The Political Party Hangover

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Last week, a Maryland House committee voted to support federal kidnapping within the borders of the Old Line State.

OK – Maryland lawmakers didn’t exactly grant direct support for indefinite detention without due process, but they did refuse to pass a bill that would have blocked the state of Maryland from assisting or providing material support to federal attempts to throw a black bag over somebody’s head and drag them off into the night. In essence, those voting down the Maryland Liberty Preservation Act of 2013 tacitly agreed that the federal government has such power, and furthermore, they have no problem with agents of the Maryland government helping the feds out.

So yes, when you boil it all down, they voted to support federal kidnapping.

Not surprisingly, the vote went along party lines.

Democrats in the Maryland Health and Government Operations Committee marched in lockstep to block Republicans’ attempt to nullify federal indefinite detention provisions written into the National Defense Authorization Act.

You read that right.

Democrats – the party of the “Peace President” – support federal kidnapping in Maryland.

In some ways, the election of Barack Obama turned the political world on its head. It put a vibrant anti-war movement to sleep and turned some of the most vocal critics of President George W. Bush into cheerleaders for his policies. The party that railed against torture and the Patriot Act now gleefully embrace indefinite detention without due process and execution by drone. Oh, and by the way, the Patriot Act is cool now too!

Nothing to worry about.

Their guy is in charge.

Of course, the Democrats don’t stand alone in their hypocrisy. Do you really think we would still find robust Republican support for blocking indefinite detention provisions in the NDAA if Mitt Romney had won in November?

In fact, we still see vestiges of Republican love for the security state in the withered forms of Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham. While the Republican rank-and-file swooned over Rand Paul’s filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination to head up the CIA, McCain and Graham both lobbed rhetorical grenades at the senator from Kentucky. Perhaps they recognize that they will certainly one day regain the helm, and they don’t want to worry about any future constraints on their Orwellian vision of a well-entrenched police state.  You have to at least give these old stalwarts credit for their commitment to principle – however awful that principle might be.

But, for the most part, Republicans played cheerleader for Paul, while Democrats fell silent, or in some cases vocally criticized his stand against death-by-drone. The momentum of Paul’s 12-plus hour speech on the Senate floor even propelled him to a CPAC straw poll victory. But while those of us battling for civil liberties here in the good-ole US of A would like to think Paul’s filibuster woke up the Republican Party at large to the danger posed by big-government programs designed to make us more “secure,” we know the sad truth. Save a few principled members of the GOP, Paul’s support stems from fear and hatred of the current president, not a commitment to the Constitution.

Once the elephants march their guy back into the White House, and they surely will at some point in the future, the old order we all know will reestablish itself. The lefties will once again fill the streets protesting whatever foreign adventure the powers-that-be concoct. Democrats will once again vilify the president as a war-monger and shredder of the Constitution. And the right’s support for blocking indefinite detention and drones will likely fade away like an old photograph in the sun.

We’ve read from this same script for years. And it demonstrates a chilling fact.

Most Americans devote themselves not to a set of principles, not to the Constitution, but to their political party.

In America, red versus blue drives the political process. If it hurts the blue team, the read team will embrace it. If it can damage the reds, the blues jump on board. What we stood for this week will shift 180 degrees if some party boss decides it will create an advantage over the bad-guys. We’re anti-war until our guy starts the war. We stand for civil liberties until walking over them scores some points in the press. We’re for kill lists until we stand against them.

Political pragmatism and party politics trump principle, and when it’s all said and done, Americans always end up with less freedom and less liberty, while both political parties consolidate power. After all, we need our party to rescue us from the evil policies of the other guy!

George Washington warned against parties in his farewell address on Sept. 17, 1796.

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

Cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men and women, indeed. We see it over and over again. The fractious parties beat each other up in front of the cameras, and then collude to consolidate power behind marble walls. It’s all about power, and the illusion of a great political divide feeds the monster.

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Democrats and Republicans alike trumpet constitutional principles when it fits their agenda, and flush them away like discarded toilet paper when it doesn’t.

At the Tenth Amendment Center, we don’t play party politics. Violate the Constitution, we will call you out. Support indefinite detention – we will oppose you. Put your name behind drone nation, we’ll pounce. Clamor for undeclared wars…expect our passionate resistance. Champion unconstitutional health care, education and environmental programs, we’ll stand against you.

We stand on principle.

We need more of that in our political discourse.

Less Democrat. Less Republican. More Constitution.

Every issue. Every time. No exceptions. No excuses.

Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center. He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky. See his blog archive here and his article archive here. He also maintains the blog, Tenther Gleanings.

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