Card carrying members of the ACLU, 1988

One of the largest and most frequently used Public Policy collections at Mudd Manuscript Library is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) records.  (For a description of the ACLU and its documents, see our previous library blog entry). The ACLU’s Audiovisual Materials Series, however, has been little used, but a few films that were recently digitized will be featured on this blog in the coming weeks. As an introduction, here is a public service announcement (PSA), part of the first television advertising campaign in the history of the ACLU, a result of the organization being drawn into the 1988 U.S. Presidential campaign.

In his nomination acceptance speech, Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis asserted that the election would be “about competence, not ideology” and during the campaign that followed, tied his GOP opponent, Vice President George Bush to the scandals of the Reagan administration.  Bush countered by portraying Dukakis as a liberal out of the mainstream.  Employing a phrase resonant with one used by the notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy, he called Dukakis a “card-carrying member of the ACLU” (a statement Dukakis himself had made in a magazine interview the previous year).  The ACLU decided to use Bush’s attack as a public relations opportunity. The PSA is one of three television commercials, produced by the ACLU’s Southern California chapter, in which Burt Lancaster, Jill Eikenberry, and Michael Tucker explain why they are card-carrying members of the ACLU. All commercials end with the line: ”No one agrees with every single thing they’ve done. But no one can disagree with the guiding principle – with liberty and justice for all.”The actor, director and producer Burt Lancaster (1913-1994), winner of an Academy Award and Golden Globe, was a vocal supporter of liberal political cases. The actress and actor Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker, a married couple, are best known for their appearance together in the popular television series L.A. Law (1986-1994).

The VHS tape on which this PSA is found is part of the Audiovisual Materials Series of the American Civil Liberties Union Records (Box 2039).

 

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