Our next president
must be committed to protecting and advancing the civil liberties and civil
rights guaranteed to all of us in the Constitution, and the current goal for
our Rights for All campaign is to educate voters on where the candidates stand on these
key issues. We now have most of the results from the Iowa caucuses last week,
and one thing stood out to us: Voters overwhelmingly supported candidates who
made specific commitments to Rights for All policies.
When we launched
the Rights for All effort last year, we were determined to elevate key civil
liberties issues in the presidential campaign. For the first time, the ACLU
invested in grassroots organizing in the early primary and caucus states to
directly engage with candidates by asking them to commit to specific policies
that advance civil liberties and civil rights. Over 1,000 volunteers did
exactly that. Candidate campaigns, members of the press, and others have
repeatedly noted how impressive and omnipresent our volunteers are. In event
after event, month after month, our volunteers got
candidates on the record
about their positions on immigrant justice, reproductive freedom, criminal
justice reform, and voting rights.
We were able to
make real progress on moving the candidates and the conversation on these
issues, and Iowa became a pivotal part of that work. It was in Iowa where Bernie
Sanders committed to voting rights for all and thrust voting rights to the
center of the race. It was in Iowa, where Elizabeth Warren gave
the clear, direct, unequivocal commitment to end the Hyde Amendment, which denies Medicaid coverage for
abortion, that we need from every candidate running for the highest office.
After gaining these commitments and many others, our volunteers have worked hard to ensure voters knew where candidates stood. From canvasses across the state to mailers sent directly to voters to newspaper ads comparing the candidates, the ACLU used all the tools in our toolbox to keep civil liberties and civil rights top of mind heading into the caucuses. And this week, we found out our hard work paid off.
The vast majority
of voters supported candidates who made the strongest commitments to advance
civil liberties. Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren finished as
the top three in Iowa, and all have committed to cutting
federal incarceration levels by 50 percent, minimizing the use of deadly force by police through federal guidance,
and ending the use of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers.
All across Iowa,
we were able to talk to voters to explain how the next president can lead on
these issues. As we look toward New Hampshire this week, where issues like transgender rights and criminal justice reform broke through from our volunteers’
questions, we will continue to educate voters until the moment voting starts.