ACLU’s Civil Liberties Candidate Report Card

The ACLU has just released a candidate report card on certain civil liberties issues. It includes all Republican candidates, Barack Obama, and Gary Johnson. It doesn’t provide an aggregate score, but it scores all candidates on the issue areas of “humane immigration policy,” “closing Guantanamo Bay and indefinite detention,” “gays and lesbians serving openly in the military,” “ending torture,” “ending a surveillance state,” “freedom to marry for gay couples,” and “reproductive choice.”

I have some issues with the scoring on some of these. For instance, opposing torture, including waterboarding, is apparently not enough to get you full marks on torture. More importantly, I would differ from their scoring of “reproductive choice.” My views are similar to Gary Johnson’s: Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided law and should be overturned, states should be able to make their own laws on abortion, but generally I favor legal abortion before viability and a strict ban with the only exception for the life of the mother after viability, as well as a ban on taxpayer funding for abortions.

Nevertheless, it may be a useful tool for Pileus readers in making judgments about whom to support in the primaries and beyond. In general, the only candidates the ACLU gives reasonably good marks on civil liberties are Johnson and Paul, with Huntsman and Obama clocking in at mediocre. The other Republicans are truly abysmal.

8 thoughts on “ACLU’s Civil Liberties Candidate Report Card

  1. I think it is absurd to rate people on positive rights like gay marriage on the same page as negative rights like freedom from torture. Civil liberties, to me, encompass only negative rights which the state can take away and not positive rights which the state imposes through coercion and force. Every positive right entails a curtailment of a negative right. Rating them together is like comparing apples and oranges.

    Good thing for Obama that there is not a column for executing US citizens without the benefit of due process.

  2. I think it is absurd to rate people on positive rights like gay marriage on the same page as negative rights like freedom from torture. Civil liberties, to me, encompass only negative rights which the state can take away and not positive rights which the state imposes through coercion and force.

    I think we can all agree that slavery is a civil liberties issue. But the problem wasn’t that the government actively enslaved people, it was that it selectively (based on colour) failed to protect people from enslavement.

    Selective granting of positive rights is as harmful to civil liberties as selective curtailment of negative rights. The ACLU is right to highlight this.

    1. It is difficult, if not impossible to enslave someone without the assistance of the state. If you tried to enslave me, I would simply run away. Slavery where it exists, does so because the police forces and judiciary of the state enforce it.

      I am not sure if you meant to say that “selective granting of positive rights ‘isn’t’ as harmful…” But I would say more people lose when you infringe on a negative right, since every single person in society enjoys the negative right. Many people lose and few gain when you impose a positive right.

      Mathematically, call all of society “Quantity X” When you protect a negative right, all of “Quantity X” benefits. Whereas when you impose a positive right for the benefit of some smaller group, that smaller group, call it “Quantity Y” benefits to the detriment of everyone else. “Quantity X minus Quantity Y” are the losers. In toto, society is always better off defending every possible negative right and resisting every possible positive right.

  3. Viability seems to me to be the most misused (and lazy) concept in the Life/Choice debate. It is here, with the science clearly indicating that a unique human entity is established (and, so, “terminable”) four minutes after fertilization, at the formation of the zygote.

    What, exactly, is viability. I’ve included the Merriam-Webster online dictionary definition below. Is my 4 year old niece viable? I am confident (despite my misgivings) that my 21 year old daughter is, and relatively confident that my 17 year old son is viable. I hope society continues to think so as well.

    Definition of VIABLE
    1: capable of living; especially : having attained such form and development as to be normally capable of surviving outside the mother’s womb
    2: capable of growing or developing
    3a : capable of working, functioning, or developing adequately b : capable of existence and development as an independent unit

  4. After “…of the zygote,” should be added – “that the libertarian view of life’s beginning is very murky.”

  5. I used the word “viability” in describing my own views in order to avoid a fairly technical description of (what I find to be) the most plausible account of personhood and the rights pertaining thereto. To flesh it out just a bit more, I’m inclined to the view that personhood begins once the fetus develops a minimum degree of “consciousness” that would set it apart (from non-human animals) as a potentially reasoning human being. That stage of development appears to occur at some point in the second trimester.

  6. Jason, while this updated explanation is slightly more specific (slightly less murky), I am very interested in references to the science of this view. Thanks.

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