The same Congressional coalition of Tea Party conservatives and far-left liberals that blocked an attack on Syria also came close to reining in the NSA surveillance program. Washington Post political columnist Greg Sargent sees an on-going alliance coming together.
How real are the prospects for a genuine alliance against action in Syria between progressive anti-war Democrats and isolationist Tea Party libertarians?
Dem Rep. Alan Grayson, a leader of the anti-war wing of the House Democratic caucus, tells TPM’s Dylan Scott he is organizing across the aisle to create such an alliance by gearing up an “ad hoc whip organization.” This sort of right-left alliance is often discussed but rarely materializes. But this time there could be something to it.
Here’s a way to look at it. I compared the current whip count of Members of Congress who are firm or leaning No votes on Syria right now, with the Members who voted Yes on the recent amendment to end bulk NSA surveillance that corralled a surprising amount of bipartisan support. The vote on that amendment — which was sponsored by GOP Rep. Justin Amash and Dem Rep. John Conyers — was perhaps the clearest demonstration of such a developing alliance we’ve seen.
The overlap is striking. I count nearly four dozen Representatives — from both parties — that are on both lists. In other words, even though it’s early in the whipping process on Syria, we’re already seeing substantial numbers of Members who voted to end NSA surveillance now coming out or leaning against action in Syria.
Most of these lawmakers fall into two camps. On the Republican side, they are Tea Partyers of the non-hackish variety — Tea Partyers who buck the neocon line on intervention abroad and whose support for limited government translates into real concern for civil liberties, at least in some areas. These are Republicans you might find in the Liberty Caucus. On the Democratic side, you have lawmakers who are more anti-war than liberal internationalist, and care about privacy issues — not because of an embrace of limited government, but because they embrace civil liberties from the left. They are willing to ally with these Republicans because their anti-war views mesh to some degree with the former group’s anti-interventionist streak; and because there is some civil libertarian overlap.
In both cases — on Syria, and on the amendment to end NSA surveillance — this loose alliance of lawmakers is allied against the leadership of their own parties. And in both cases, they represent a genuine threat to the outcome. In the case of the Amash amendment, it fell just short of victory. On Syria, it’s early days yet, and as I’ve said here before, you should treat the whip counts with some skepticism. But it’s very possible that the Syria resolution could go down, and if it does, this alliance is very likely to have played a major role.
Now Mr. Sargent, whose column is listed on the Washington Post website as among the “left-leaning opinions,” shows the typical liberal cluelessness about the complexity of the conservative movement. There are very few “neo-conservatives” in the Tea Party, that movement being in direct reaction against the Republican establishment that often holds that interventionist philosophy. And the Tea Party’s central cause is precisely “freedom”; that is, civil liberties against an all-powerful and too-intrusive government.
Any alliance between those folks and big government quasi-socialist liberals would be highly provisional, and yet there are quite a few on the left who also distrust big government and advocate civil liberties. The current anti-war sentiment is not just or even mostly among politicians but is shared by a large majority of the American public, both in red states and blue states. This amounts to a left-right coalition of voters, as well, which could become a potent political force.