First let me say this. I am a big fan of the ACLU.
Their tireless fight for civil liberties, human rights, and for the constitution is inspiring and unwavering.
They do a good job of reaching people. Not all organizations do. The ACLU utilizes a variety of media. They have a great website (linked above). They have a blog. They utilize a You Tube Page. They produce television shows. They sell t-shirts and books at their website store.
They get it: people can't just read about court battles, they need to be engaged and educated on a variety of levels and in different ways. But there is a difference between reaching out to single people for single events, and organizing people into a movement.
The ACLU and our civil liberties needs a movement.
Now I am a MoveOn volunteer and so am biased having worked and lived in that culture for over two years. So I am biased in favor of an activism model who engages and brings together groups of people for events, and enables them to keep coming back together. I think this is what ACLU needs. Take ACLU's latest campaign... I'm a Constitution Voter.
It is brilliant up to a point. It is simple. Here is their description...
Today we’re launching a new campaign, "I’m a Constitution Voter." We’re pledging to make the Constitution our focus and our guide for this election and in the future. We hope you’ll join us, take the pledge and spread the word. Together, we can make a statement that no politician can spin away.
And on September 17, Constitution Day, we’re asking all civil libertarians to flood local and national media with letters to the editor, call-ins to radio shows and comments on the blogs urging them to cover civil liberties issues when talking about the election.
There are many ways to participate in addition to those above. You can go canvassing, you can host parties, you can write letters to the editor. You can take photo of yourself holding a sign which says I'm a Constituion Voter and upload it and people see a visual representation of your signing the constitution petition.
But the thing you can't do is find others like yourself. Let me put that another way-- unless you already know people interested in this issue, ACLU has no way to help you. In this campaign how are you to host a house party?
Hosting a debate watching party is a fun and exciting way to experience a political debate, and an excellent way to engage your friends and family.....Invite your guests to come at least a half-hour before the start of the debate so that you can get acquainted. Inviting people through an online invitation service or by email is a simple way to get the word out —but don’t forget that following up by phone is an integral part to building a good RSVP list.
How are you really supposed to find people? How are you going to organize yourselves? Hope that someone just happens to look at Meet Up.com or something like that. How are you going to report back to ACLU how many people showed? What do you do afterwards? What do those other people do?
How are these events linked?
In short how are you to build a movement?
The ACLU has people sign petitions and make donations, and sign up for emails constantly. Why not allow people the option of meeting these other people in their community? There are groups working to do this, like BORDC. But why doesn't our country's permier civil liberties group do this?
No legislator is going to listen to one person who just shows up. A single canvasser can cover very little ground. A house party with family is not going to get very far outside the range of your daily life.
What happens after the canvass or the letter to the editor? Why not build a movement instead of an event? We need constitution voters, but we really need a constitution movement.
PSST.... Join our Civil Liberties Google Group. Your civil liberties will thank you.