One of the more surprising developments in PIPA/SOPA politics has been the transition of Hollywood-backed legislation from a bipartisan issue with both Republican and Democratic proponents and opponents to a partisan issue. Democrats (particularly Senate Democrats) are increasingly identified as supporting the legislation and Hollywood while Republicans increasingly frame this as an exercise in big government and crony capitalism.
On the one hand, this seems remarkably unfair given that Democratic Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) was the first Senator to oppose PIPA and one of the chief architects of the bipartisan alliance of Senators and Representatives that kept PIPA/SOPA from advancing to the point of no return. It also ignores the role the Obama Administration played in legitimizing and galvanizing anti-PIPA/SOPA efforts (including the SOPAStrike web blackout) by strongly opposing PIPA/SOPA before the SOPAStrike, despite the naked threats of Hollywood moguls to punish the Obama campaign by cutting off any further contributions.
But too many Senate Democrats seem intent on handing Republicans a partisan victory. Whereas even Republican champions such as Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) have acknowledged “legitimate concerns” of opponents and have “shelved” SOPA so that it can be “scrapped” and a new approach developed, high profile Senate Democrats continue to insist that they will press on against what they regard as unwarranted opposition motivated either by financial interest, disinformation, or political opportunism. Indeed, PIPA author Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) used his opening floor speech yesterday to chastise Republicans for their opposition to PIPA and his hope that, now that Republicans are back in Washington and away from all those annoying constituents protesting PIPA, they will return to the True Path of Reason — which lies in fanatically embracing any legislation that gets the MPAA seal of approval.
Which brings us to the interesting question for the legislative season: will prominent Senate Democrats chose to make this the issue on which they will drive the Democratic Party generally off a cliff by continuing to try to “sell” PIPA/SOPA, thus embracing Republican charges of a “culture of corruption” and “crony capitalism?” Or will they finally come to their senses and publicly embrace those like Wyden who insist that measures directed against online infringement must not also threaten free speech and innovation?