The public face of the ACLU

James Kirchick on the new and not improved ACLU:

“My successor, and the board of directors that have supported him, have basically tried to transform the organization from a politically neutral, nonpartisan civil liberties organization into a progressive liberal organization,” [former Executive Director Ira] Glasser says about Anthony Romero, an ex-Ford Foundation executive who continues to serve as the ACLU’s executive director. According to former ACLU national board member Wendy Kaminer in her 2009 book Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU, Romero and his enablers routinely engaged in the sort of undemocratic and unaccountable behavior practiced by the individuals and institutions the ACLU usually took to court, like withholding information (concerning a breach of ACLU members’ privacy, no less), shredding documents in violation of its own record-preservation and transparency procedures, and attempting to muzzle board members from criticizing the organization publicly.

Of course, no discussion of the ACLU can ignore Donald Trump, whose role in its degeneration, like that of so many other people and institutions opposed to him, was seismic. It was entirely appropriate that the ACLU would be one of Trump’s loudest antagonists; he made violating the letter and spirit of the Constitution an all but explicit plank of his campaign, and his upset victory subsequently led to a dramatic spike in the ACLU’s membership rolls. Accompanying this influx of new members and money, however, were pressures for the group to become another run-of-the-mill #Resistance outfit.

And thus more attractive to someone like Chase Strangio, who is not a defender of civil liberties at all. (Does Strangio defend the civil liberty to say that men are not women and women are not men? No.)

Were the ACLU today confronted with a lawsuit similar to National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, Glasser doubts the group would take it.

Mind you, I’m not ACLU (Glasser-era ACLU) material either, because I’ve never thought the ACLU were right about the Skokie case. I don’t think it’s a civil liberty to threaten people, and I think Nazis marching through a neighborhood that’s mostly Jewish is threatening those Jews.

If the public face of the ACLU was Ira Glasser during the latter part of the previous century, today that honor can be claimed by a staff attorney named Chase Strangio. Named one of the 100 most influential people on the planet by Time magazine last year, Strangio is the ACLU’s deputy director for transgender justice. Like many activists consumed by this issue, he is uncompromising in demanding strict adherence to a set of highly contestable orthodoxies, and merciless toward anyone who dares question them. Two women who have—J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, and Abigail Shrier, author of a book about the role of “peer contagion” in the rising rate of teenage girls declaring themselves transgender—are “closely aligned with white supremacists in power,” Strangio declared on Twitter, offering not a shred of evidence for this claim. “Stopping the circulation of [Shrier’s] book and these ideas is 100% a hill I will die on,” he wrote, a rather bizarre position for an ACLU employee to endorse.

“Rather bizarre” is a loose translation of “Strangio.”

8 Responses to “The public face of the ACLU”