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Obama’s move to the centre/right.

There’s been a backlash against Barack Obama in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party for his reversal on the controversial FISA legislation. He changed course from a year ago when he vowed to oppose this law from passing and supported the passage of this law that offers retroactive immunity to telecom companies for obeying illegal orders by President Bush and his administration to eavesdrop on American citizens in the name of fighting terrorism, without a warrant, back several years ago.

This new FISA law is a sore spot for libertarians and liberals alike because it not only prevents Americans from suing these telecom companies for allowing that illegal activity, but it more importantly will cover up what exactly Bush and his administration were doing (and there has been some disclosure that Bush and his administration were getting the telecoms to do this BEFORE Sept 11, 2001 occurred); another sore spot is that this law is written in a way that more or less forces the FISA court to rubber-stamp any of this activity.

Many liberal/progressive Democrats feel that Obama has helped to push the country back to pre-Richard Nixon days, when there were basically no laws or rules in place on spying on Americans. The US administration and its law enforcement agencies could spy at will back then, which is why after Watergate and its revelations, the original FISA Court was brought into existence in the first place. This new FISA law seems to revert back to those ugly days, and the outrage amongst the liberal Democratic bloggers was so great, Obama was forced to get on his own website and issue a statement to them why he voted the way he did – an explanation that not many believed or accepted. Many charge him with “caving” in to Republican fear-mongering.

It is fair to point out that it wasnt just him that caved on this FISA vote – the Democratic Congress leadership did as well – most likely as an attempt to prevent being called “wimps” on national security and to try and prevent that being used as an attack either on them or on Obama in the upcoming congressional and presidential elections. In essence, they caved on the issue for political expediency and political cover, rather then stand up and fight this on principle.

Obama knows (as do the Democratic leaders) that he has the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in a bind. Theyre sick of Bush, so hes taking the rather safe calculation that despite FISA, they wont stay at home or vote for McCain. I dont think this cave-in was necessary, (several polls on this issue showed that the US public did not like what the US government and the telecoms were doing) but Democrats arent exactly renowned for having spines when faced with either caving or standing up to Republican fear-mongering on national security.

There is already talk amongst the Democratic blogosphere of making an example of some of the Democratic enablers in Congress of this new law by running challengers against them the next time Democratic primaries roll around (think of them as the same as the party elections up here to select candidates for each riding). Will they do the same thing to Obama and or vote for Mccain, or vote for the minor candidates, or not vote at all? I find that highly unlikely. While the US is in a 2 party setup, this is going to occur. The liberal Democrats have a choice: either try to get more progressives to run and get elected to Congress and reform the party from within, or else they’ll need to split and form a “Progressive Party”. For now, they’ve chosen the former.

As for the new FISA law, like the Military Commissions Act, it will probably take a split decision Supreme Court decision to overturn this law, rather then a Congress that abdicated its responsibilities, and that is what the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations are going to ask the US Supreme Court to do. In the meantime, progressives in the US are going to have hold their noses and vote for Obama, because if they don’t, their reward for punishing Obama is 4 more years of Republican rule – at least at the presidency – and a continuation of the Bush policies.

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