ACLU national director calls NRA tactics “model worthy of emulation”

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has planned to spend $25 million on ballot measures in the 2018 midterm elections and the organization’s national political director Faiz Shakir insisted Thursday that ACLU is “not a partisan organization.” Its focus is building the ACLU brand similar to how the National Rifle Association (NRA) has done with its members in creating a large voting bloc.

Shakir said the “NRA voter” model could be something ACLU mimics and he called it “wonderful” during an interview Thursday night on CBSN’s “Red & Blue.” He said “we have much to learn” from the NRA and they have “set a model worthy of emulation” — despite not agreeing on many issues.

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“I think that is what the NRA has done well … building an affinity with its brand, their own members … they have built the idea of the ‘NRA voter,'” Shakir said. “I hope in the next few months you’re going to see the building and the flex of ACLU members.”

Shakir elaborated by saying, “I think the NRA has been very successful as a single-issue advocacy organization for many years and making their members feel affiliation with the brand and making members want to show up with each other in support of the causes that national [organization] suggests to them.”

Shakir defined ACLU’s mission and how it wants to be perceived publicly.

Faiz Shakir

CBS News

“It’s certainly a political organization, not a partisan organization,” Shakir said. “You will not see us endorsing or opposing candidates for office. You won’t see us aligning with any particular party — Democratic or Republican — what you will see us doing is voter education and voter mobilization work.”

Shakir said that ACLU may provide “scorecards” about how midterm candidates fare on civil rights and civil liberty issues.

He also mentioned the growth ACLU has seen in the Trump presidency.

“Post-Donald Trump there’s a huge growth in ACLU membership,” Shakir said. “We’ve quadrupled our numbers and so many people are asking the basic question of what they can do to be helpful in the cause for civil rights and civil liberties.”

“From our perspective, it needed to be answer that was more than just ‘see you in court.’ We needed to be able to say ‘see you in the streets’ and mobilize people in service of the policy mission to change hearts and minds in this country around so many of the assaults on civil rights and civil liberties that we’re seeing right now.”

“We have designed a digital organizing infrastructure so volunteers are inspired to post their own events to organize in their own communities, to identify civil rights and civil liberties causes in their local communities that are most upsetting to them or most inspiring to them. They post those on the map and we then at the national level help recruit other volunteers in the nearby area to help boost their efforts.”


To watch more of Faiz Shakir’s interview, watch the video at the top of this page.

CBSN’s “Red & Blue” streams Monday through Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.

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