Strategy: Wiretaps as a Wedge Issue

I am a new member here, and this is my first diary, which is a version of something that I posted a similar entry on Daily Kos a week or so ago.  It fell off the map rather quickly, and of those who did read it, few of them got my point.  Here it goes:

I am amazed when I talk with my conservative friends and family from Tennessee to find that many of them still support warrantless wiretapping.  This sets a dangerous precedent by ignoring the fourth amendment.  It is not unimaginable that in the near future, other parts of our Bill of Rights will be in danger as well.  Still, many people support the program stating that they have nothing to hide, and so no one but a "terrorist" should be afraid of the wiretaps.  I have found a way to discuss this with people I talk to that will help them see our concern, while simultaneously chipping away at the right-wing base:

Civil liberties enthusiasts such as myself tend to balk as soon as we sense the first, fourth or fifth amendments are in danger.  We disagree with warrantless surveillance on principle.  The problem is that Republican voters seem to not understand this.  I decided to give something a try, and it's worked for me, and I hope that if enough of us try this, it could get somewhere.  In an ideal world, we would have every one of our politicians using this strategy too.  Next time you're trying to talk with one of your Republican friends, try asking this question:

"By ignoring the fourth amendment, this administration is shooting holes in our Constitution.  What will you think if the second amendment is next?"

This is a surprisingly powerful question for a couple of reasons.  First, you don't need a particular stance on gun control to ask it, since the question is about your friend's opinion, not yours.  Second, if you know a conservative in the South (like my friends and family are), you know someone who is a valuable part of the Republican base.  If you change his or her mind, you're doing a lot.  By asking this question, you are doing more than just telling your friend why you're worried.  You're allowing your friend to get worried too.  It's a much more powerful feeling when they arrive at it themselves.

    By relating the danger of destroying the Bill of Rights to the second amendment in addition to the others, you are getting to the very heart of an important issue to many conservatives, without polarizing them against you.  This is a relation that unites Liberals and Conservatives:  we all care about the Bill of Rights, and the principle behind it.  

I proposed the following as an ideal question in the hearings about this issue:

"Mr. Gonzoles, thus far, you have failed to show that your spy-program is Constitutional. You haven't convinced me that I can trust this program, and it's obvious from your responses that you have something to hide. This will hurt the Bill of Rights: You're ignoring the Fourth Amendment, so I have to ask, what's next? The Second? The First? Many Americans feel that they have nothing to hide, so they would be okay with warranted wiretaps, but without a warrant, it is clearly not acceptable any more than suddenly rounding up people's firearms or closing the doors of churches. What do you have to say to that, Mr. Attorney General? Can you guarantee me right now that this bleeding dry of the Fourth Amendment won't carry over to the rest of the Bill of Rights?"

Such a question would come completely out of left field for anyone in the Republican agenda, and they would have to go off script to answer it.

Tags: Framing, General 2008, Media, strategy, wiretaps (all tags)




"By ignoring the fourth amendment, this administration is shooting holes in our Constitution.  What will you think if the second amendment is next?"


If the 4th Amendment is meaningless, can the 2nd Amendment be far behind?

by Michael Bersin 2006-02-22 11:31AM | 0 recs

Like I said, it works on my conservative friends.  Try it out and let me know how it works for you.

by cather 2006-02-22 11:52AM | 0 recs
A Controversial Strategy

to be sure... but some the netroots community has been able to assert itself as a presence in the past.  If we could present this issue in a timely manner, it isn't impossible for it to raise some eyebrows.  I have Republican family members, and this has worked on some of them.  

by cather 2006-02-22 11:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Strategy: Wiretaps as a Wedge Issue

Won't work. As soon as you start talking about the Constitution being in danger, they say that the President has the authority as commander in chief, and that you're an extremist member of the loony left (with a Michael Moore reference). Then they accuse you of playing politics with national security. Finally, the reassert the importance of protecting us from terrorists, regardless of what the politicans think.

Your argument may work with individuals, but we can't use it nationwide in the debate. Wiretaps is a wedge issue, but not for us. The GOP is kicking our ass on this, not because they're right, but because they're better at this.

by bluenc 2006-02-22 04:49PM | 0 recs
Thanks for the comment

You would be right for anything but the second amendment, I think.  The power of this tactic would be its distance from the "loony left".  I don't see how the GOP noise machine (even as well as it works) could paint gun owners as the loony left.  

You are probably right that we can't pull it off at this stage of the game, because the GOP is better than us at propaganda.  In that regard, it's purely an academic exercise, but one that I think is important-- even if we only talk to individual people about this.  Even small steps forward are better than being stagnant.  


by cather 2006-02-23 06:39AM | 0 recs


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