"Restore The Fourth" Movement: Will It Get Any More Than 15 Minutes Of Fame?


“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

While many Americans were enjoying barbecue, beer, and fireworks this July 4, thousands took to the streets to protest in defense of these words. "Restore the Fourth" organized dozens of grassroots rallies via social media in just about every state in the country. Absent was the ideological venom of the Tea Party rallies or the hipster naïveté of the Occupy Wall Street movement. This was a coalition of people from across the political spectrum who were outraged by the recent revelations that an American espionage agency has been engaging in espionage.

It speaks to the organizational power of social media that something like "Restore the Fourth" can prop up so quickly. But even given the advances in organization and mobilization that social media has enabled, this movement is likely to fade out not long after Edward Snowden stops dominating the headlines.

Our national attention span is relatively short because it is largely cyclical to events that shape the news. Remember the environmental concerns after the BP oil spill? How about the renewed call for gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings? The momentum of political capital for any given movement fades quickly once the events that sparked the movement in the first place cease to dominate the headlines.

Another reason the effectiveness of the "Restore the Fourth" movement will be limited is because of the ideological coalition of those who support the NSA's programs. This has not been a left/right issue so much as it's been an establishment/anti-establishment division. This division was manifested when Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) were among the first to jump to President Obama's defense on this. The establishment of each party's backing of the NSA programs has rendered the American voter unable to effectively vote against the national security state anymore. The national-security policies of the PATRIOT Act have been championed by both parties, and in the post-9/11 decade the NSA policies that so many are outraged about would have likely been carried out by a President Kerry, McCain, or Romney just as they have under Bush and Obama.

The ultimate reason this movement will not gain much long-term momentum is because policies that deal with the safety and security of the American people are the least swayed by politics and public opinion.

Nevertheless, the conversation on the appropriate balance between personal freedoms and national security is one that needs to happen, and a group of people exercising their First Amendment rights to defend their Fourth Amendment rights is as American as barbecue, beer, and fireworks on the Fourth of July.