Nobody with interest in civil liberties issues could judge the successive administrations over the past decade to have done anything other than curtail freedoms and expand the power of the state to intrude on the personal lives of American citizens.
Indeed, the bipartisan Patriot Act which gave government official unfettered access to individuals’ library records, introduced wire tapping as a standard feature of US policing and dramatically expanded the scope of the surveillance society, passed the Senate by a 99 vote to 1 margin. Russ Feingold, the sole Senator to cast a vote against the act is almost certain to be defeated in his quest for a fourth term if present polls are to be believed.
While the incumbent Democratic Party is likely retain control of the Senate in the November 2nd election, polling suggests it is increasingly likely that the Republicans will make significant gains in the House of Representatives.
Outlining its policies for the upcoming election, the Republicans have published a document entitled a ‘Pledge to America’ outlining their proposed approach to governance. From a civil liberties perspective, it’s heavier on platitudes than it is on policies.
The document begins encouragingly, declaring that “government’s powers are derived from the consent of the governed “and “that each of us is endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights to life and liberty”.
This, however, is as far as the discussion of issues of personal – rather than financial – freedom go. There's no mention of rolling back the "sneak and peek" laws (which arguably violate the US Constitution), no loosening of the party's opposition to ensuring 'Miranda rights' for all criminal suspects are respected and no end to racial profiling laws such as those currently operated in Arizona.
It is striking, considering the impact the Tea Party movement's message of personal financial freedom has had on the party to note how minimal a cache the party places on such issues at present.
If, as many predict, the Republicans do take control of the House of Representatives they might be expected to cut the size of the state –but it’s doubtful they’ll cut the power of the state.
Read the ‘Pledge to America’ here.
By Daniel Hamilton