Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

rule of law, positive changes to come?

When I posted about the potential for change that Obama’s election gives us, and change.org’s vehicle for submitting ideas, Mary posted a link to a really interesting NYT Editorial that ended up in my spam box. I didn’t notice it until tonight, so it took half a week to be rescued, but that’s okay – it is worth it’s own post. There were a lot of things I didn’t know, and which add an extra sparkle to the tiny glimmer of hope that I have with regards to the potential changes.

Civil liberties advocates have been sounding the alarm for years. The difference now is that a Democrat is about to assume the presidency, and one of the most ardent defenders of civil liberties in his party — Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin — is dedicated to putting the restoration of the rule of law on the agenda of the incoming government, with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.

That sounds hopeful. Of course the ACLU ended up removing their opposition to the AETA, so I’m not sure how much worth I’d put on their support here.

Now that Mr. Obama — a onetime constitutional law professor who made this issue a cause early in the campaign — has won the election, there is both reason for optimism and increased pressure on the president-elect to keep his promises.

I’m reminded of a book I read last year, Rattling The Cage, which taught me quite a bit about the different perspectives a judge can have on the law (constitutional vs. something else, which naturally I can’t remember). I found the history of how a judge’s interpretation of law can be impacted by and can also impact the views of society to be quite interesting, and it made me better understand why some people put such stock in getting legal rights recognized for some specific animals. I’m not necessarily convinced by the argument, but I at least understand where people are coming from.

What it would mean, in the end, that Obama was a constitutional law professor, I am not sure.

And it would be a mistake to overlook Congress’s role. Members from both parties voted for laws like the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which stripped detainees of habeas corpus rights, and looked the other way while the rule of law was diminished.

And that’s a key point. FISA is not, by most standards, constitutional, and yet Obama was one of the ones who voted for it. There was only one politician who went on record against the AETA, and that was Kucinich. What are the chances of AETA being overturned, even if some of the other right-eroding laws are overturned? Slim, I’d think. Too many people have ties to BigAg and BigPharm, and their lobbies are too strong.

Still…this is more of a glimmer of hope than we’ve had in a long time, isn’t it?

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