Just Security Podcast: ACLU’s David Cole on Defending our Democratic Traditions

Roughly a year ago, I sat down with ACLU Legal Director and Just Security editorial board member David Cole to pick his brain about what our various independent government branches and civic institutions can do to check retrograde policies implemented by the executive branch. Cole and I sat down recently to revisit and discuss the status of our democracy’s efforts to meet the challenges of the Trump era.

In the year since Cole and I last spoke, we’ve seen the travel ban upheld, brutal border policies imposed, and checked in the courts, longstanding U.S. alliances threatened by the White House, and reaffirmed by lawmakers, and an overall disdain for the rule of law, human rights, and other democratic values from the White House. Much of this is being challenged in court, but as we saw with the travel ban, that’s not enough. Nor is relying on the current Congress to check many of this administration’s policies. Ultimately, it’s on the voters to voice their concerns through protests, through advocacy organizations, and the ballot.

Cole knows a thing or two about this. His most recent book, Engines of Liberty: the Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Lawexamines the way American citizens, outside of the federal government and from a host of backgrounds, have been able to shape constitutional law from the ground up, thereby driving the rules that govern our way of life.

Music: Autumn Leaves by Podington Bear.

Image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images 

About the Author(s)

John Reed

Managing Editor of Just Security (2014-18). Follow him on Twitter (@ReedJustSec).