Winning on the Constitution

Democrat Bill Foster won a special election in the 14th congressional  district of Illinois, Dennis Hastert’s old district. One of the key aspects of Foster’s campaign against Republican Jim Oberweis that was encouraging was that Foster took a very strong stance in favor of the Constitution and against retroactive immunity. In a statement to Matt Stoller of Open Left, Foster said:

The President and his allies in Congress are playing politics with national security, and that’s wrong.  Nobody is above the law and telecom companies who engaged in illegal surveillance should be held accountable, not given retroactive immunity.  I flatly oppose giving these companies an out for cooperating with Alberto Gonzalez on short-circuiting the FISA courts and the rule of law.

The campaign was much more about Iraq than the Constitution, but the lesson is clear. Glenn Greenwald notes:

The lesson here is unavoidably clear. There is not, and there never has been, any substantial constituency in America clamoring for telecom amnesty or warrantless eavesdropping powers. The only factions that want that are found in the White House, the General Counsel’s office of AT&T and Verizon, and the keyboards of woefully out-of-touch Beltway establishment spokesmen such as Fred Hiatt, David Ignatius and Joe Klein. If/when the Democratic Congress vests in the President vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers and grants amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, it won’t be because doing so is politically necessary.

Principled stands are politically effective, on any issue, in any district. Olberweis used tired attacks on Foster’s patriotism and peddled the false notion that Democrats are stabbing the troops in the back by wanting to end the Iraq war. Sorry guys, dolchstosslegende and shredding the Constitution just isn’t going to resonate with voters this year.

2 thoughts on “Winning on the Constitution

  1. It’s crazy how out of touch many Members of Congress are with what their constituents think about government surveillance and information-gathering practices; about retroactive immunity for telecoms, ISPs, and other service providers; and about security and liberty matters generally. Those Members who keep running scared of being called soft on terror mainly have their own careers in mind and aren’t motivated to do much sampling of constituent opinion. Not that constituent opinion should be the only consideration when deciding upon their positions—there’s the Constitution they’re sworn to uphold.


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