In a forceful diary against the whistleblowing of Edward Snowden and the journalism of Glenn Greenwald, WinSmith argues (emphasis in original):
Liberals are supposed to believe in government. We believe that government, with proper checks and balances, can do amazing good. That doesn't excuse the abuses of the Patriot Act. It doesn't excuse spying without warrants. But, philosophically, we are not the party that wants to burn down the government to set it "Free."That's a valid point, but here's the problem: The United States government is moving in a direction of doing more harm than good. Food stamps are being cut, student loan interest rates are being increased, the military is wasting money in occupied territories overseas. And as if these misplaced priorities weren't bad enough, we find out that the NSA has been secretly violating the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution by collecting the private communications data of every American, destroying trust in the U.S. government around the world and opening up tremendous potential for abuse.
As for checks and balances, we have learned that the FISA court that has been rubber-stamping the surveillance of all Americans is appointed entirely by one man, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts. Literally, our nation's policies about what the NSA can or cannot do have been determined in secret by the political views of a single individual, who himself was not even elected to office.
I would like to believe in government. Believe me, I really would. But I'm finding it harder these days. I would like to be able to proudly proclaim, like WinSmith, that "I stand with Barack Obama. I stand with Nancy Pelosi." I would like to be able to embrace the Democratic Party's embrace of a government that is supposedly so squeaky-clean that it can spy on all Americans and yet do no wrong.
Instead, I'm feeling a bit like Elder Price in "The Book of Mormon" musical, who has to desperately try to convince himself to keep believing in the Church and its often ridiculous teachings: "You cannot just believe part-way. You have to believe in it all."
Liberalism is the belief in the potential of government to do good. When the government isn't living up to its potential, it needs to be fixed. Instead of trying to persuade ourselves that there aren't grave problems with the current actions and direction of the U.S. government, liberals should be at the forefront of trying to fix it.
The question that many liberals are starting to ask is: Can the American government be fixed, or is it beyond repair? Has this government been thoroughly captured by corporate interests -- the military and security contracting industries, the big banks, and so forth -- that it is now a democracy in name only?
Welcome to the new debate on the left. Can we have good government in the United States at the national level -- a federal government that does more to help the little people than to further entrench the power of the already rich and mighty -- or is this liberal dream now out of reach?
Are we willing to accept that the overall focus of the U.S. federal government will be on military spending, big surveillance programs, protecting large financial institutions, and other priorities that conflict with our values? If that's what the leaders of the Democratic Party are willing to accept, is it our place to just believe?
Or, is it too late for that? After the capitulations and deceptions of the Obama administration, has faith in government been shaken too much to be recovered -- even on the left?
I guarantee, we're going to be hearing a lot more of this debate among bona fide liberals if things keep moving in the direction they're heading in this country. I think this is a very important debate and we should welcome it and really listen to and consider both sides. There are huge implications, such as whether progressives should focus more attention on national vs. state and local politics, and whether to work more with socially liberal corporatists or with libertarians (neither of which we may like, but both of which are important blocs in American politics today).
Politics shouldn't be about faith. It should be about asking the tough questions, having the unpleasant debates, and pursuing the path that leads to the best outcome for the people. Maybe the left's growing loss of faith in government in the wake of Edward Snowden's whistleblowing is an opportunity to reconsider whether a blind belief in the goodness of government -- at least when it's controlled by a Democratic president -- is a sensible, "reality-based" position, or a prescription for future disaster.