Edward Snowden may have subtly influenced the US elections from afar

The Obama administration “took one on the chin” in the US congressional elections this past Tuesday. However, what no pundit, prognosticator or post/election analyst has covered is the effect that Edward Snowden affair has had on the outcome.

It’s been sixteen months since his disclosures rocked the world and a month since a follow-up documentary, Citizenfour, was released. Some things may have been forgotten in that time but the specter of the bumbling administration response to the episode obviously has resonated with voters. You may recall that at the time of Snowden’s leaks in June 2013, Obama dismissed the event saying famously that he wasn’t going to scramble jets to bring down his plane. In the wake of Obama’s repudiation in the polls on Tuesday, one only wonders if he erred in not taking the affair more seriously.

To be sure, citizens registered their discontent with many Obama policies which included presiding over the most antagonistic, obtrusive and invasive government surveillance program of individuals in history. James Risen, a New York Times writer and author who is being prosecuted by the Justice Department for failing to disclose a confidential source, revealed that there have been more prosecutions of his type in the last six years of this administration than in all previous administrations combined since WWII. This bespeaks the lengths to which this administration will go to silence its critics.

All across America voters were disenchanted with the administration in a broad range of areas. One such area was U.S. foreign policy which has been in a shambles. Some of the dissatisfaction and mistrust by foreign governments can be laid at the feet of the obnoxious, arrogant surveillance of foreign governments and their leaders by the U.S. Spy agencies. The overly permissive, accommodative administration policies towards the NSA, CIA and their ilk have allowed them to run roughshod over privacy rights for the past six years. It was Snowden’s leaks which galvanized many foreign governments against the U.S.

In attempting to diminish Snowden’s actions rather than address spy agency abuses, Obama allowed a Pandora’s Box to be opened which proved both embarrassing and damaging to the administration and to its relationships with its allies. Instead of tackling the issue proactively, Obama played defense and attempted to stem the fallout in an attempt at damage control. In the end it came back to bite him.

It must be noted that Obama swept into power in 2008 offering a new paradigm of change which promised, among other things, transparency in government. Edward Snowden’s revelations exposed this as a sham-simply campaign rhetoric. In not being more accommodating to Snowden and his plight, Obama left open a window into the type of government that Americans so soundly repudiated in the mid-term elections.

It will be interesting to watch events unfold in the coming months to see if a chastened Obama alters policy or adamantly and arrogantly continues to pursue an anti-privacy agenda.

Stan Ward has enjoyed writing for 50 years. Writing has been a comfortable companion to a successful business and teaching career for him. Find him on Google+.

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2 responses to “Edward Snowden may have subtly influenced the US elections from afar

  1. I think US voters are simply disgusted with the fact that it doesn’t matter which major party gets the votes, the policies are already bought and paid for.

    The average voter in a “Western, first-world democracy” knows that governments will ignore them on important issues. Spying on your own citizens, austerity, privatisation, taxation… we the people do not matter as much as the 1%. Even staging a protest tends to be considered and treated as a crime, while the police forces are given free reign and all the tools necessary to keep protesters ‘in line’. Pepper spray directly to the face, raping someone who was in the vicinity because she was thought to be a protester – we are seeing that laws are not for everyone.

    The attempts (largely successful) by major parties to close and lock the door behind themselves and prevent any challenge to their comfortable duopolies simply fits in with the bigger picture, showing that in fact government “of the people, by the people” has never really been the case and is becoming less and less so.

    So in the US, only 30%-odd of eligible voters turned out – of REGISTERED voters – so ignoring the people who have never bothered (there is a state by state breakdown at http://america.aljazeera.com/blogs/scrutineer/2014/11/5/why-the-real-electionturnoutwasfarlowerthanreported.html, and one has to wonder about the District of Columbia’s 25.9% – in the ‘heart of democracy’ and the place closest to the US democratic process!) People know they don’t have an impact, and so they don’t take time off work, risk their jobs, or bother with how to prove that they have the right to vote in the numerous states that now have voter ID laws. Leaving the vote to extremists who hate something. In such a situation, the right wing is much more able to get out the vote because of the nature of its voting base; it is richer, has more time on its hands and does not need to worry about presenting ID because it’s white.

    Obama had nothing – or very little – to do with these results.

    1. Dear Stepen,

      Your comment is well thought out and composed. I agree with most of what you say. But exit polls indicate that, even though the number of voters was relatively small, 60% or so expressed dissatisfaction with Obama. Thanks for taking the time and making your excellent points.
      Stan Ward

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