After Donald Trump twitted about how unfair Nordstrom was to his daughter, Ivanka, in dropping her line of whatever it is she sells, people were outraged that he used his presidency, not to mention his @POTUS twitter handle,* to back his child. On the bright side, word is that Nordstrom sold out of its Hermès “#TheResistance” Birkin bags, made of recycled toilet paper, on sale for $10,749.99.
In the meantime, the Senate confirmed the 84th Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions. The combination of outrage at Sessions’ 30-year-old racism, plus McConnell’s making Liz Warren look sympathetic, consumed people’s daily dose of legalish outrage. Too bad so few paid much attention to things that Sessions might actually do with his hands on the wheel of the Department of Justice. You know, law stuff rather than racial injustice that makes you verklempt.
And that means it’s money time for the civil rights organizations that seem so very critical if you squint your eyes and don’t think too hard. They have no handbags to sell, so they are busy selling you what they can.
Decades of actions speak louder than words uttered to get confirmed. When the real Jeff Sessions shows up,@ACLU will be there ready to fight
— Jeff Robinson (@jeff_robinson56) February 9, 2017
There is no one who supports constitutional rights who doesn’t appreciate how the ACLU stood up for neo-Nazis’ free speech and assembly rights in Skokie. But that was 1978. When the neo-neo-Nazi weasel got punched in the face, what did the ACLU have to say about it? Not a thing.
They were right on top of Trump’s Muslim Ban Not Muslim Ban, and that brought in a flood of money, $24 million in a weekend when their annual fund raising produced maybe $4 million. It enjoyed the largesse of those who hated Trump and were outraged by the stories coming out of airports.
So that makes the ACLU the good guys, right?
Well, yes and no. The problem is that the ACLU does some things right, and others less than right. In fact, they do some things very wrong, being the apologist for flagrant constitutional violations when they conflict with their social justice agenda. Like what, you ask? Hate speech, revenge porn, and don’t even ask about the hated Second Amendment. These may involve violations of constitutional rights, but not the rights the ACLU likes anymore.
So when reporters ask questions about whether some act is constitutional, and turn to the venerated ACLU for permission to infringe on constitutional rights, they are happy to announce that it’s all good with them. After all, if the ACLU, the folks who stood up for Skokie Nazis in ’78 say it’s lawful to infringe on your constitutional rights, then it must be.
Two friends of mine, Mark Bennett and Jim Tyre, went at it on the twitters after Mark took issue with the ACLU’s effort to milk Session’s confirmation for money.
Jim is “of counsel” to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group with some overlap with the ACLU, but online as opposed to on the streets. Like the ACLU, EFF has done some wonderful things. Like the ACLU, EFF has some conflicted feelings toward the Constitution. Like the ACLU, when Mark was fighting unconstitutional laws in Texas and Georgia that involved online conduct, the EFF provided no support.
It’s not that Jim isn’t well intended, and doesn’t support the same things Mark does. Rather, it’s a different mindset toward law, one that accepts the premise of compromise, allocation of resources, bureaucracy and deference to the will of the collective.
When the brain trust of the group decides to put the organization’s clout, name recognition and money behind a cause, great. When they decide that they don’t love this free speech, because it hurts their feelings, and so they don’t want to back it, well, that’s the group’s choice. If you want a chunk of their money, you have to go to them, hat in hand, and beg for it. If they deign to work with you, you have to be prepared to compromise your position to meet with their approval. Their money. Their rules. Take it or leave it.
And even if you’re willing to bend to the collective will, that doesn’t ensure you support. There will be many criminal defense lawyers fighting unconstitutional laws, applications of law, in the coming years, and they will do so without so much as a whimper from these organizations, despite begging for help. It may have nothing to do with the issue, but being on the wrong side of the social justice agenda. The Constitution, as it turns out, can be an impediment to their vision of the future.
Without substantial organizations like the ACLU or the EFF, it’s hard to amass big money to perform their mission. That was the problem Jeff Blackburn had when he quit the Texas Innocence Project that he helped found, after the main Innocence Project threw a gala to honor that champion of the poor and downtrodden, Goldman Sachs. It’s not that the Innocence Project doesn’t do good work, but they needed Goldman Sachs’ money to do so.
So Mark won cases, had laws tossed as unconstitutional, without the help of the EFF or the ACLU. Jim doesn’t understand why Mark would undermine the fundraising efforts, because they can’t function without moolah. The organizations appeal to the mass audience for money, because that’s what’s working for them now.
And the mass audience may like what they’re doing in one instance, whether for the right or wrong reasons, but will lack the principles to support their work in other instances because they really only like the Constitution when they like it. Not when they don’t, at which point they fabricate nonsensical claims that are flagrantly anti-constitutional rights.
The Constitution is nether right not left. It’s not liberal. It’s not conservative. It’s the structure of our nation, and has served us well when honored even though it doesn’t always serve your feelings on any particular issue. And it is constantly under attack, whether by the government or the forces that collect your donations under the misconception that they’re supporting it.
It’s not like they can win the battle for the bucks by selling handbags at Nordstrom, you know. And if they don’t cash in when they can, their crowd will have to go into the well on their own. Like Mark does.
*Christina Wilke of the venerable HuffPo twitted:
I was shocked and appalled. I didn’t even know Twitter charged for the @POTUS account and my tax dollars were paying for it. And here, like a fool, I’ve been twitting for free.