Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What Is The PROPER Role Of the ACLU?...

We are not at all comfortable the ACLU is actively moving in the direction of supporting partisan political agenda's and becoming involved in the election process with the obvious goal of influencing outcomes. For the organizations 98 year history it has devoted itself to fighting for the protection of the civil liberties of all Americans. To become just another partisan political advocacy group is a disservice to the original reason for its existence.

Recent moves by the ACLU may very well be in response to the Bush and Trump era(s) and their apparent desires to concentrate power in the hands of a conservative government (agenda), the plutocrats, the military, and the religious right. However, the last thing we need is another special interest advocacy group. Especially when the ACLU often argues in court for everyone's civil liberties, presumably based on our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Taking partisan political positions and morphing into an advocacy group will compromise the ACLU's integrity. Something which is already suspect in the minds of more than just a few. Besides, both the right and the left has more than an ample amount of these.

Because the right is more focused, better at propaganda, and hugely more effective at marketing their propaganda is the fault of moderates and the liberal left which has done a poor job of marketing their alternative. Either that or the nation is, as this individual has often said, a center right nation.

Now on to some commentary by those more familiar than I with the ACLU.

The Hill - The director of the American Civil Liberties Union has now acknowledged what should have been obvious to everybody over the past several years: The ACLU is no longer a neutral defender of everyone’s civil liberties. It has morphed into a hyper-partisan, hard-left political advocacy group. The final nail in its coffin was the announcement that, for the first time in its history, the ACLU would become involved in partisan electoral politics, supporting candidates, referenda and other agenda-driven political goals.

The headline in the June 8 edition of the New Yorker tells it all: “The ACLU is getting involved in elections — and reinventing itself for the Trump era.” The article continues: “In this midterm year, however, as progressive groups have mushroomed and grown more active, and as liberal billionaires such as Howard Schultz and Tom Steyer have begun to imagine themselves as political heroes and eye presidential runs, the ACLU, itself newly flush, has begun to move in step with the times. For the first time in its history, the ACLU is taking an active role in elections. The group has plans to spend more than 25 million dollars on races and ballot initiatives by Election Day, in November.”

Since its establishment nearly 100 years ago, the ACLU has been, in the words of the New Yorker, “fastidiously nonpartisan, so prudish about any alliance with any political power that its leadership, in the 1980s and 90s, declined even to give awards to likeminded legislators for fear that it might give the wrong impression.” I know, because I served on its national board in the early days of my own career.

In those days, the board consisted of individuals who were deeply committed to core civil liberties, especially freedom of speech, opposition to prosecutorial overreach and political equality. Its board members included Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, right wingers and left wingers, all of whom supported neutral civil liberties. The key test in those days was what I have come to call “the shoe on the other foot” test: Would you vote the same way if the shoe were on the other foot, that is, if the party labels were switched?

Today, the ACLU wears only one shoe, and it is on its left foot. Its color is blue. The only dispute is whether it supports the progressive wing of the Democratic Party or its more centrist wing. There is little doubt that most board members today support the progressive wing, though some think that even that wing is not sufficiently left. There is no longer any room in the ACLU for true conservatives who are deeply committed to neutral civil liberties. The litmus test is support for hard-left policies.

To be sure, the ACLU will still occasionally take a high profile case involving a Nazi or Klan member who has been denied freedom of speech, though there are now some on the board who would oppose supporting such right-wing extremists. But the core mission of the ACLU — and its financial priority — is to promote its left-wing agenda in litigation, in public commentary and, now, in elections. ...

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THE NEW YORKER - Earlier this year, radio advertisements began airing in and around Charlotte, North Carolina, criticizing the elected sheriff of Mecklenburg County, a Democrat and retired firefighter named Irwin Carmichael. Normally, only the most politically extreme or publicity-hungry sheriffs attract much public notice, and Carmichael was not one of those. “People weren’t even aware of who the sheriff was,” Mark Mellman, a prominent Washington pollster who worked on the race, told me. Carmichael’s office had maintained an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement that deputized his officers to identify undocumented prisoners and turn them over to federal agents, and the radio ads focussed on this issue. “Sheriff Carmichael works with Trump’s deportation force—detaining people for deportation, tearing families apart,” an announcer intoned. “Carmichael’s challengers? They’ve pledged to stop working with Trump’s deportation force.” The anti-Carmichael ads also carried an interesting concluding line—they had been paid for, an announcer said, by the American Civil Liberties Union. Carmichael had gone into his reĆ«lection year looking like a good bet to win. Before the Democratic primary, he had raised more than twice as much money as had his two challengers—a retired homicide detective, Garry McFadden, and a former suburban police chief, Antoine Ensley—combined. But the A.C.L.U. was spending money on the race, too: the radio ads alone matched half of Carmichael’s budget. On primary day, McFadden won, Ensley came in second, and Carmichael finished third. When he spoke to the press after the results came in, the defeated sheriff criticized the “outside forces” that he believed had contributed to his defeat.

