Friday, December 30, 2011

Defending Trial by Jury

Americans are not lovers of freedom and individual rights. It is politically naive to think that they are.

Cenk Uygur has an article calling for a political rebellion against President Obama because he is not the defender of civil liberties that Uygur and others wanted. To call his article politically naïve puts the case mildly.

(See, Huffingtonpost, Vote Against Obama in Iowa)

You have a choice in thus country. You can be an advocate for and defender of civil rights, or you can be President of the United States. You can't be both. The American people will not tolerate it. People like Uygur who insist that we have both are wholly irrational.

Do you want Obama to be a passionate defender of civil rights? You might as well tell him to appoint Dick Chaney as vice President, then shoot himself in the head. The effect will be the same. The effect on our civil rights will be the same.

Reached this conclusion even before the 2008 elections - that no matter who the Democrats nominated for President, he or she had better not defend human rights. If they did, the Republicans will play the fear card, remove that Democrat from office, and use the fear to generate an even more rapid destruction of civil rights.

The political reality of this was shown when the Obama administration made the attempt to bring the Guantanamo prisoners to the United States to face trial in federal courts. It would be hard to find a better defense of the principle of trial by jury.

However, the effect was a political outrage that resulted in the legislature blocking all funding for this move.

And the people cheered. It was one of the most politically damaging moves the President made in his first years of office - to make a spirited defense of the right of trial by jury. What the legislature did was an outrage against the Constitution and the principles on which it was built - and the people cheered and granted their political support to the perpetrators of this outrage.

For an account of the politics of this attempt to give Guantanamo detainees a fair trial in federal courts, you can read David Laufman, Guantanamo Detainees in US Federal Court

Now, Uygur wants the President to do the same again? Given the fact that he got no support and suffered a significant political hit the last time he tried this, what incentive is there for him to try again?

Obama learned from that attempt to defend the principle of trial by jury that it is a political suicide. The people will not tolerate it. It doesn't matter what the Constitution says on the matter - the Constitution only has force where the people are willing to see it enforced. Any principle that the people themselves refuse to defend is as empty as it would have been if repealed directly.

That is political reality. Like it or not, this is the real world. And when it comes to determining what to do we should at least pretend we are agents who have no choice but to act in the real world.

Given these political realities - given the fact that the lovers of liberty utterly failed to support Obama in his attempt to give the Guantanamo detainees a fair trial, the best that rational voters can hope for at this point is somebody who is willing to perform a delaying action. That is to say - he should make no attempt to retake lost ground (that option has already been tried and failed), and be willing to fall back if pressed to hard, in order to hold on to as many civil liberties as possible.

Ideally, this time would be spent rebuilding the stock of resources necessary to take back our civil rights.

Unfortunately, this time is being spent by people like Uygur ignoring history - ignoring the fact that a serious attempt was already made to retake lost ground and failed as a result of public hostility - and attacking the defenders from the rear. Effectively, Uygur's strategy amounts to, "We are going to withhold ammunition from you until you do more to defend our civil liberties."

Yeah, that's going to help.

What we are seeing now is the logical consequence of an utter failure to supoprt Obama when he was willing to stick his neck out in defense of a trial by jury. We watched his head get cut off and we did nothing. Now, Uygur thinks it is a good idea to condemn him for the learning the lessons we have taught. A defense of trial by jury will not be supported.

We are not going to get any defense of civil liberties in government until a love of liberty by the American people itself has been restored. The public reaction should have been an utter condemnation of the House leaders of this move - to the point of threatening their political careers. Uygur wants to send a message to the politicians in Washington - THAT would have sent a message. But, that is not the message that was sent.

Uygur lives in a fantasy world where he thinks he lives in a country that is opposed to indefinite detention and the assassination of American citizens abroad without a trial. If he were to live in a real world, he would realize that the propaganda of the economic elite has eliminated this love of civil rights and, instead, generated a love for the very type of police state that the economic elite finds most useful. We cannot have any effect by pretending that we have this imaginary army of freedom lovers ready to charge into battle. That army does not exist.

So, the first thing we must do is face this reality and start to rebuild that army from scratch.

In the mean time, we need politicians in office who can perform a delaying action that will give us time to rebuild a love of liberty in the American people.


mojo.rhythm said...

Cenk did support Obama vigorously during the whole Gitmo debacle, and condemned the public for coming down on the side of the GOP.

I think he, in the words of Matt Damon, would prefer a "one term president with some balls." That is, a President that chooses to fight for the principles of liberty and justice and goes down swinging, rather than a President that spends his or her career playing it safe and perpetuating the bitter, ugly status quo.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


That's about as stupid as wanting a military general who, instead of fighting the enemy smartly, opts to destroy one's own military in a futile attack.

It is worse than total surrender.

The result is not just a "one term President with some balls", but the utter destruction of the party.

Kristopher said...

that happened under Carter to a large extent and now democratic politicians spend most of their time distancing themselves from carter.

just as they did during the mid term elections from obama after the health care.

the party hides from its successes becuase they are afraid of alienating voters. becuase they learned that doubling down on principle gets them fired.

its like they are using succeed and run tactics becuase they know that after the success who ever is responsible for it will get lit on fire by a political backlash.