Will the economic crisis put the restoration of civil liberties on hold, just when their future looked brighter at the end of the Bush-Cheney administration?
There is a tremendous about of work to do to restore and advance civil liberties at the national and local levels. Convincing President-elect Obama and congressional leaders to move ahead on a civil liberties agenda, while they are justifiably focusing on the economy, will be challenging. State House politicians, too, may be reluctant to tackle Wisconsin’s civil liberties issues, such as providing our children a constitutionally-mandated adequate education, because of a looming deficit.
It would be a mistake to put off restoring our freedoms for many reasons. First, free speech, religious liberty, equal protection under the law, and other cherished rights are what make us a stronger nation. For instance, a free market place for ideas expands our options. Second, civil liberties are costly to neglect, but they are a pittance compared to the bail outs Congress and the Treasury are making to Wall Street. Barack Obama with the stroke of a pen could end the farcical military commission trials at Guantanamo. Governor Doyle could easily afford to lift the prohibition against providing health insurance coverage to the domestic partners of state and university employees.
During times of economic crisis, just like during wars, we are called upon to unite behind our leaders. Dissent is viewed as unpatriotic. However, we know from our history and experience that we can’t trust many of our leaders without accountability and transparency.
Let’s agree on doing things right, including protecting our individual rights, as we move forward together. There is still time to support the ACLU with a year-end gift: visit the Join/Renew/Give page and have your donation matched dollar-for-dollar until the end of the year.
- Chris Ahmuty, ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director