I’m both a progressive and Obama supporter, so it goes without saying that I’m deeply disappointed with his reversal on the FISA issue. But the mere fact that Sen. Obama felt it both safe, and necessary, to moonwalk this issue after stating unequivocally that “I am proud to stand with Senator Dodd, Senator Feingold and a grassroots movement of Americans who are refusing to let President Bush put protections for special interests ahead of our security and our liberty”, says just as much about what we’ve allowed our political process to become, as it does about Sen. Obama’s inability to stand firm on the convictions that he said he was so proud to embrace.
I am vehemently opposed to any politician giving political expedience priority over principle, so while I don’t excuse Obama for his lack of backbone, I do understand why he reversed himself on this issue. The fact is, we’ve become so apathetic, lazy-minded, and uninformed as an electorate that even when a politician wants to be guided by principle, he has to rely on deceit just to navigate our stupidity. If Obama had voted against FISA, the Republican spin machine would have played on our ignorance to convince us that “he doesn’t love America.” They would have neglected to tell us that passing FISA was one step away from giving the government the right to go through our home and papers while we’re at work, without a warrant, and then possibly arresting us on what they found, thereafter. They would have simply accused Obama of being soft on terrorism, and we would have bought it—just as we bought into Bush’s claim that the best way to catch Osama Bin Laden was to go to Iraq and seize the oil, even though Osama was living quite comfortably in Afghanistan.
If we’d been an informed electorate, it would have been perfectly clear to us that Bush didn’t care about 9/11, or the Americans who were killed. All Bush and Cheney cared about was the oil, and the political advantage they would gain by seeming to fight for American interests as they stole that oil. And the irony is, as it turned out, they didn’t even have to take the oil, all they had to do was disrupt the flow, and that allowed them to rob both America and Iraq, with our empty-minded blessing. Think about it—our young people are dying—at least, the poor and middle class—the nation is in the grip of what is rapidly sliding into a depression, and who’s the only ones living high on the hog? That’s right, the oil companies-making record profits. And who’s leading this nation? Right again, oil men. How dumb do we have to be not to be able to connect the dots?
But we placed ourselves in this situation—with gas rapidly approaching five dollars a gallon, as we lose our homes, our parents unable to afford the drugs that keep them alive, and our tax dollars going towards propping up Wall Street millionaires—by becoming so enamored with politicians that we began to see them as leaders, and superstars, instead of what they are meant to be-our employees.
We find ourselves in this condition due to the blind devotion of Bush supporters, and the Democratic Party doing exactly what they did on FISA-caving in. And now, Obama supporters are doing the very same thing—allowing the tail to wag the dog, by assuming that he has more sense than we do.
Immediately after the FISA debacle, one of the most intelligent men I know called me with a long, drawn-out scenario on how Obama intends to outsmart the Bush administration by voting for FISA. It took him twenty minutes to lay it out, and it was as convoluted as a pre-Copernican description of the solar system. When he was done I suggested that I had a much better explanation, and a much shorter one—the brother caved-in.
Instead of wasting out time trying to make excuses for these politicians, we need to be spending it letting them know that we’re not going to tolerate them putting their own political careers ahead of what’s in the best interest of the country. We need to help this brother to understand, right now-before he gets into office—that we’re not interested in a superstar. We intend to elect an employee—and we expect him to act like one. If we say, vote no—dammit, we mean, NO! If he wants to think, he can use his intellect to figure out how best to carry out our instructions. But when it comes to issues that the people have come to a consensus on, we want him to act like he’s sitting on our knee with our hand in his back. That’s the way the founding fathers intended this country to be run. They were quite specific—they said, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Period. They didn’t say nothing about acting in a politician’s best interest.
Obama moonwalked this issue because he’s more afraid of the opposition than he is his base—and the reason for that is that we’ve already shown that we don’t have a backbone either, by not throwing Nancy Pelosi out of office when she refused to initiate impeachment hearings on Bush. If we had, I guarantee you that Obama wouldn’t have voted the way he did.
What Democrats are failing to recognize is by always legislating with an eye on not angering the Republicans, all we’re going to get is Republican legislation. Republican politicians know better than to cross their base, because Republicans will vote them out in a heartbeat. It’s about loyalty—Republican politicians do what they’re told, and their base shows up to vote. That’s why they win elections, and that’s why the nation is constantly moving to the right.
On the other hand, Obama thought that he had to moonwalk the FISA issue because he was afraid that if he didn’t, Republicans would be able to convince the American people that he’s too weak to face our enemies. But what Democrats fail to realize, is voting to preserve the Constitution doesn’t make you weak. The primary reason that the American people see Democrats as weak, is because they lack the backbone to defend their own principles. The American people are absolutely justified in wondering if Democrats can be trusted to face up to our enemies—if they can’t even stand up to the Republicans, how can we possibly trust them to stand up to a terrorist attack?
We have a situation where progressives are supporting politicians who have little faith in either their supporters, or the legitimacy of the progressive agenda. Evidence of that is, in spite of the fact that there’s been a thunderous clamor among progressives that Bush be brought up for impeachment, Bush’s job approval is at 28 percent, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich spent over five hours listing 35 articles of impeachment against the Bush/Cheney administration, the Democratic congress has been more effective than Bush’s own lawyers in seeing to it that this very important issue is buried in committee. And now, even though this is one of the most unpopular presidents in the history of this nation, he still had enough strength to cower this Democratic congress into acting as an accomplice in covering up a gross violation of the fourth amendment of the United States Constitution.
The problem is, progressives have been so apathetic and lax in their vigilance for so long, that we’re no longer electing statesman. We’re electing politicians to office whose only concern is their own political careers. We’ve got to change that immediately, or risk creating a political class that sees us as totally insignificant—if it’s not already too late.
“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
Eric L. Wattree
Eric L. Wattree, Sr. can be reached at email@example.com.