Democrats No Longer Supporters of Civil Liberties

Habeas corpus: Gone. FISA courts: here to stay. NDAA: still truckin’. Patriot Act: renewed. Let’s not forget to take your belt off at the airport either.

We talk about the economic cost of perpetual war, but what about the threat to our freedoms? In 2000, George W. Bush ran on a humble foreign policy. He argued we should not be the policeman of the world and that our liberties here at home were more important than nation building abroad. Then 9/11 happened and everyone forgot.

Well, almost everyone. There was still an irate minority that was strongly anti-war. There were also the civil libertarians like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich who, in the face of extreme public support, voiced strong opposition to the now infamous “Patriot Act.” The parrots on TV warned us of the Islamic extremists, and so we sacrificed liberty. A shoe bomber was caught at the airport, so we sacrificed liberty. Osama bin Laden said he would take down America, so we sacrificed more liberty.

Over the next ten years, Americans, including many of the politicians who wear nice flag lapel pins and declare the supremacy of our freedoms asked us to sacrifice them. Over and Over.

More sacrifice, the same excuse: you must sacrifice liberties for security. “We are at war with radicalism. Those that don’t understand our freedoms,” they pronounce. If only you give up your right to a fair trial, suspend the requirement for the government to get a warrant before listening to your conversations, or allow others to be detained without due process, you can be secure.

But at what point do we start to admit we aren’t really that free anymore? “I don’t have anything to worry about because I’m not doing anything wrong,” American voters seem to respond.

But with all the talks about the virtues of the Constitution, we ought to have a higher respect for the purpose of the Constitution. Never was it to protect criminals. The Constitution, including the right to a fair trial, the warrant requirement, and the right to due process was put in place to protect the People against a dictatorial government. The Bill of Rights was ratified to protect the innocent against wrongful prosecution.

So as we enter 2013, Obama is prepared to renew FISA and pass a new NDAA bill. Both bills renewed 10 years after we began the now unpopular war with Iraq. Both bills continue to be rationalized by the fear that, without them, we have no security.

But at what point do we recognized the reality that a suspending our liberties for security, after 10 years, is not a method of defense against those who “hate us because we are free,” but a sign of defeat?