Coalition of the Unwilling

Posted on by Ruth O’Brien


The House of Representatives has finally engaged in a “frank” discussion about national security, particularly metadata dragnets.  Parts of the Patriot Act that are set to expire in 2015 will alter these practices anyhow.  Wow, that is something.  Something good.

But when the Obama administration refused to discuss revising those sections, as President Barack Obama had promised, House libertarians from both partiesintroduced an amendment to sharply limit NSA surveillance now.  Obama worked with Republican leaders to block it.

Still, what some call a “wing nut” coalition of some of the most liberal Democrats (such as Jerrold Nadler, Democrat from a district including the Upper West Side of Manhattan) and the libertarians the Republicans love to hate (or marginalize), such as Justin Amash, a libertarian Republican from Western Michigan, found 205 votes.  How fringe could that coalition be?

I don’t recall ever knowing of a Congress filled with 205 extremists of any kind, and I’m thinking all the way back to those Western “insurgents” like Republican progressives George W. Norris of Nebraska and William Borah of Idaho, who served a whole generation in the Senate, spanning from Teddy Roosevelt’s term as president to that of his cousin Franklin.

Are liberal Democrats in Congress finally developing enough of a backbone to discuss privacy issues?  Or are liberals gearing up for 2014 midterms that will support a 2016 Hillary bid for the presidency?

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About Ruth O'Brien

Professor Ruth O'Brien, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY) & Honorary Unaffiliated Academic Book Series Editor for The Public Square, Princeton University Press & Heretical Thought, Oxford University Press, USA Last book: Out of Many, One: Obama & the Third American Political Tradition (U of Chicago 2013). Nickname: Professorette by Rush Limbaugh (see

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