NSA surveillance unites parties

Hoyt Sparks says he has no use for liberal Democrats and their "socialistic, Marxist, communist" ways.
AP Wire
Feb 18, 2014

Toni Lewis suspects tea party Republicans are "a bunch of people who probably need some mental health treatment."

Politically speaking, the tea-party supporter in rural North Carolina and the Massachusetts liberal live a world apart.

Who or what could get them thinking the same?

Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency.

By exposing the NSA's vast surveillance web, Snowden created a link between tea partyers and liberals — two tribes camped on opposite sides of the nation's political chasm.

These people to the right and left of mainstream America sound a lot alike now.

Sparks, a federal retiree in the Blue Ridge mountain town of Sparta and a political independent, condemns the NSA programs as "a breach of privacy which violates the Constitution."

Lifetime Democrat Lewis, a social worker in the city of Brockton, near Boston, says, "When we're violating the rights of U.S. citizens, I think that's a dangerous line to be walking."

Whether they are Republicans, Democrats or independents, almost half of Americans say they support the tea party movement or call themselves liberal.

Compared with their more moderate Republican or Democratic peers, tea partyers and liberals are significantly more likely to oppose the collection of millions of ordinary citizens' telephone and Internet data, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows.

By a 2-to-1 margin, these two groups say the government should put protecting citizens' rights and freedoms ahead of protecting them from terrorists.

Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans support the tea party movement. Nearly 4 in 10 Democrats call themselves liberals. Combined, they are buoying a coalition of conservative and liberal lawmakers pushing to rein in the NSA, while party leaders balk at anything that might weaken the agency's ability to foil terrorists.

Why does the NSA unite the right and left ends of the political spectrum?

"More extreme political views lead to more distrust of government," said George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin, who's studied the tea party's focus on the Constitution. People at the far ends of the political spectrum are less likely than middle-of-the-road voters to feel government is responsive to them.

On the flip side, Somin said, moderates generally don't follow politics as closely as people at the extremes, so they may be less aware of the scope of the NSA's activities.

"The whole thing is wrong," says Virginia Greenfield, a tea-party supporter in Cortland, N.Y. But, she says, "most people don't want to believe that the government would do what it's doing."

Liberals, who tend to trust government to handle many matters, also tend to be suspicious of intrusions into privacy or civil liberties. That aligns them on some issues with libertarians, the champions of individual rights who make up a substantial portion of the tea party movement.

Another segment of the tea party — social conservatives — deeply mistrusts President Barack Obama and his administration, an attitude likely to extend to the NSA while he's in charge.

Obama is a point of contention in the anti-surveillance coalition. Eight in 10 tea partyers dislike the way he's handled the issue; only about half of liberals disapprove. Still, the NSA brings liberals closer to the tea-party way of thinking than usual: On other big issues, liberals' approval for Obama generally hovers around 70 percent.

When it comes to Snowden, tea-party supporters and liberals are back in step — about half of each group says the former NSA contractor did the right thing. Among non-tea party Republicans and nonliberal Democrats, a strong majority thinks he was wrong to reveal classified programs.

Christina Ott, who works on her family's farm near Woodbury, Tenn., found Snowden's action inspiring.

"I thought it was somebody taking a moral stand and a big risk," said Ott, a liberal Democrat.

She isn't surprised to find herself siding with the tea party for once. Regardless of their political views, Ott said, the people who worry about mass surveillance are the ones "who are paying close attention and believe it is possible for things to go badly wrong."

But Lewis, an Obama fan, is shocked to agree with tea partyers about anything.

"I can't explain it. It's kind of scary," she said, joking: "Now I might have to rethink my position."

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Jan. 17-21 using KnowledgePanel, GfK's probability-based online panel. It involved online interviews with 1,060 adults. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for all responden

Comments

Former Grandhavenite

This is easily the best political news I've seen in a long time. The only reason mainstream media sees a contradiction here is because they fall into the trap of believing in "the political spectrum".

If any of America's so-called 'intractable' problems are going to be solved and the gridlock broken or at least reduced, it'll be done when enough people of true good will and conscience decide that they'd actually like to do a job or solve a problem instead of beating the other side over the head and proving them wrong. If you can't point to at least a few positive aspects of the opposing views or can't say a few nice things about the folks holding those views, you're doing it wrong.

They don't have to sing kumbayah together on the house floor, but how about agreeing that the other side isn't trying to destroy the country and that every one of their bills wasn't written out of sheer maliciousness? I wish they'd engrave in marble on the walls of the building, "Even a broken clock is right twice every day."

Edit: lol at the guy saying that Democrats are, "socialistic, Marxist, communist, etc". As an actual socialist with a Marxian approach to economics (this is not the same as Marxism and yeah I'm fully aware that nobody cares) I agree with the Democratic party on very little. I sure wish this guy knew what he was talking about because then there would actually be a party that represents my views.

Mystic Michael

Correction: It's not that liberals"...tend to trust government to handle many matters...". Because government is highly susceptible to corruption and abuse - as are the mammoth corporations.

Rather, it is that liberals acknowledge that government has a proper and legitimate role to play, in the life of the nation and in each of her citizens; a role for which it is uniquely suited - to function as a publicly-accountable counterweight to the unchecked, largely unaccountable, and growing power of the corporations.

The problem is that now, after 30+ years of rampant Reaganism, the corporations have largely co-opted the government (i.e. GOP House districts that are gerrymandered to the hilt), such that an historic housecleaning (literally) is now overdue.

Trust doesn't enter into it. Both the federal & state governments, as well as the behemoth corporations, require constant, rigorous public scrutiny and oversight. The main difference is that government, at least, has a built-in public regulatory function: It's called "elections".

Tri-cities realist

And private corporations have a built in public regulatory function: it's called "voting with your dollars." And there is regulatory oversight of many industries.

That said, any time liberals and conservatives agree on an issue, those on the opposite side of the issue better take notice. I'm encouraged to know that half of the nation realizes the NSA has gone way too far, I just wish the percentage was much closer to 100%.

Wolverine49457

The primary role of government is to protect us which does not include spying on us and then STORING the information forever. This goes way beyond listening and realizing "these are not the droids we're looking for" and moving on in search of clandestine conversation or plot to injure and terrify us; worse yet some slime ball politicians have used this info for political gain...what a surprise...Obama's administration is about as transparent as his predecessors…as clear as granite!
Although it could easily evoke feelings of anger or betrayal the sins of our rulers should not be used as reasons to justify greed and covetous desire for your neighbor’s wealth or property; God is the judge not us, if they messed up they will not get away with it in the end.

Tri-cities realist

But it would be nice to occasionally have justice here on earth.

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