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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

You know that since Republicans became the majority in the House of Representatives, they have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 37 times. They’ve voted on the PATRIOT Act just once — to extend it, in 2011.

A new Pew Poll shows that there is plenty of hypocrisy when it comes to surveillance by the National Security Agency on both sides of the aisle.

In the wake of revelations that the Bush administration was using warrantless wiretaps to monitor phone calls and Internet activity of American citizens when communicating outside of the U.S., 75 percent of Democrats opposed that activity. In 2013, with Barack Obama in the White House and NSA surveillance sanctified in law and supervised by courts set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, 64 percent of Democrats approve of it.

Republicans have reversed course too, with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly — a supporter of Bush NSA activity — now calling for the program to be dismantled.

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But the Tea Party — with its supposed focus on “Constitutional” values — rarely took on its own party for first passing and then extending the PATRIOT Act. Instead, it attacked Obamacare ceaselessly — even though the Founders had approved their own health care mandate — and recently rose up to defend the Second Amendment with great sound and fury.

Tea Partier Rand Paul (R-KY) has seized this moment to say he will sue the government to stop NSA surveillance. In 2011, he delayed extending the PATRIOT Act. But where were the rallies to support him? And since then, how many times have House Republicans revisited the issue?

The truth is, these issues, while dear to Paul and others on the libertarian right, never synced with the blatantly partisan agenda of the mainstream Tea Party movement.

Disclosures about the NSA’s surveillance program cannot be unheard and they demand revisiting the PATRIOT Act, as Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) has suggested.

Americans need to decide complex issues that have previously been decided for them: Is metadata private? Are we okay with the presumption that our communications abroad will be monitored? Is the American public fine with the fact that the NSA can be used to spy on citizens of other countries at our and their government’s will?

There’s a perpetual arms race by both national parties to seem tougher than each other on defense that will try to squelch any debate about the actual issues at the heart of these revelations. Libertarians on the right, willing to put essential liberty into a debate about temporary security, have a unique chance to force their party into such a debate — if they want to.

Until then, we’re still waiting for one Tea Party rally against the PATRIOT Act.

Photo: Dwight Burdette via Flickr.com

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