The ups and downs of the ACLU

Since the election of Donald Trump, the ACLU has seen a massive surge in membership, almost quadrupling its size. I have long been a member and recently on two separate occasions I met two of the leading members of the Ohio branch and I commented on this new support. They both said that while it was a good thing since it enabled them to hire more lawyers for the proliferation of lawsuits now underway, they were cognizant of the fact that a lot of the new members were likely not aware that the ACLU stood for principles based on the constitution and defended anyone whose rights were violated and were not aligned with any partisan political party.

Many of the new members likely have the impression that the ACLU is just an anti-Trump organization, perhaps even aligned with the Democratic party. This is not surprising since the right wing loves to portray the organization as a radical, left wing entity, trampling on the rights of god-fearing Merkins.

The ACLU officials said that there would come a time when the ACLU will take a stand on an issue that these new members disliked strongly and then many would resign in protest and start to drop away. This is what happened when the ACLU defended the rights of neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois back in 1978.

Such an issue has now arisen because the ACLU has said that the “Washington, D.C., transit officials violated Milo Yiannopoulos’ 1st Amendment rights by removing advertisements for his new book” and they have filed a lawsuit on his behalf to get the transit officials to reverse that ruling.

Yiannopoulos is of course a loathsome, obnoxious person and he has responded like the first-rate jerk he is to the support of the ACLU, grudgingly saying that he was “glad that the ACLU has decided to tackle a real civil rights issue” because we all know that the only people whose civil rights are being violated are privileged white males.


  1. jrkrideau says

    # 1 polishsalami
    Are you saying that only American citizens have any rights under the US Constitution? So anyone else in the country is fair game?

  2. OverlappingMagisteria says

    Many of the new members likely have the impression that the ACLU is just an anti-Trump organization…

    The mail I get from them recently certainly does give that impression. It seems to mostly say things like “Donate to help us stop Trump’s violations of the Constitution.” I’m sure it makes sense to capitalize on the wave of new anti-Trump members, but I’m worried that they might drift to the left to keep donations coming in…

  3. Mano Singham says


    Many of the rights enumerated in the constitution are for ‘persons’ and that has been interpreted as anyone legally in the US and not necessarily citizens. There are some provisions that refer just to citizens.

  4. tomh says

    @ #1
    Heck, the Supreme Court has ruled that even non-citizens on foreign soil (prisoners at Guantanamo Bay) have certain Constitutional rights.

  5. Timberwoof says

    A Libertarian acquaintance of mine said that only truly moral people will stand on their convictions even if doing so harms them. Thus when the ACLU takes on a case for a right-winger whose outcome protects all of us, I enjoy the delicious irony. Remember when they defended Rush Limbaugh against illegal search and seizure of his medical records? That protects all of us.
    Polishsalami, the US government says explicitly that all people in the US are protected by the Constitution regardless of their citizenship.
    These two things illustrate the same principle: One Law for All.

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