just so long as corporate outsourcing isn’t involved. It’s an insultingly crude rhetorical maneuver – and it’s sickening to see how many Democrats are willing to accept it.
Looking back at our the record, I can see that this isn’t the first time that Nancy Pelosi has spewed insulting garbage about Big Brother government spying at the audience of Netroots Nation. Back in 2008, Nancy Pelosi told Netroots Nation that the FISA Amendments Act she approved was a terrible, but necessary bill. The FISA Amendments Act, along with the Patriot Act, allowed for the creation and maintenance of the electronic surveillance system that America is currently suffering under.
Pelosi also, around the same time, promised that if only the Democrats were given 60 votes in the Senate, along with a majority in the House of Representatives, she would make sure that the FISA Amendments Act would be reformed. We all know what happened in the election of 2008. The Democrats got a veto-proof majority in the Senate. They got a huge majority in the House of Representatives. They got Barack Obama in the White House.
And then… then, did Nancy Pelosi keep her promise to reform the FISA Amendments Act? Hell, no. She didn’t do a damned thing. We now know that Nancy Pelosi was informed that Barack Obama was keeping the terrible Big Brother electronic surveillance policies of George W. Bush, and expanding them, to make them even worse.
Nancy Pelosi lied. She never had any intention of reforming the laws that have enabled the creation of a massive electronic surveillance system targeted against Americans.
The positions of both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party on civil liberties has been made very clear: Neither one of the major political parties is willing to take a stand to defend the Constitution from the Homeland Security regime.
Intelligent activism in American politics can therefore no longer be expressed in opposition to the Democratic Party from the Republican Party or in opposition to the Republican Party from the Democratic Party. Intelligent activists in the USA must now be opposed to both the Republicans and the Democrats.