Prediction: Snowden/NSA case guarantees that the 2016 campaign is going to be weird, infested with irony

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden’s status has rapidly transformed from “anonymous consultant drone” to “popular hero,” hasn’t it? In an age of cheap convenience, bread and circuses, the complete cooption of government by the corporate elite and an unprecedented culture of political Newspeak, we’re used to people talking the talk. But a zombie apocalypse seems more likely than encountering someone actually walking the walk.

“You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk, because they’re such powerful adversaries, that no one can meaningfully oppose them. If they want to get you, they’ll get you in time.”

In an article published on Sunday, Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman wrote that in his earliest communications with Snowden, the NSA contractor said he understood that he would be “made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end” — and that the threat extended to journalists investigating the story before it becomes public.

The U.S. intelligence community, Snowden wrote to Gellman, “will most certainly kill you if they think you are the single point of failure that could stop this disclosure and make them the sole owner of this information.”

But he further stated that he wanted to pursue the leak despite what had happened to whistleblowers in the past, “to embolden others to step forward,” to show that “they can win.”

Snowden is hiding out in Honk Kong and is rumored to be shopping about for a country in which he can seek political asylum. He abandoned his career. He walked away from his girlfriend. He accepted that he might well spend the rest of his life in prison if he’s returned to the land of the free and the home of the brave, the country where at least we know we’re free. He has acknowledge that he could be rendered. He is open to the idea that the CIA might kill him.

Whether or not these things happen, whether or not they’re true, we can’t really tell him he’s wrong to consider the possibility. Given what we know about our government, there’s no piece of this that seems implausible.

I commented yesterday that had this story broken a year ago we might currently be venting our outrage at President Romney. But it didn’t, and we aren’t. The target of our anger is the hopey-changey guy, who back in 2007 promised to out an end to the Bush era warrantless security state.

This has the feel of an issue with legs. On its own, it’s compelling and very dramatically gets to the heart of our nation’s obsession with freedom (which is as sadly ill-informed as it is passionate). This NSA PRISM thing doesn’t fit the preferred ideological narrative and is likely to energize a lot of people who up until now probably thought NSA stood for National Softball Association or something.

Second, it’s an issue that constituencies on both sides of the political divide can agree on. Progressives have been screaming about this since the words “Patriot” and “Act” were first used together. Conservatives who played along blindly for a decade are now paying attention because it’s all of a sudden on Obama.

Third, it seems unlikely that the government is going to let this one go quietly, so every time a story about their pursuit of Snowden hits the news we’re all going to be reminded of the controversy. (See also: Manning, Bradley; Assange, Julian; Anonymous; WikiLeaks.)

Taken together, we might expect government spying to be an issue that a politician can make some hay with come Campaign 2016 (which, trust me, is already under way).

Here’s where things get ironic. Since the story broke on Obama’s watch (well, this time, anyway – but Americans have short memories), that means that evil government snooping is going to be a Republican issue. You remember the Republicans – they’re the ones who started it all. Post-9/11 it was Bush and the GOP who led the charge that gave us the Patriot Act, the Ministry of Homeland Security, and all that has emerged from them.

The things is, the “left” played along, collaborating and enabling like good Vichy Democrats, and in doing so abandoned the moral high ground. Worse, Mr. Obama not only hasn’t dismantled the Republican Big Brother apparatus, he’s doubled down on it. The government officials voicing all this outrage over Snowden’s unconscionable, traitorous actions? Yep – they’re Obama’s people.

It’s hard to win an election when the stick that your opponents are using against you is one that’s expressly ideological and perfectly suited for soundbiting. And whoever lands the Democratic nomination in 2016 is going to inherit all of Obama’s baggage.

It’s hellishly difficult reminding folks that it was actually that other guy’s baggage, that Bush fella. Remember him? Patriot Act! Republicans! It’s especially tricky when the folks you’re running against can easily trot out the roll call where you voted for the damned thing. (Paging Clinton. Paging Hillary Rodham Clinton.) Now, it may seem like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth. If you can hang it around Hil’s neck, why can’t we assume that voters can be reminded that it was a GOP initiative? You’d think so, but the conservative half of the country can be counted on to exercise selective memory and the half that’s supposed to be on your side has been pissed as hell about your betrayal of the Constitution for 12 years now. There are ways you can play the spin game that may work, but it’s not as easy as it would be if you hadn’t had your nose so far up Bush’s ass you could smell his tonsils.

Just saying.

So many what-ifs. What if the Dems hadn’t worked so hard to help the GOP destroy every vestige of critical thinking from our education system? A more informed electorate might come in handy in 2016. What if they’d voted against the Patriot Act and FISA? What if they’d raised mortal hell every day since passage and reminded the public who it was, exactly, that was surveilling them? What if they had proposed as many bills to kill the PA, FISA and Homeland Security as the GOP has to overturn Obamacare?

Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. Didn’t. And now who’s the biggest pro-freedom hero on Capitol Hill? Rand Fucking Paul. Is there no end to the spinelessness and self-defeating stupidity of the modern Democratic Party? Give them a decade and they could turn George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond into the Rainbow Coalition.

Earlier this morning I took to Facebook to pose a question re: Edward Snowden: What would America look like if our elected officials exhibited this kind of courage and commitment to the principles we like to think we all believe in? Fun thought experiment, I suppose, but there’s no chance that we’ll ever find out in real life, is there?

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