Thursday, January 30, 2014

Will the 2014 Midterms be a Referendum on Obama's Surveillance, Secrecy, and Assassinations?

There will be elections for 435 House seats in 2014.

With respect to any given race, the probability is low that U.S. surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations will be an issue.

However, it is a near certainty that in at least one or more race, U.S. surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations will be an issue.

The fun part will be watching to see which one(s).

Herewith an Insider's Guide to the 7 S's (surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations) in the 2014 Midterms. (More to come in the weeks ahead! :-)

2014 U.S. House battleground states

(1) Linchpin Districts
(or, In a horse race, anything can happen)

Of the 435 races, a fraction are frequently spoken of as "highly contested" races.

See Ballotopedia: 2014 U.S. House battleground states.

It is far more likely that vital but sensitive concerns will find their way to the center of highly contested races, than in an election for a safe seat.

(See: In the California 17th: "But has he got drones …. " )
(See: To Drone or Not to Drone? The Strange Choice in Virginia's 2nd District  )
(See: Texas' Militarized Border: How Will Drone Politics Impact the 2014 Midterm in the 23rd? )

And yet . . .

Chicago: Fed up with being spied on . . . .
(2) Scandal (or, People in "safe" districts get pissed off, too)

Don't underestimate the power of events to mobilize the public.

For instance, most of the seats in the community in which I live -- Chicago -- would conventionally be thought of as "safe." But the surveillance and trumped-up charges in what has come to be known as the NATO3 case is shining a bright light on government abuse -- political repression, secrecy, fear-mongering, and state violence -- and the need for vigilance in protecting civil liberties.

If I were an incumbent running for re-election for a seat in one of the Chicago congressional districts, I would be bracing for questions about the Obama administration's surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations. (See Hey Illinois pols! Where do you stand? (On U.S. surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations) )

And Chicago isn't the only place these issues are coming to the fore.  It's a long ten months until November, and anything can happen . . . .

(3) The Principle of the Thing (or, Libertarian candidates may choose to make it an issue)

Will Libertarians stir things up?
There is a fair sprinkling of candidates out there who associate with neither the current Democratic administration nor with conventional GOP politics.

If there was ever a moment for Libertarian candidates to define themselves in terms of values, using current events as a foil, and to set themselves off sharply from "politics-as-usual," this is it.

(4) Drone Testing (or, Why "frontline state" now has a whole new meaning)

There's been intermittent interest in course of the past 24 months in the possible use of drones within U.S. borders, but in the last 60 days, the stakes just got a whole lot higher.

Domestic drone test sites
In December, 2013, the FAA designated six states to be first in line for domestic drone testing: Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia.

"Safe seat" or not, I think candidates in those six states need to be prepared to answer a whole series of questions, such as:
* What affirmative protection assures me that I will not be subject to surveillance by drones being tested in (our state)?

* What will you do to assure an open book about any and all drone testing in (our state)? How can I know that pervasive government secrecy isn't going to be extended to drone testing, and used to hide what the government is doing?

* What are you going to do to assure an absolute prohibition on arming any drones that will be used in (our state)? -- before the first tests are conducted here?
What do you think?  Do these seem like reasonable questions to you?

(See New York State's 21st Congressional District: Excelsior? )

(5) The "Special" Club (or, No holds are barred when someone calls themselves a 'states(wo)man')

Finally, there is a small subset of races in which one or more candidates holds themselves out as a leader in international affairs. A handful actually chair relevant committees: Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, etc., or one of the subcommittees thereof.

U.N. action on drones
Thus, while not every candidate can be expected to concern himself or herself with what's coming down the pike in international affairs -- at least not in the heat of a district race -- some must.

A case in point: an international call has been made for the U.S. to come clean with the full details of its drone killings. (See 2014: The Year of Transparency (for U.S. Drone Use)? andUN calls for drone strikes to comply with international law) The message is clear:  the world intends to evaluate the evidence and determine if crimes have been committed, and each day that the U.S. government delays opening its records adds to a presumption of wrongdoing.

It is extremely likely that further action on this demand will come on the anniversary of the initial demand, which came during the fall 2013 session of the United Nations General Assembly. In other words, the next installment in this drama is set to collide with the U.S. election falling in November, 2014.

The question for these leaders in international relations is a simple one:
Do you support the call for the U.S. to come clean with the records of its drone killings?
Or, I should say, it allows of a simple answer: "yes" or "no."

The thinking behind the answer will of necessity be complex.

But not to worry: only true leaders need apply.

Related posts

One thing's for sure: there's a whole passel of advisers talking to Barack Obama every day about how things are progressing in key districts like the Illinois 12th. (And the Michigan 1st. And the Minnesota 8th. And ... ) I'd like to be a fly on the wall when they tell him the candidate is complaining about the latest anti-drones campaign there. ("Why the hell are there protesters at my appearance in Carbondale with signs that say, 'When will the DEMs stop being the party of Drone Execution and Murder' ???")

(See DRONES: Let's Give Obama a Political Choice He Can Understand in 2014

Edward J. Snowden has forced us to confront what we all knew already: our government is running wild and we can't get our privacy back, short of some kind of very extreme change . . . . We have a problem with our government. It sees opportunities for power in every bit and byte of our personal data, and it's time to call it what it is: wrong.

See Fed Up With Being Spied On

The Amash Conyers Amendment to curtail NSA spying was advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives shortly after the Snowden revelations. It narrowly failed -- in part due to the votes of some so-called "progressive" Illinois representatives.

(See In Chicago, Illinois: YOU ARE UNDER SURVEILLANCE! )