Throughout my lifetime, Democrats have ideologically defended civil liberties and have raised opposition to the power of the state interfering in the lives of Americans. Groups like the ACLU have consistently defended Constitutional rights of Americans to protest and engage in free assembly and to be free of government intrusion. Of course, their concern for religious freedom has often been muted because of their own biases, but overall, they have supported liberty. This has also applied to American military involvement and the Constitutional rights of even convicted criminals. Liberals were not always consistent in the application of these rights, but they could be counted on to at least raise of fuss if they sense any kind of Executive overreach.
Those days are gone, at least for now.
Senator Rand Paul in his filibuster last night on the potential use of Drones on U.S. soil against U.S. citizens who are not engaging in active attack against the United States exposed the ideological collapse of the Democratic Party when it comes to the Constitution and the basic rights of citizens. Democrats used to be counted on to oppose abuse of power, at least to a degree.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a trial for an accused person: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
The basic idea here is that if someone is suspected of engaging in illegal activity, they should be arrested and indicted and face a fair trial. Of course, if someone is actively attacking someone else or is an immediate threat, then they can be stopped with deadly force. But, that is not what Rand Paul was opposing. He was opposing the idea that a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil could be taken out with a Drone strike (or perhaps a sniper or a any other attack) without an attempt at arrest and due process. He tried to get some kind of affirmation from President Obama's administration that that would not happen and was relatively unsuccessful.
Here is the larger issue: Democrats have completely capitulated to a desire for power and have abandoned any defense of liberty that used to motivate them. What is exposed here is a callous disregard for the Constitution and the rights of the people to protect them against the abuse of government. They have done this because they trust themselves and President Obama to wield this power ethically. Ok. Fair enough. Perhaps he will. We tend to trust ourselves and our friends. But, how would they feel if a Republican were pushing for these kinds of powers on U.S. soil? How did they feel about Bush's use of Gitmo and waterboarding? Of almost anything that he did? What about the next president? Can he be trusted to do the right thing?
Replace Obama with Bush or a future Republican and ask what the reaction from Democrats would be? My guess is that they would vehemently oppose what is being promoted and what is possible the same way that Rand Paul is. Actually, I am sure of it. And, that hypocrisy demonstrates the complete ideological collapse of the Democratic Party on the issue of civil liberties and it shows that they have now sacrificed principle for power. When that kind of exchange takes place, the person/party has nothing left to offer anyone but a call to "trust me" and a grasping for even more power.
The real reason that Republicans and Democrats can no longer work together is because neither party really believes in anything other than their own self promotion and grasping of power to use as they see fit. There are no longer any "truths" that are worth defending or fighting for that transcend political expediency. Take any calls for Medicare/Social Security reform. There is no political will to do that because it might cause whoever proposes it to lose power as people wanting those benefits now to turn against them in the short term. But, true concern for senior citizens would cause someone to try and save the system for the long term instead of letting it collapse under is own weight.
Or, consider reform in social and Welfare programs. True concern for the poor would look at some of the systemic causes of poverty and would be willing to consider if government dependence over generations is actually doing more harm than good and is actually trapping people in poverty. So, reform of the system could be considered to actually be a help to people over the long term by helping move them to self-sufficiency and into wealth creation. That would show true concern and care about the poor. But, we see people on both sides defending a system that perpetuates the problem instead of actually addressing the problem.
One might also consider U.S. foreign policy and the use of military force around the world. An interventionist policy that seeks to remake the world in America's image and according to America's goals seems to guide the use of the American military. It also leads us into endless war all over the world. Some want to cut the military but do not want to address the goals of U.S. foreign policy. Is this policy sustainable? Can we continue to carry it out? What about the cost? Because we don't have any real guiding ideology that is thought out, we end up grasping at power and control instead of considering the long-term effects and how we can pay for it. The truth is that we are over $16 Trillion in debt and that debt will reach $20 Trillion by the end of Obama's second term. Clearly this course is not sustainable, but we cannot discuss any alternatives because too many will lose power if they cut anything. We greatly fear not being able to control everything but is our continued control sustainable long term? Something has got to give.
The Drone debate is one that should be a bipartisan affirmation of the rights of Americans while seeking real, Constitutional solutions to our security challenges. But, we don't have those discussions anymore because every player is just jockeying for power over and against the other. If a Republican is the Oval Office, conservatives defend everything he does and liberals attack everything he does. If a Democrat is in office, the sides switch. There is no allegiance to truth - only to power and who holds it.
Much has been written about the weakness and ineffectiveness of the Republican Party over the past few years culminating in Obama's defeat of Romney in November, and there is merit in that argument. But, the Democratic Party is just as intellectually bankrupt and this episode proves it. They have power right now and they have come together to secure it and promote it further. That is it. That's all. Liberals in the 1980's would have opposed the current erosion of Constitutional rights that is taking place right now. But, that defense of civil liberty has taken a backseat to holding on to power and grasping after more of it. They are proving what their main goal is and this power grab will be their ultimate undoing.
This debate is another example of what the erosion of transcendent truth has brought to America. We cannot have consistent discussions anymore. We cannot come to agreement or even understand our disagreements because there is no consistency regarding what people really believe. Our beliefs change according to what we think benefits us in the moment and helps to enhance our position - they do not reflect any sense of what we think is "right." Look at the mainstream media reaction to Paul's filibuster. It is either ignored or it was largely mocked.
The Bible talks about this state of affairs in Isaiah 59 when it says, "So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. (Isaiah 59:14 NIV).
A people who cannot agree on who can be killed or attacked or whether or not a trial is available to them or whether a noncombatant is innocent until proven guilty is a people that can no longer discern right from wrong. That is where we are. That is where Democrats are. It is also where a large number of Republicans are.
The Moral Collapse of America affects everything.