Thursday, November 18, 2010

4 days, 2 cities, 585 miles, and 16 cups of coffee

I was on the road most of last week for meetings in Pittsburgh and a conference in Washington. (I spent Monday at the state capitol, which some would say is like traveling to another planet.)

On Tuesday, our Pittsburgh chapter held its monthly board meeting, and we had a chance to discuss the 2009-10 state legislative session and look ahead to what we're facing in the 2011-12 session. While in Pittsburgh, I also had the chance to meet with allies and friends who are working on LGBT rights and juvenile life without parole (JLWOP).

In Washington, the ACLU's National Prison Project held a two-day conference to discuss long-term solitary confinement. And by long-term, they mean people who are in solitary for years, even decades. My DC trip also included a meeting with a national ally on JLWOP.

All of these issues present challenges. None of them are easy, and they all take planning and years of steady work. There are no shortcuts,and the ACLU has been very effective at surrounding itself with smart, strategic thinkers who understand this.

The ACLU is fiercely non-partisan. As I always tell people, both Republicans and Democrats annoy us. We have been tough on President Obama, just as we were tough on President Bush.

No one should be under any illusion that simply electing certain candidates is enough to protect and enhance civil liberties. All of our elected officials from both major parties must be held to account on where they stand, and to get where we want to go with issues like LGBT rights, criminal justice reform, and others, we have to put in the work necessary to convince a critical mass of policymakers that standing up for civil liberties is the right place to be.

That was the lesson of my 585 mile trip over the Allegheny Mountains (twice), inside the beltway, and through the farmlands of Pennsylvania and Maryland. So let's get to work. Oh, and please support the ACLU.

Andy Hoover, Legislative Director

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