The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

After so many years of being tarred-and-feathered by the right wing, the American Civil Liberties Union may be making a public-perception move back to the mainstream. This by virtue of the high-profile addition of a couple of arch-conservative Republican leaders, Bob Barr and Dick Armey, as consultants. Probably more important, though, is the much lower-profile addition of some 50,000 new members since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I think this underline how apolitical the ACLU is (or should be; it's not immune to the political winds either, really). That it takes up unpopular causes like Nazis in Skokie, challenges to expansion of Federal authority connected to the wars on drugs and terrorism and too many other examples, is its raison d'etre. Its mission is not to be popular, it's to be a guardian for basic democratic safeguards. Thus the newfound appeal by conservatives.

That Armey would consider joining a group he helped villify seems especially bizarre. But a deeper look shows that, on a very basic level, the ACLU and conservatives like Armey share many of the same principles. The methods toward protecting and promoting those principles are probably where the main divergence lies.