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A Constitutional Conundrum

Thursday, July 03, 2008
Okay, I have a problem. I think that that the preservation of the Republic, and in particular the protection of the constitutional order, trumps every other political criterion. So when Obama writes this, I am getting ready to abandon him:

And going forward, some of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker.

Damn right it is.


If John McCain wins, he's going to get to appoint probably 2 Supreme Court judges who will....gut the constitution and civil liberties. And the environment. And abortion rights. And regulations of corporate america, etc., etc., etc.

So I'm faced with a no-win situation: I either vote for a candidate who has enabled the undermining of the Republic, or I don't vote, and thereby tacitly assist the election of a candidate who will actively work to undermine the Constitution.

I have generally given 3rd party voters a very hard time, because they have let the best be the enemy of the good. But at some point, it's not a question of "best" - it's a question of minimum acceptability. I would argue that Al Gore was more than minimally acceptable in 2000. In this election, however, Barack Obama's FISA position is so sophistical, and so morally repugnant to me, that I am tempted to conclude that he has moved beyond the point of minimum acceptability. The only thing that gives me pause is the permanent damage to the country that would take place by the installation of John McCain. I suppose I could hold my nose and vote for Obama, but wouldn't that make me as complicit as he is?

I feel very much as those citizens of Rome alive in 49 B.C. might have. On the one hand you had Caesar, who was clearly aiming for dictatorial powers. On the other hand you had Pompey, who was facilitating the ruination of the republic by the aristocratic faction and had himself undermined the stability of popular government in the past. So does a citizen of good will stand aside and let the two fight it out, or does he support Pompey, for all his flaws, because Caesar is so terrible?

The answer is not clear to me either in the case of ancient civil wars or this year's election. For the present I will hew to my position of abstaining on principle, but this question is one I will be agonizing over for some time - probably until November.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:10 PM
  • Question for you: I wrote a really long wandering paragraph and couldn't conclude it into my question, so here it is short and sweet:
    If when vote time come after the 4th recess and Obama votes against the FISA bill with immunity in it, will your opinion on him be changed? Or have his words damned him enough to still be shaddy in your eyes?

    Now, onto what all the wondering stuff is. I have been following this issue primarily through the EFF and a few tech sites, and it seems there are things happening, proposed amendments to slow, change or stop the immunity, and a ruling in Northern California in relation to FISA that sound like they may benefit the cause. I'm still holding out hope that it will be stopped again. As I recall the media seemed certain it was going to pass last time around and did not. And last week they were sure again, and while it was not stopped, it was not passed either, being put off for a couple weeks is better than nothing...

    It's all kind of exciting and completely terrifying as well.

    And you bring up good points about minimum acceptability. As much as I'd like to take a moral high road and refuse to vote for Obama for FISA, I don't think I would ever forgive myself if McCain got elected. I think he would be much worse, and I am sure he is all for the passing of the FISA thing himself...

    By Blogger Crawlspace, at 11:05 PM  
  • 1) If he votes against the bill, I won't be thrilled with him, but I will be able to vote for him - because it means that he's sufficiently responsive to pressure from his own supporters that he act in an accountable fashion once he's president. But he's not going to do that - he as much as said so.

    2) I don't have much hope this bill can be stopped. The earlier version of the bill didn't have enough votes for a filibuster, and that was WITH Obama and Clinton. It's hard to see what happens now. Frankly the only hope I have is if Feingold and Dodd place a hold on the appointment of conferees, etc., and drag this out until the end of the year.

    3) The awfulness of McCain does make this problem more complicated. I'm sticking with my original statement, but I'm still fighting through the McCain problem. Of course, Obama's statements about abortion and faith-based services isn't making it any more likely I'll support him.


    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 6:39 AM  
  • I agree that the original FISA bill is unconstitutional and should be amended. I also believe the people who contributed to this offense should face some form of punishment, but if this happens does the end justify the means?

    Companies are already in a financial down fall. If there is no immunity added to the bill, people will have the ability to sue the companies that assisted with the original wiretaps. This could, of course, bankrupt these companies leading to the loss of jobs and a further drop in the American economy.

    So it comes to protecting the constitution or the economy.

    By Blogger UDZM, at 11:08 AM  
  • UDZM: I can't think of any situation in which the survival of a few businesses is more important that the survival of democracy. I'd rather be poor and free than rich and a slave.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 7:34 AM  
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