Law in Contemporary Society
I’ve been thinking lately – in the wake of this executive privilege semi-scandal – about team mentality and politics. I’m not terribly interested in passing judgment on any of it, but it’s interesting to me to see the arguments passed along by a lot of defenders of the president: “Bush started the Fast and the Furious program,” “it’s not like Republicans haven’t used executive privilege,” etc. Implicit in this retort is that the program and the president’s use of EP here goes against the commenter’s beliefs; said commenter probably wasn’t excited about Watergate and wouldn’t be terribly happy if the Brian Terry situation had blown up under Bush. At the same time, the commenter defends his team in much the same way that a Cubs fan who mocked Mark McGwire? might defend Sammy Sosa.

Sorry if you’re not a sports person (and if you’re not – both Sosa and McGwire? used steroids and the Cubs, for whom Sosa played, are archrivals with McGwire? ’s Cardinals), but the political team mentality that I see mimics sports mentality. We pick a side (or more often than not, just follow our parents [sorry that all I have for sports is anecdotal]) and we stick with it unflinchingly, defending its shortcomings – even if it takes hypocrisy – and using it as a key part of our identity. Mets fans know Mets history, they know current Mets facts, they know who to hate (the Phillies), who to love (Tom Seaver), and they understand what it means to be a part of Mets culture, perpetually the underdog in America’s biggest metropolis. And they bond over it, highlighting this similarity. Political identity, for most people a much more key part of their whole identity, is similar. Democrats know Democrat history, they know current Democratic players, they know who to hate (Rush Limbaugh), who to love (Barack Obama), and they understand what it means to be a part of Democrat culture, standing up for civil liberties and working for increased equality. And, similarly, they bond over it; it’s no secret that the Federalist Society attracts a certain kind of crowd or that the CLS Dems do otherwise. And if a Democrat’s at a bar and learn someone’s a Democrat, they can share in current facts, history, political worldview, and personality traits that come with that community.

But can’t political parties exploit this? Can’t George W. Bush – who ran on a platform of small government conservatism – play a big government game and get away with it? Can’t Barack Obama – who ran on an anti-war and, presumably, pro-civil liberties stance – kill American citizens on foreign soil for "national defense" and receive the defense, not furor, of those who put him in office? The people who identify as anti-violence and pro-civil liberties not only don’t bat an eye when the 2012 NDAA is passed, but they defend the reasoning behind it.

For this, we see our liberties evaporating. We're too busy arguing whether citizens should be able to engage in private activities that don't hurt anyone to bother as things we all agree on are taken away from us. As long as the wrong side does it, it’s okay – Republicans don’t mind increased war-related powers, and Democrats are willing to defend it if “one of theirs” puts it into effect. Republicans don’t mind increased, unsustainable government spending as long as a Republican signed the budget, and Democrats are happy to see a Republican put together any kind of increased spending scheme. And so we end in a spiral where we continue to give our freedoms over to political parties only interested in power (which requires, of course, the lack of freedom of the citizenry), unconcerned with whatever ideology they peddle every 2 or 4 years. But when a vote that’s not for a Democrat or a Republican is a “wasted vote,” I’m uncertain that I see a way out.

-- MatthewCollins - 22 Jun 2012


Webs Webs

r2 - 22 Jan 2013 - 19:58:18 - IanSullivan
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