For the last few months, Congressman Eric Swalwell has been working hard at painting himself as a progressive (or, at least, as not the Blue Dog Democrat he is said to be at heart). He has advocated in favor of gun control, co-sponsored the Violence Against Women Act, joined the Pro-Choice Caucus and even told constituents that the only thing that kept him from joining the Progressive Caucus were the caucus fees (which, it turns out, are both modest and voluntary).
But his flirtation with the progressive wing of the party seems to have ended. He celebrated his 100 days in office today by being the sole member of the Bay Area Congressional delegation (unless you count Napa Congressman Mike Thompson, himself a Blue Dog) to cast a vote in favor of CISPA. This so-called cybersecurity law will do little to secure computer systems, but it will provide even ampler powers both to the government and to private entities to monitor and share information about the private activities of regular citizens in the internet. The privacy holes are so egregious that even President Obama, who whole-heartedly supported the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, has threatened to veto it.
Politically, this move doesn’t make too much sense. His Republican and independent supporters in the Tri-Valley tend to display a libertarian streak and this vote is unlikely to please them. However, it may bring him a check or two and it should reassure his cronies in law enforcement that he won’t be an advocate for civil liberties any time soon.
The move, however, does provide an opening for his 2014 challenger, State Senator Ellen Corbett to publicly reassert her own commitment to due process and civil liberties. It’s also a silent “told you so” to anyone in the local party (me included) who might have thought Swalwell could be redeemable. If nothing else, this vote makes Corbett’s case that Swalwell needs to be taken out sooner rather than later.