A Majority of One

These days, it is hard to come across things that actually renew your faith in democracy. However, Senator Feingold transforming from a minority of one against the Patriot Act four years ago into the leader of a viable opposition to the Patriot Act more than does the trick for me:He was a minority of one four years ago, when the Wisconsin Democrat cast the lone Senate vote against the USA Patriot Act in the traumatic weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. The law, he said then, gave government too much power to investigate its citizens. Ninety-nine senators disagreed.

Now add more than two dozen senators to Feingold's side, including the leaders of his party and some of the chamber's most conservative Republicans, and the balance of power shifts.

The new Senate arithmetic that emerged this week is enough to place the renewal of major portions of the law in doubt. It was enough to inspire Senate Republican leaders to consider a backup plan in case Feingold's filibuster threat succeeded. Enough to prompt President Bush to dispatch Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to Capitol Hill twice in two days to lobby on the accord's behalf.

No luck so far, said the chief Senate sponsor.

"We've got a battle on our hands," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., told reporters after Gonzales had departed Wednesday.

What particularly amazes me about his story is how the opponent to the Patriot Act are portrayed as extremists of both the left and the right, while Arlen Specter, he of the vaunted "moderate" status, is leading the charge to pass the Patriot Act. The entire episode makes me wonder just how much being labeled a "moderate" by the press, which is the surest path to electoral success for either a Republican or a Democrat, actually means "sucking up to the powers that be." I do not believe that any serious intellectual argument can be made on behalf of the Patriot Act. It is a type of nihilistic law that doesn't believe in anything except maintaining the status quo. It is the sort of law that is only justified by believing that "well, we got burned one time, so we should restrict our civil liberties," as though our values are meaningful only in so far as they justify whatever way we are living at any given point in time. It is the sort of pathetic law that every newspaper in the country supports when it endorses every incumbent on the planet. It is the sort of Orwellian law that by its name alone urges the public to go along with whatever those in power say the public should go along with. It is exactly the sort of crap hat led the Cincinnati Enquirer to endorse Jean Schimdt when 90% of the country that was paying attention to the race wanted Paul Hackett to win, but the local powers that be existed only to enforce the status quo thought otherwise, simply to protect themselves.

There is utterly no justification for the Patriot Act other than saying that our freedom was the cause of the attacks on 9/11. If anyone ever wanted to know why the filibuster should be defended, this is it. The filibuster protects minority rights, which in this case happen to be the rights of all Americans. In the future, I hope that at least a few Senators learn that lesson from the story of this bill.

A big kudos goes out to "extremists" of both parties tonight. Dissent has been validated in Washington.

Tags: Ideology (all tags)

Comments

4 Comments

hell yeah
I like mad Chris.
by Matt Stoller 2005-12-15 08:29PM | 0 recs
"centrist" often translates
in the press to "status quo ante" -- which is of course where the powers are.  So yeah, I think that sucking up to the powers that be is a fine definition of centrist.

This is especially noted by us liberals because the "center," or the prevailing position, is now very far to the right.  It's been moving rightward for 25 years or so, almost imperceptibly, and is now getting to the point where (to quote Moyers), "the delusional is no longer marginal."

by Marc in KS 2005-12-16 02:14AM | 0 recs
Re: "centrist" often translates
Chris's point is a bit more subtle, he's saying the left-right-center axis itself is broken as a schema because it has been corrupted.
by Matt Stoller 2005-12-16 03:20AM | 0 recs
Re: "centrist" often translates
http://billmoyersforpresident.org
by Cookie Man 2005-12-16 11:52AM | 0 recs

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