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For my Progressive Friends…*

December 1, 2016

I did not support Donald Trump for president. I did not vote for him and I still wish he was not our president-elect (which you should most emphatically not understand to mean I wish Hillary was). Now, let’s move on.

Since the election on November 8th I have read and heard more dire predictions of the erosion of civil rights for one or more groups of people than I can count. They range from the insistence some law enforcement agencies will be slow to investigate crimes committed by one or racists/homophobes/xenophobes/misogynists all the way to the spectre of people being rounded up and forced into cattle cars and internment camps no less. Scary stuff, indeed. You’ll pardon me, I trust, if I’m a little dubious of your now loudly shouted concern for civil liberty. Here’s why.

Long before Barack Obama was elected president, a Republican president signed into law what was arguably the most savage attack on constitutionally guaranteed liberty the United States has seen in a very long time. I’m referring, of course, to that piece of legislative garbage euphemistically called the Patriot Act. Here’s the deal. You and the progressive politicians you helped elect were in a position to do something about it. The damn thing could have been destroyed either in one fell swoop or piece by piece. But that didn’t happen. Many of its most anti liberty provisions linger on thanks to multiple National Defense Authorization Acts. And now, now, you expect people to take seriously your concern for civil liberties? Where were you and those you elected when true constitutional conservatives, not neocons, and libertarians were looking for the support and the votes to end that travesty? You certainly weren’t protesting then. Allow me to suggest you were enjoying being in power and as a result individual liberty took second place to the group identity politics that got you there, Constitution be damned.

So, no, I don’t believe you really give a good tinker’s damn for the Constitution or the freedoms it guarantees.

*Note: to be followed by a companion piece

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  1. Sorry but you’re assessment is off. There is no comparison with regards to the dangers to our civil liberties between hard-working civil servants whose efforts to protect a nation after the worst attack on its soil but got too heavy-handed with its surveillance techniques with the dangerous rhetoric of a megalomaniac that will say or do anything to further his own brand regardless how reckless, hateful, or violence-inciting it may be and whose admirers admire him all the more for it. Sorry, dude. No way.

    • I’m not entirely sure who “they” are in your reply, so I’ll clarify my belief. The Patriot Act and its remnants in the NDAA are not mere examples of being “too heavy handed with its surveillance techniques.” Rather, those provisions stand in opposition to some of the fundamental freedom protecting principles contained in the Constitution, including pesky little things like due process. Further, as much as I dislike Donald Trump, I recognize he has been President-elect for only a few weeks and has yet to conclusively demonstrate the kind of job he might do. Progressives had years to overcome being merely “heavy handed” and consistently failed to do so, effectively endorsing the worst of the actions of the conservatives they so often opposed.

      • Where are you seeing the word “they” in my response?

        Anyway, the problem isn’t with the Patriot Act; the PA is a law that can be repealed or changed within all within the function of our democracy. And he problem isn’t with the politicians who wrote it or who voted for it or who didn’t vote for it or who didn’t repeal it. And the problem isn’t really even with the people who elected the politicians who wrote the PA, of which you despise. The problem is with a disinterested populace who could care less about the PA as long as they can play the latest game on their phone and drink their delicious latte.

        And none of that really is that much of a problem because it has been the general pattern all throughout our democratic history,

        What is the most pressing problem is a thin-skinned, jingoistic, megalomaniac who admires tyrants, torture, internment camps, and isolationism and a bunch of crazed supporters who admire him despite it all.

        You, distracted by the threats of a 15-year old Act that has yet to take away my right to petition my government or any other right that has affected my life in any noticeable way, may want to wait around to give Trump a chance. Not me. I’m going to be vocal about what I fear, based upon his words, he has the potential to do as president until he proves differently.

  2. Darn good question. I don’t really know what led me to believe you had used that pronoun. I think I was reading something on Quora and conflated the two discussions. Regardless, I misrepresented part of your argument and for that I do apologize. I tend to react pretty strongly when my arguments are misrepresented. You did not do that, so please accept my sincere compliments on your restraint.

    Yes, the Patriot Act and its remaining provisions can be repealed. It should be. It was a bad idea from its inception. And yet, it remains with us, protestations from progressive voters and politicians regarding their love of freedom notwithstanding (FWIW, I hear the same hollow cries from many at the other end of the political spectrum).

    Of course a disinterested populace is a problem. My point, which you’ve largely made for me, is that progressives, as part of the populace, evidenced their disinterest in protecting individual liberty by doing nothing when they could have arguably repealed the Act. Now, liberty is a big deal? This sudden passion for liberty rings more than a little hollow.

    Distracted? Hardly. I told everyone I thought would listen, and many who I knew would not, that Donald Trump is no more a friend to the Constitution than are Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. It was like talking to a wall. His supporters didn’t want to listen. Clinton and Bernie supporters were perfectly willing to listen as long as I didn’t question the commitment of their respective candidate to freedom and the Constitution.

    I have not, to the best of my knowledge, been more than inconvenienced by the PA. Perhaps you, who assert you’ve lost no rights as a result of the Act, have not even been inconvenienced. So what? Other people have been more than inconvenienced. I’m a white guy from the South. I was never even inconvenienced by the detestable remaining Jim Crow laws of the 1960s. Again, so what? There were certainly people who ran afoul of those laws and found themselves far more than inconvenienced. The test of a law’s relation to constitutional freedom is not simply whether you or I, or any other specific person, has been adversely affected by it. The test, I submit, is whether the law is consistent with the Constitution. The PA fails that test.

    Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps Trump will be everything bad some people are suggesting. Perhaps others are correct and he will be everything good. Of course, the far greater likelihood is that he will fall somewhere in between the two extremes. What we don’t know is exactly where he will fall along the good/bad spectrum. What I am convinced of is this: the current pandering to fear and anger by the left is as bad an idea as the pandering Trump and his opponents engaged in before the election (his opponents were, of course, much more subtle in their pandering). People seem to believe they can do this and then, at some point, put the genie back in the bottle. That is a foolish belief.

    NOTE: The PA has provided a handy example. I could just as easily focused on other legislation or trends to make the point.

    ANOTHER NOTE: I don’t know if your concerns regarding a Trump presidency run to cattle cars and internment camps or not. Clearly, I simply don’t see such things happening. That said, make no mistake. Should we go down that road, I will stand with you or anyone else who opposes them.

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