Apparently yesterday we got a shiny new re-authorization of warrant-less wiretapping. I agree with Drum’s take:
Glenn [Greenwald] thinks that liberals have largely given up criticizing this stuff because we now have a Democratic president in the White House rather than George W. Bush, and I suppose that’s part of it. But a bigger part, I think, is simply that it’s all become so institutionalized. Back in 2004 and 2006, we were outraged because this was all so new. Today, after fighting and losing, it’s just part of our brave new world, along with 3-ounce bottles on airplanes, unreviewable no-fly lists, and cops who demand to know what you’re up to if you start taking pictures in public places.
As a country, we’re now divided into two parts: those who aggressively support things like warrantless wiretapping because they’re consumed with fear, and those who don’t but have given up trying to fight about it. There’s hardly anyone left still willing to tilt at this particular windmill. It’s sad as hell.
Yep, that sounds about right to me. A lot of people cry “hypocrisy!” over this because, in their view, liberals only ever cared about this issue insofar as it was politically expedient to use it as a cudgel against Bush but now that our guy is in the West Wing it is politically expedient to ignore it. Maybe that’s at least partially right but I entirely agree that the bigger issue is that it’s just the new normal.
My reasoning for thinking this is simple: liberals just plain suck at the whole “rally ’round the flag” thing that conservatives are so good at. Anyone who paid even passing attention to political commentary in 2012 should have noted this. As an example, take Barack Obama’s performance in the first presidential debate. It was widely regarded as horrible, and the left wing pundits were tripping all over themselves to scream their heads off about what a disaster it was and how terribly Obama performed and ITS GAME OVER, MAN! I’m pretty sure Andrew Sullivan was on suicide watch.
But can you imagine the conservative response had the tables been turned, and it was Mitt Romney who performed poorly? They would have been lining up to explain why actually he did wonderfully and Barack Obama is a pushy, un-presidential asshole for treating the kindly, good-hearted Mitt the way he did and anyone who says otherwise is all just part of the liberal media Chicago establishment anyway so who cares. Every. Single. Pundit. These guys get their marching orders and off they go. Kevin Drum calls it the hack gap because liberals, for better or worse, just suck at it. They just can’t pull off that kind of united front.
So the idea that we’ve all just decided to drop an issue that was once so important out of political expediency just isn’t a good enough explanation. I do think its an important issue and liberals really should keep fighting on it, and I’m sure the Greenwald cynicism is a part of it, but a much, much smaller part. Liberals are by no means blameless here, but I just don’t buy it, not completely.
And on that note, that’ll do it for 2012. Happy new year, everyone! Posting should resume sometime next week, provided we survive the fiscalcliffpocalypsemageddon.