For most of its ninety-eight years of existence, the A.C.L.U. has spent its resources largely on litigation, arguing for civil liberties, and against government excess, in the courts. Part of the organization’s DNA is a Bill of Rights purism—the group, always liberal, has famously defended the rights of neo-Nazis and Klansmen to protest—and it has been fastidiously nonpartisan, so prudish about any alliance with political power that its leadership, in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, declined even to give awards to like-minded legislators for fear that it might give the wrong impression. In this midterm year, however, as progressive groups have mushroomed and grown more active, and as liberal billionaires such as Howard Schultz and Tom Steyer have begun to imagine themselves as political heroes and eye Presidential runs, the A.C.L.U., itself newly flush, has begun to move in step with the times. For the first time in its history, the A.C.L.U. is taking an active role in elections. The group has plans to spend more than twenty-five million dollars on races and ballot initiatives by Election Day, in November. Anthony Romero, the group’s executive director, told me, “It used to be that, when I had a referendum I really cared about, I could spend fifty thousand dollars.”

Last year, as a kind of experiment, the A.C.L.U. made a small investment in the district attorney’s race in Philadelphia. The group had become interested in the race because one of the candidates, a former civil-rights lawyer named Larry Krasner, was campaigning on the promise to help end mass incarceration. The A.C.L.U. helped send ex-felons door to door, talking about the brutalities and injustices of prison, and Krasner won. The sheriff’s race in Mecklenburg County was the experiment’s second phase—an investment big enough to help tip a race, spent in an increasingly progressive city in a traditionally conservative state where, the hope was, people could be persuaded to see the mundane brutalities of the local jail anew. The day after the vote in Mecklenburg County, McFadden, who had just won the Democratic nomination, called the A.C.L.U.’s national political director, Faiz Shakir, to thank him. Shakir told me that he encouraged McFadden to make Mecklenburg into a national model for how a progressive sheriff might run his department.

Anthony Romero became the executive director of the A.C.L.U. in 2001, just before the September 11th attacks. The excesses of the Bush Administration’s war on terror, which followed, raised the group’s profile and improved fund-raising. But even that unusual period, Romero told me recently, was not so unusual as this one, because, during the Bush Administration, the civil-liberties cause was mostly a series of lawsuits and editorial arguments, not a movement. After 9/11, when the Bush Administration instituted a program that required visitors from two dozen Muslim-majority countries to register with the government, Romero said, “I don’t remember anyone waving signs that said ‘We are all Muslims.’ ” But last year, when President Trump’s first travel ban targeting Muslims was issued, protests spread at airports around the country, A.C.L.U. lawyers arrived on the scene, and that slogan—“We are all Muslims”—was seen everywhere. Romero had played a small role in helping to organize the Women’s March of 1996, when thirty thousand women and men marched in San Francisco in defense of reproductive rights. That event had required years of centralized planning. After Trump’s election, much larger women’s marches took place in cities around the country, organized in a matter of weeks. The defense of and concern for civil liberties has been central to the resistance to Trump, and the A.C.L.U.’s membership has quadrupled since the President was inaugurated. Romero said that the average age of his membership had dropped by twenty years as a result, and has become somewhat more diverse—“sixteen per cent people of color,” he said. “It’s no longer just college-educated liberals on the coasts.”

Even before this influx of new members, Romero had already begun to think about how the A.C.L.U. might adapt to its current-day political context. In 2013, during the comparative quiet of the late Obama years, Romero had commissioned a study of how the National Rifle Association—another organization built around a specific view of a section of the Bill of Rights—has managed to operate so effectively as a public-advocacy organization. “The big takeaway for me from that study was that they were able to talk about their work not in legalistic policy terms,” Romero said. “On their Web site you won’t find anything about the Second Amendment. It’s all about gun culture.” Romero thought that the A.C.L.U. might do something similar—moving out from the courtrooms and into the work of grassroots mobilization, of policy issues and campaigns. What he wanted, he said, was “to give people a real opportunity to be protagonists.” ...

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1 comment:

  1. Interesting. No thoughts from either the left or right. Speaks volumes.


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