ACLU Rant
Posted: 21 August 2007 06:42 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m a card-carrying member of the ACLU. At least in principle. In practice, I never actually take the card with me, and it took me some time to find it just now.

Anyway, I’ve lately been getting mass mailings calling Congressional Democrats sheep. The bone of contention is, I believe, that Pelosi and Reid caved on the military commissions act. The solution, according to the ACLU, is to run ads in their districts calling them sheep. Because, as we all know, shrill ACLU ads will never backfire and make their targets look independent, emboldening them instead of weakening them. After all, the ACLU is a powerful, well-respected organization that the Democrats will never want to get on the wrong side on, because one word from it and millions of moderates will switch sides in the election.

In my head I call this the bloggers’ fallacy: if you scream loudly enough, you’ll shift discourse to your side. Bloggers didn’t invent it and aren’t its most obnoxious practitioners, but it’s from them that I’ve learned about it. The same bloggers tend to hate the living guts of single-issue organizations like the ACLU because they don’t toe the Democratic Party line, but they apparently have a lot in common.

(I’m a solution-oriented person. What I think is the most productive when it comes to civil liberties is to target socially liberal, economically conservative Independents. Right now those voters tend to be fairly law and order-oriented, their social liberalism showing mostly on abortion and gay rights, but they also tend to appreciate competence very much. It’s not that hard to link authoritarianism to incompetence by pointing to Bush as a prime example, and by linking the national security state to radical ideologies such as Dominionism. The important bit is to acquire the ability to tell the Democrats, “If you screw us on civil liberties, there are three million voters who won’t see a difference between you and the Republicans on social issues and vote Republican based on their economic interests.”)

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Posted: 21 August 2007 07:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s a tough issue, Alon, one that I can see both sides of. That said, in the final analysis I think you’re right, although I’d wonder how much of the ACLU’s base is really likely to be voting Republican anyhow.

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Posted: 21 August 2007 07:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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None, most likely, and the Democrats know it. The Democrats like to hype civil liberties as a Democratic issue (but not the more specific points of abortion, immigration, SSM, or police brutality, i.e. civil liberties for women, Hispanics, gays, and blacks), but they also hype education as a Democratic issue and still routinely fail to do anything useful about it.

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Posted: 22 August 2007 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Just to play Devil’s Advocate, I’d say pragmatism can only get you so far. You need to have and articulate a principled stand first and foremost. There are lots of apologia for Dawkins and Harris and other “evangelical atheists” that say without shrill voices no one will listen. The Democrats have been marketing themselves as what I call “Republican Light” for some time (strong on defense, pro free-market and free-trade, distancing themselves from losing positions on culture war issues) and I’m not sure it works. At least some radical voices are needed to shift the mainstream in their direction (assuming you think that’s the direction the mainstream should go, which in this case I do), and if you risk alienagting Independant voters, well maybe to take a stand for a principle sometimes requires that.

As I say, I’m largely playing DA because I can’t decide for myself how far to carry realpolitik before it becomes a betrayal of principle. I’m so far to the left of the mainstream that I haven’t felt well-represented by a national Deomcrat since Carter, but I still don’t have anyone else to vote for who even comes close. And yes, all those people who voted for Nader shot themselves, and the rest of us, in the foot by tipping the scales towards Bush. But how does the mainstream shift without someone to say unpopular things?

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Posted: 22 August 2007 02:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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mckenzievmd - 22 August 2007 02:20 PM

And yes, all those people who voted for Nader shot themselves, and the rest of us, in the foot by tipping the scales towards Bush.

the closest that can come to being true was the state of Florida, because in every state that Bush won Nader’s percenatage of votes was less than the difference between Bush and Gore. And, we know that Gore won Florida. The Katherine Harris tricks were being exposed and Bush was lucky enough to get the Supreme Court to stop the recount before “irreparable harm” (Justice Scalia) was done by showing him to be the loser.

the Nader excuse is just a little too worn out. obviously those who voted for Nader did so intentionally, so it makes no sense to blame him for the publics dissastisfaction with the two heads that share the same body. all Nader did was exercise his rights to try and bring about some needed change. no one was shot in the foot because some voted for water over coke and pepsi.

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Posted: 22 August 2007 02:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Well, I don’t know that the actual percentage made the difference, though if those votes in Flroida had gone to Gore the “tricks” you refer to might have been less successful. Anyway, not the point I was trying to make. Only that a “protest vote” can be a fine act of principle or a way of lettging the bad guys win, and I’m not sure it’s easy to know the difference always.

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Posted: 22 August 2007 03:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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i have a basic agreement on the “protest vote.”

in 2004 folks would ask for my opinion (at work, school or just for chit chat) and I would say: if you live in a swing state then go for the lesser of the two evils; if you dont live in a swing state then vote for whoever you want or not at all.

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Posted: 23 August 2007 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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mckenzievmd - 22 August 2007 02:20 PM

Just to play Devil’s Advocate, I’d say pragmatism can only get you so far. You need to have and articulate a principled stand first and foremost. There are lots of apologia for Dawkins and Harris and other “evangelical atheists” that say without shrill voices no one will listen. The Democrats have been marketing themselves as what I call “Republican Light” for some time (strong on defense, pro free-market and free-trade, distancing themselves from losing positions on culture war issues) and I’m not sure it works. At least some radical voices are needed to shift the mainstream in their direction (assuming you think that’s the direction the mainstream should go, which in this case I do), and if you risk alienagting Independant voters, well maybe to take a stand for a principle sometimes requires that.

Most of that I won’t argue with. My contention isn’t that everyone should just be very careful and engage in realpolitik all the time. Rather, it’s that the ACLU is branching into an area it’s bad at, and as a result it’s only going to embolden Democrats who shred civil liberties. Organizations should stick to their natural strengths. If MLK’s movement had suddenly decided to stop engaging in direct action and concentrate on the courts instead, I’d have said the same thing.

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