In my latest reading of What’s a Nice Republican Girl Like Me Doing in the ACLU? (copyright 1997), Sheila Suess Kennedy explains why she differs from the national American Civil Liberties Union in her opposition to discriminatory government-sponsored affirmative action programs, and she also defends public schools and criticizes government-sponsored vouchers for children to attend private schools.
What I want to use as my starting-point in this post, however, is something that Kennedy says on page 159, as she discusses a mutually-respectful correspondence that she had with a pro-life woman: “Subsequent correspondence has revealed a common concern for the free speech rights of abortion protesters. We both worry that government is using RICO laws to stifle dissent.”
Earlier in the book, on page 15, she mentions other common-ground that the ACLU has found with groups that many would characterize as right-wing. She refers to common-ground between the ACLU and the libertarian Cato Institute on the drug war, and between the ACLU and the National Rifle Association “on issues stemming from the 1993 tragedy in Waco.”
I admire the integrity of the ACLU: it has principles, and it does not care if those principles put it on what people would label as the left-side of the political spectrum, or the right-wing side. It just stands up for people’s rights! Some right-wingers have told me that the ACLU is pretty selective about what rights it defends, however, for the ACLU does not exactly take on gun control laws, which a number of right-wingers believe are in violation of the Second Amendment. You can see here that the ACLU regards the right to keep and bear arms as a collective right, not an individual right. I can see some of the ACLU’s point, for the Amendment does mention a militia. But I wonder why a collective right would be placed inside of a document (namely, the Bill of Rights) that primarily concerns protecting the rights of the individual from government infringement. In any case, whatever the merit of its stance on the Second Amendment, I appreciate the ACLU’s integrity on the other rights in the Bill of Rights, as it defends left-wingers and right-wingers, the mainstream and the extreme.
(UPDATE: Regarding Kennedy’s views on gun control, on pages 188-189, she appears to be critical of the government confiscating guns to reduce crime and violence. Yet, in her post here, she disapproves of a measure allowing people to carry guns into the workplace.)
I’d also like to mention that Kennedy on page 128 criticizes Congress for exempting itself from the laws that it passes. This was an issue in the 1990’s, for, in 1995, the U.S. Congress passed the Congressional Accountability Act, which applied to the U.S. Congress a number of federal laws from which it had exempted itself. This law was passed soon after Republicans gained majorities in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, for the first time in over three decades. It was a time in which many anticipated reform, as Republicans in the 1994 elections had ousted long-time career politicians, and fresh blood was coming into the chambers of Congress. Of course, the outcome of the Republican triumph was not entirely positive, for the Republican Congress had its share of scandals. But I remember with nostalgia the fresh, innocent Republican optimism that I had right after the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994.