Now that the Democrats have wrapped up their political convention in Charlotte, it’s time to take a hard look at both major parties and their official positions on America’s cherished travel freedoms.
By the way, even if you’re not a U.S. citizen or don’t care who wins November’s presidential election, you’ll want to tune in. This could affect your next trip to or from the United States.
Last week, I offended many Republicans when I expressed surprise that their party adopted a platform that included the goal of privatizing the Transportation Security Administration.
I’m still shocked. After all, the TSA and the invasions of privacy we now must allegedly endure were introduced under the Bush administration. Now it looked as if the GOP wanted to rein in the bloated agency, a goal many Americans would approve of in principle.
Would the Democrats have created the TSA, if they had been in power after 9/11? No one knows.
But last week we got a pretty good idea of what might have happened, had the roles been reversed.
(Yes, now it’s my turn to offend the Democrats in the room.)
Many TSA observers have watched in dismay as the Department of Homeland Security has taken an even more hard-line approach to security during the last four years. They hoped it was a fluke.
But the harsh policies only intensified under the Obama administration. The prison-style patdowns at the airport, the widespread implementation of full body scanners, the TSA moving beyond airport security to trains, bus terminals and NFL games — all of that happened under a Democratic administration.
All of which raises the question: Are Democrats even less concerned about our Fourth Amendment rights than their opponents?
After the Democratic convention, I hoped to get a definitive answer, maybe in its platform (PDF).
Alas, the Dems were completely silent on the topic of the TSA, travel freedom, and the oft-repeated criticisms that the Department of Homeland Security is creating a de-facto police state.
They had plenty of opportunities in their platform; at 26,629 words, it covered just about every other topic under the sun, including the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, tribal sovereignty and standing up for women’s rights around the globe.
Not that these issues are unimportant. But are we really expected to believe that the issue of limiting our freedom of movement doesn’t even merit a mention in the party platform?
It’s a shame, because like the Republican platform, the Democratic one has plenty of laudable ideas and promises. Ideas you, or I, might be inclined to agree with and support.
But unlike the Republicans, which just appear a little opportunistic with their TSA platform language that demands the agency be privatized, the Democrats seem at best, clueless, and at worst, duplicitous.
“The President put in place government reform that has led to the most open, efficient, and accountable government in history,” the platform brags, adding, “We are committed to the most open, efficient, and accountable government in history, and we believe that government is more accountable when it is transparent.”
This stands in sharp contrast to the actions of the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA under President Obama, which have failed to obey the law and operates with such secrecy that one hand often doesn’t know what the other is doing, say critics.
So where does that leave you, the voter?
If one of the defining issues of this election is your constitutional right to move freely throughout the country without being frisked, prodded, microwaved or interrogated about your intentions, then what do you do? Should you choose between the lesser of the two evils among the major candidates, or throw your vote away on an alternate candidate who has no chance of winning the election?
I can’t tell you how to vote, because I don’t even know how I’m going to vote. Yes, there you have it: yet another undecided.
I don’t like my options.
If you’ve made it this far in my story, you probably don’t, either.
Whether you lean left, right or play it straight down the middle politically, I think we can all agree on one thing: Regardless of which candidate wins in November, the real winner will be the top-heavy $8 billion TSA with its staggeringly vague mandate to screen Amtrak passengers, ballpark visitors, cars, Metro riders, and political conventioneers, all in the name of “homeland” security.
Are there any political candidates brave enough to confront this sprawling agency, whose tentacles extend to ever transportation system in America?
If there are, then they have my vote.