MATT TAIBBI’S Democrats Have Abandoned Civil Liberties. First:
Emmet G. Sullivan, the judge in the case of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, is refusing to let William Barr’s Justice Department drop the charge. He’s even thinking of adding more, appointing a retired judge to ask “whether the Court should issue an Order to Show Cause why Mr. Flynn should not be held in criminal contempt for perjury.”
Pundits are cheering. A trio of former law enforcement and judicial officials saluted Sullivan in the Washington Post, chirping, “The Flynn case isn’t over until a judge says it’s over.” Yuppie icon Jeffrey Toobin of CNN and the New Yorker, one of the #Resistance crowd’s favored legal authorities, described Sullivan’s appointment of Judge John Gleeson as “brilliant.” MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner said Americans owe Sullivan a “debt of gratitude.”
One had to search far and wide to find a non-conservative legal analyst willing to say the obvious, i.e. that Sullivan’s decision was the kind of thing one would expect from a judge in Belarus.
Dems never minded the U.S. being like Belarus, so long as they were in charge, or felt like they were.
I can understand not caring about the plight of Michael Flynn, but cases like this have turned erstwhile liberals – people who just a decade ago were marching in the streets over the civil liberties implications of Cheney’s War on Terror apparatus – into defenders of the spy state. Politicians and pundits across the last four years have rolled their eyes at attorney-client privilege, the presumption of innocence, the right to face one’s accuser, the right to counsel and a host of other issues, regularly denouncing civil rights worries as red-herring excuses for Trumpism.
I’ve written a lot about the Democrats’ record on civil liberties issues in the past. Working on I Can’t Breathe, a book about the Eric Garner case, I was stunned to learn the central role Mario Cuomo played in the mass incarceration problem, while Democrats also often embraced hyper-intrusive “stop and frisk” or “broken windows” enforcement strategies, usually by touting terms like “community policing” that sounded nice to white voters. Democrats strongly supported the PATRIOT Act in 2001, and Barack Obama continued or expanded Bush-Cheney programs like drone assassination, rendition, and warrantless surveillance, while also using the Espionage Act to bully reporters and whistleblowers. . . .
Democrats clearly believe constituents will forgive them for abandoning constitutional principles, so long as the targets of official inquiry are figures like Flynn or Paul Manafort or Trump himself. In the process, they’ve raised a generation of followers whose contempt for civil liberties is now genuine-to-permanent. Blue-staters have gone from dismissing constitutional concerns as Trumpian ruse to sneering at them, in the manner of French aristocrats, as evidence of proletarian mental defect.
Nowhere has this been more evident than in the response to the Covid-19 crisis, where the almost mandatory take of pundits is that any protest of lockdown measures is troglodyte death wish. The aftereffects of years of Russiagate/Trump coverage are seen everywhere: press outlets reflexively associate complaints of government overreach with Trump, treason, and racism, and conversely radiate a creepily gleeful tone when describing aggressive emergency measures and the problems some “dumb” Americans have had accepting them.
On the campaign trail in 2016, I watched Democrats hand Trump the economic populism argument by dismissing all complaints about the failures of neoliberal economics. This mistake was later compounded by years of propaganda arguing that “economic insecurity” was just a Trojan Horse term for racism. These takes, along with the absurd kneecapping of the Bernie Sanders movement, have allowed Trump to position himself as a working-class hero, the sole voice of a squeezed underclass.
The same mistake is now being made with civil liberties. Millions have lost their jobs and businesses by government fiat, there’s a clamor for censorship and contact tracing programs that could have serious long-term consequences, yet voters only hear Trump making occasional remarks about freedom; Democrats treat it like it’s a word that should be banned by Facebook (a recent Washington Post headline put the term in quotation marks, as if one should be gloved to touch it). Has the Trump era really damaged our thinking to this degree?
Yes, for some values of “our.” (Bumped).