I have been astounded by the response of Democratic Party loyalists to writing by non-partisans across the country regarding Barack Obama and his support for the FISA Amendments Act.
(The FISA Amendments Act is, for those of you living in a cave, the bill passed into law with Obama’s help, the bill that Obama solemnly promised in the primaries he would filibuster against. This is the bill that gives a president’s administration nice, juicy periods of 67 days in which they can electronically spy on and physically search anyone, anywhere — without warrants, without justifications, and with the ability to keep whatever information is seized during those 67 days.)
On the one hand, these Democratic partisans will go on and on about what a strong candidate for president Barack Obama is, how formidable and impressive he is, how they have been waiting their whole lives if they’re young, or since Kennedy if they’re old, for someone who can lead and inspire the country so forcefully. With a swift flick of the wrist on the other hand, they explain that thanks to liberals raising their hands and criticizing Barack Obama for his support of this anti-constitutional, authoritarian bill, John McCain will sweep into the White House the November election and all of Obama’s hopes will be dashed. Yes, that’s right: now they’re saying that Obama is a great, strong candidate — so strong that any criticism of him will crumple his candidacy like a sheet of old, battered tinfoil.
The second cry from Democratic partisans rises from the vantage point of the enemy! “Now you know what those Republicans are going to do?”, whine the Democratic sheep. “They’re going to shoot Barack Obama down! And why? Because you writers have given the Republicans ammunition!” Calling Barack Obama’s support of the FISA Amendments Act “ammunition” is a tacit admission by the sheep that Obama’s pro-FAA stance is something to be ashamed of. But rather than noting the shame, they want to put the shame in some dark, hidden-away corner where… where what? Where the Republicans won’t find it? Oh come on, sheep: Obama cast a series of votes in the light of day. Did you think the Republican Party wouldn’t be able to find the votes, if only some liberal writers didn’t point them out? The elephants are not blind. Besides, the Republican Party cannot use Barack Obama’s votes supporting the FAA as “ammunition” — because every single member of the Republican Party in the Senate also voted for the bill!
The response of these Democratic Party sheep shows us what’s wrong with our democracy, and why authoritarian domestic spy legislation can pass through the House and Senate without so much as a “baaaaaa” from most corners of the Democratic Party caucus. The Democratic partisans don’t see democracy as a process in which citizens actively and thoughtfully participate, using their First Amendment rights to speak their piece, confident that the collective aggregation of civic discourse will elevate politics. Nope. The Democratic partisans see themselves as loyal herd animals, and see democracy as a process in which their job is to support the Party and talk up the Party’s candidates. In their eyes, people who can’t do that, or who can’t at least shut up and stay out of the way, are bad sheep. This is a view of citizens as subject. It makes perfect sense that people who see themselves as sheep wouldn’t object so much to the FISA Amendments Act. The new law, after all, would make us all into sheep: sheep who stand compliantly as they are sheared and tagged, sheep who raise their tails silently for the latest probe.
Remember what Benjamin Franklin said: “Make yourself a sheep and the wolves will eat you.”