Why do I donate to the ACLU? The Patroit Act.
When the Patriot Act passed, I realized what should have been obvious to me from history: we can’t depend on partisan politics to protect civil rights. When the US is attacked, or feels attacked, polticians of both parties are going to err on the side of abridging rights in an attempt to increase security. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts during WWI, FDR ordered Japanese internment.
The ACLU wasn’t around to challenge Lincoln, but they did challenge FDR, and thought they lost Korematsu in the courts, few people today would consider it a good decision.
But understanding that partisan politics won’t protect civil rights is not the same thing as believing that there are no differences between the parties on civil rights, and that it doesn’t matter which party controls Congress or hold the Presidency or appoints Supreme Court justices. It matters a great deal, sometimes in obvious ways (the difference between Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor) and sometime in less obvious ways.
The differences between the Bush Justice Department and the Obama Justice Department go much deeper than whether to allow torture, and I don’t think those changes have received the attention they deserved. The swing back to a Trump Justice Department head by an Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be even more dramatic, as this article by a former Justice Department lawyer lays out.
I hope the Democrats will fight the confirmation of Jeff Sessions, but I’m not optimistic that anybody better would follow. It is a mainstream Republican position that in person voter fraud is rampant, despite the fact that nobody can find it. Lack of evidence won’t stop states from further restricting voting, and the DOJ won’t do anything about it. Republican ideas are unpopular, and can not win unless voting is restricted.
It will be up to the ACLU to fight.