There’s a lot of discussion going on now in liberal circles about a new Washington Post poll which shows that not just Democrats, but liberal Democrats support for President Obama’s policy of using drones to assassinate American citizens without warrant or judicial oversight, as well as support for his continued use of Guantanamo Bay. Greg Sargent has more on it.
Not surprisingly, Glenn Greenwald has strong opinions about what this means. But I think the thing that’s most relevant is this:
I’ve often made the case that one of the most consequential aspects of the Obama legacy is that he has transformed what was once known as “right-wing shredding of the Constitution” into bipartisan consensus, and this is exactly what I mean. When one of the two major parties supports a certain policy and the other party pretends to oppose it — as happened with these radical War on Terror policies during the Bush years — then public opinion is divisive on the question, sharply split. But once the policy becomes the hallmark of both political parties, then public opinion becomes robust in support of it. That’s because people assume that if both political parties support a certain policy that it must be wise, and because policies that enjoy the status of bipartisan consensus are removed from the realm of mainstream challenge. That’s what Barack Obama has done to these Bush/Cheney policies: he has, as Jack Goldsmith predicted he would back in 2009, shielded and entrenched them as standard U.S. policy for at least a generation, and (by leading his supporters to embrace these policies as their own) has done so with far more success than any GOP President ever could have dreamed of achieving.
This is a problem that is quite literally Constitution destroying. Political consensus across parties on what was once considered a controversial issue means that the public has no opportunity to see contrast on the issue because there is none. This leveling-down of the differences between the two parties on a fundamental constitutional issue means that other than a handful of critics like Greenwald or the rare ideologically committed politicians, like Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul, there is essentially no dissent against these policies. Worse, what little dissent there is has been pushed outside the mainstream, making it something that the public has little opportunity to consider.
The poll numbers certainly look bad, but they are most likely a reflection of the combined absence of political leaders showing opposition to these policies and the presence of a Democratic President who both supports and has expanded on his Republican predecessor’s policies.