The Director of the American Civil Liberties Union has now acknowledged what should have been obvious to everybody over the past several years: that the A.C.L.U. 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, 2018, 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 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.
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 1980’s and 90’s, 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. And 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.