Choose principle over party

This was originally printed in the Daily Tarheel (Chapel Hill, NC) on Friday, February 8, 2013. You can view the original link here.

You might have noticed that folks around Chapel Hill are paying a lot more attention to the governorship nowadays.

While I’d like to think that people heeded my advice and decided to pay more attention to state and local politics, I’m afraid it’s only because there’s an “R” after Pat McCrory’s name and many have taken up the role of “loyal opposition.”

Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad the people and the press are remaining vigilant watchdogs over an elected official. And McCrory was, of course, wrong to presume that he can, as a government official, magically determine which academic disciplines are legitimate, what jobs are needed and which “butts” should fill them.
But here’s the problem: We should be vigilant of elected officials no matter what letter comes after their name. If we truly believe in the principles we claim to live by, we should hold politicians accountable regardless of if they’re in “our” party or not.
In a Justice Department white paper recently leaked, the Obama administration provides legal justification for the killing of suspected terrorists, even American citizens, in extremely vague language.
Any high-ranking official, not just the president, has the extra-constitutional power to authorize targeted killings of those who pose an “imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.” Upon further reading, we find out that what constitutes an “imminent threat” is the possibility that maybe one day, a long time from now, the person could potentially think about posing a threat.
This is scary stuff. But it really shouldn’t surprise anyone; this is part of a trend. I haven’t heard few Obama supporters utter the words “Guantanamo” and “Bay” in about four years, although the prison remains open. Any honest progressive would tell you the PATRIOT Act is an egregious attack on the Fourth Amendment, and yet this policy has quietly continued. I haven’t even mentioned the National Defense Authorization Act, TSA, or drone programs.
When the Bush administration was stepping outside the bounds of the Constitution, the country was up in arms. Americans paid attention, as best as we could, to what our government was doing. Many took to the streets.
But what hope is there when even this country’s progressive party remains silent while the Obama administration quietly institutionalizes Bush-era civil liberties violations?
For example, John Brennan, who oversaw the Bush-era “enhanced interrogations” and the Obama drone strike program is now the nominee to lead the CIA. Even if you especially trust this president (it’s dangerous to trust any politician), we’re setting up a scary precedent.
When someone we support is elected, it’s even more important to take off the partisan glasses and remain just as critical. If you elected someone to do something, hold their feet to the fire and make sure they follow through on their promises.
Thanks, Obama.
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