Seeing eye-to-eye with Kaminer on the governance issues, I made a run to replace her as the ACLU's Massachusetts representative in June 2006. I lost by two votes. In September 2006, I added my point of view — albeit too timidly and to a small "insider" audience — to a national Web site set up by Ira Glasser (Romero's predecessor) and others. But I refused to fully join the public campaign, harboring, as I did, the illusion that quiet inside diplomacy could prevail without doing this essential organization undue damage. Besides, I told myself, various state affiliates, including my own in Massachusetts, did not appear to have been similarly corrupted. (I proudly remain on the ACLUM Board.)
Had I, and others, joined Kaminer and her fellow board member Michael Meyers in speaking out publicly at the time, I now believe that the campaign to reverse the dangerous culture developing within the ACLU's national leadership might have succeeded.
As Kaminer's brave book demonstrates, the ACLU's current leadership has done the organization more damage than its critics ever could, and the national board may yet regret driving off Kaminer and her allies. I am reminded of President Lyndon Johnson's response when pressure mounted from his advisers to fire FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. I'd rather have J. Edgar inside the tent pissing out, Johnson explained at the time, than outside pissing in. Kaminer is no Hoover, obviously, but Johnson's astute observation applies.
To read more by Harvey Silverglate and Wendy Kaminer, go to thePhoenix.com/freeforall. Harvey Silverglate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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