It has been said that America is polarized politically, but now an issue has emerged that is uniting conservatives and liberals, rightists and leftists, tea party activists and occupy Wall Street types: Concern about drones.
Virtually all of these factions are praising Rand Paul’s filibuster protesting the Attorney General’s ruling that American citizens on American soil are subject to being zapped from above by drone technology. All are opposing establishment-types from both parties who hail the new military technology.
Might this herald a new political consensus around civil liberties? How about a Bill of Rights agenda, which would uphold the conservative causes of religious freedom and gun rights AND the liberal causes of freedom of speech and expression?
Are there other issues that might serve as a similar rallying point?
From the New York Times:
The debate goes to the heart of a deeply rooted American suspicion about the government, the military and the surveillance state: the specter of drones streaking through the skies above American cities and towns, controlled by faceless bureaucrats and equipped to spy or kill.
That Big Brother imagery — conjured up by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky during a more than 12-hour filibuster this week — has animated a surprisingly diverse swath of political interests that includes mainstream civil liberties groups, Republican and Democratic lawmakers, conservative research groups, liberal activists and right-wing conspiracy theorists.
They agree on little else. But Mr. Paul’s soliloquy has tapped into a common anxiety on the left and the right about the dangers of unchecked government. And it has exposed fears about ultra-advanced technologies that are fueled by the increasingly fine line between science fiction and real life.
Drones have become the subject of urgent policy debates in Washington as lawmakers from both parties wrangle with President Obama over their use to prosecute the fight against terrorism from the skies above countries like Pakistan and Yemen. . . .
On the right, Mr. Paul has become an overnight hero since his filibuster. Self-proclaimed defenders of the Constitution have shouted their approval on Twitter, using the hashtag #StandWithRand and declaring him to be a welcomed member of their less-is-better-government club.
“The day that Rand Paul ignited Liberty’s Torch inside the beltway!” one Tea Party activist wrote on Twitter. “May it never be extinguished!”
But even as the right swooned, the left did, too. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon — the only Democrat to join Mr. Paul’s filibuster — said the unexpected array of political forces was just the beginning, especially as Congress and the public face the new technologies of 21st-century warfare.
“I believe there is a new political movement emerging in this country that’s shaking free of party moorings,” Mr. Wyden said. “Americans want a better balance between protecting our security and protecting our liberty.”
P. W. Singer, whose 2009 book “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century” anticipated the broad impact of drones, said he believed they had shaken up politics because they were “a revolutionary technology, like the steam engine or the computer.”
“The discussion doesn’t fall along the usual partisan lines,” he said. The dozen states that have passed laws restricting drones do not fall into conventional red-blue divisions, nor do the score of states competing to be the site of the Federal Aviation Administration’s test sites for drones.