Now more than ever, it seems, it’s hard to have a conversation about politics and current events.

People disagree all the time, of course. But not all disagreements lead to the same levels of stress as a conversation related to politics. So we tend to shy away from having these difficult conversations. We don’t want to argue. We’d rather avoid conflict.

It hasn’t always been this way. In recent years, there been a sharp spike in the contempt that partisans express for their opponents, according to Pew Research Center polling. More than 4 in 10 Democrats and Republicans say the other party’s policies are so misguided that they pose a threat to the nation. So the disagreements simmer. Nothing gets done. 

That’s unfortunate. And it’s not going to get any better unless we’re all willing to work together with people with whom we have differences.

That’s the way the ACLU of North Dakota has always approached its work.

Whether it’s defending the Standing Rock water protectors’ right to free speech and right to protest, achieving full equality for the LGBTQ community in North Dakota, preserving the rights of immigrants in our state, establishing new privacy protections for our digital age, or preserving the right vote or the right to have an abortion, the ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach.

That’s why we recently added our name to the list of organizations opposed to Measure 1, the ethics commission, foreign political contribution ban, and conflicts of interest initiative that will be on the ballot in November. While North Dakotans have a right to know who is spending money to influence elections and government, the ACLU opposes this measure because it is poorly written and has the potential to violate our First Amendment rights.

The ACLU doesn’t take our First Amendment rights lightly. The fight for freedom of speech, in fact, has been a bedrock of the ACLU’s mission since the organization was founded in 1920, driven by the need to protect the constitutional rights of conscientious objectors and anti-war protesters.

The ACLU’s opposition to Measure 1 surprised a lot of people, and we’ve gotten some backlash from those who disagree with our position. But the ACLU has never shied away from a fight when civil liberties are at stake. Our constitutional rights are too important.

The ACLU is a nonpartisan organization, and we welcome the opportunity to work with many different organizations.  We’ve had allies from all political stripes and all political parties – and opponents, too. The proverbial saying, “politics makes strange bedfellows” often comes to mind with our work. But reaching across to both sides of the aisle, so to speak, is how change happens – whether we’re talking about Measure 1 today or a completely different issue tomorrow. In order to drive concrete policy outcomes that matter for people’s lives and to protect the constitutional rights of all North Dakotans, it’s what we have to do.

The stakes are incredibly high for civil rights and civil liberties issues in North Dakota. But if we can work together – beyond one person, party or side – we have the opportunity to create a more perfect union.

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