Few organizations have contributed more to the disorder of American politics and jurisprudence than the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Its defense of subversive causes served to undermine freedom.
However, now the organization is targeted by chaos from within. Its members are calling it structurally racist. Indeed, the world of “woke” is coming for the ACLU with a vengeance.
A Carefully Crafted Image
Since its origin in 1920, the ACLU claims to carry the banner of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Its philosophy might be summarized by Voltaire’s famous quotation, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Thus, the ACLU’s causes included anarchy, Communism, pornography and sodomy. At the same time, it built a façade of impartiality by legally defending the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi groups.
The ACLU’s first executive director, Roger Baldwin, embodied the ACLU mission. He was imprisoned as a “conscientious objector” during World War I. By his admission, he fell under the influence of the Anarchist Emma Goldman and joined the radical union, Industrial Workers of the World. In 1927, he wrote glowingly about the Bolsheviks in his book Liberty Under the Soviets.
However, the ACLU’s willingness to defend anyone catapulted Mr. Baldwin to the undeserved prominence of a fiery defender of freedom. In 1947, General Douglas MacArthur invited him to Japan to help inculcate free speech values in the wake of World War II. The new governments of Germany and Austria asked him to do similar work as they struggled to emerge from the disaster of Nazism. He was fond of saying things like, “I’m a radical in the sense that the Bill of Rights is radical.” He could sound patriotic when defending organizations that undermined law and order. A few months before his death, President Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The “Woke” Mob Attacks!
However, the façade of objectivity has come tumbling down. The “woke” movement has no respect for history, even its own. It is equally willing to topple statues of Robert E. Lee and Frederick Douglass. The “Great Society” of the sixties and the John Birch Society are both considered complicit in perpetuating “White Supremacy.” It protested against the ultra-liberal Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and President Trump.
The ACLU’s troubles are described in a New York Times article, “Once a Bastion of Free Speech, the ACLU Faces an Identity Crisis.” The Times refers to the ACLU as “America’s high temple of free speech and civil liberties.” However, the article shows how the ACLU’s internal disputes are taking it away from its “original and unique mission.” Like many liberal institutions, the ACLU is turning “woke” and forcing its leadership to grovel to the times.
The old liberals are represented by the current executive director, Anthony Romero. He cites several recent cases as proof that the organization’s goals are unchanged. The ACLU defended the National Rifle Association against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and even opposed the banning of former President Trump from social media.
The Trump Bonanza and its Cost
However, the Trump election proved to be a turning point for the ACLU. Throughout his term, the ACLU fought him on virtually everything. The organization spent $800,000 supporting the aspirations of failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and another million on ads against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. When the administration sought to protect the rights of men accused of violating Title IX regulations, the ACLU dismissed a case it normally would have taken as a move that “promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused.”
The article admits the Trump presidency was a bonanza for the ACLU. “More than $1 million in donations sluiced into its coffers within 24 hours and tens of millions of dollars followed in 2017, making the organization better funded than ever before.” Their budget tripled to more than $300 million a year.
That extra funds allowed the ACLU to hire a new slate of young “woke” lawyers that are now leading an internal revolt. They refer to the old school leadership as “privileged,” “clueless,” “out of touch” and “oblivious” to “the ACLU’s institutional racism.” They argue that freedom of speech conflicts with the organization’s advocacy of expanded “voting rights,” “reparations,” “transgender rights” and “defunding the police.” Indeed, they even contend that “First Amendment protections are disproportionately enjoyed by people of power and privilege.”
The “woke” appear to be carrying the day. In 2015, the organization refused to defend a student journalist kicked out of a campus protest against racism. The ACLU’s Connecticut chapter is demanding that the University of Connecticut require coursework in Critical Race Theory. The revolutionaries are insisting that the ACLU “no longer defend white supremacists.” New ACLU guidelines ask its attorneys to “balance” the effect of taking a “right-wing” free-speech case against the “offense” that taking the case might bring to “marginalized groups.”
Showing Its True Face
The problems of the ACLU are similar to those of many liberal organizations. Its liberalism eventually leads to the tyranny of its ideas. The façade of freedom has to come crumbling down to be consistent with the liberal desire to be free of all restraints. The ACLU’s betrayal of its mission is no surprise to those who have long watch it demolish the role of families, schools, and laws that upheld traditional values and the Church. Indeed, the ACLU is now showing its true face.