Smart ALEC: Dem activism moves to the states, big-time

A new progressive state-focused organization has launched to mirror, and counter, the work of the conservative-GOP aligned ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).

The organization will push state initiatives on everything from climate change, criminal justice reform, education reform, immigrant and civil rights issues, and more.

The organization, the State Innovation Exchange (SIX), is holding a conference this week in Washington, DC, to be attended by hundreds of progressive state legislators.

A large part of the motivation behind the formation of SIX was the unusual success a number of progressive ballot measures had in the states this past November, considering how badly Democrats fared at the national level.

From SIX’s press release:

Election results 2012, Obama in blue, Romney in red. Via HuffPo.

Election results 2012, Obama in blue, Romney in red. Via HuffPo.

Despite Republican victories in last month’s mid-terms, voters nationwide passed ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage, impose limits on fracking, require criminal background checks for gun buyers, decriminalize marijuana and keep petty drug offenders out of prison. These progressive victories popped up in red states like Alaska, Arkansas, Texas, South Dakota and Nebraska, as well as blue states like Washington and California.

Politico notes that a lot of progressive groups are now focusing on the states, as a result of their success last month:

Progressives, frustrated at gridlock in Washington and at the state level, are planning a major ballot-initiative push across the country as they bank on a likely favorable electorate in 2016.

Groups supporting marijuana legalization, background checks on firearms and raising the minimum wage told POLITICO to expect a larger slate of ballot propositions in 2016 than during the past several election cycles.

In particular, organizations are confident that after achieving success on progressive ballot initiatives with an older and more conservative bloc of voters in 2014, the younger and more liberal electorate expected to turn out in the upcoming presidential contest will produce some major triumphs.

It’s widely expected that referendums on gun control, marijuana legalization and economic fairness issues, including paid sick leave and equal pay, will outnumber those in 2012, a sign that liberals are embracing a state-based model that allows them to circumvent legislatures and Congress.

At the same time, a new non-partisan coalition of state legislators concerned about gun violence was also announced this week. And while the coalition is non-partisan, gun violence is still an issue that progressives seem to care more about than do conservatives:

Today a new nonpartisan coalition of state legislators focused on gun violence prevention announced its formation at a press conference with several of the group’s founding members, on the eve of its first official meeting, a national policy summit in the capital. The organization, American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention, includes nearly 200 state legislators from both parties, in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

It’s an interesting time to be focusing on the states, as one could argue that much of the success gay rights has seen on marriage equality these past few years definitely came from state lawsuits. Now, it’s also true that without having won the presidency, we might not have had (probably would not have had) a sympathetic US Supreme Court to finally open the floodgates with its decision in US v. Windsor.

So it’s really a two-part dance, where the state efforts have supplemented the federal effort.  (Though, gay groups have also had far more success passing gay and trans civil rights laws and ordinances than anyone has had at the federal, or likely will have for years to come.)

Still, it’s good to see progressives moving the fight to the traditionally conservative battleground.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • Oh. You’re right. I totally misread that. Sorry it’s the high gig season and I’m a bit sleep deprived here. Yes, exactly. And of course the corporate media is owned by those same interests so of course they took him down in the first faux controversy they could Benghazi about. I suspect the same would happen to Elizabeth Warren. “Look she checked a box once claiming Native American heritage but maybe that’s not true we don’t know! OUTRAGE!”

  • keirmeister

    Yes, but the point was that Dean “went after” them, that is, he criticized them.

    Dean started campaigning against money in Washington, and that sealed his fate (which of course circles back to your point).

  • If he hadn’t gone after the “moneyed interests” how was he going to raise the $150 Million + it takes to run for president? Until we address that, nothing is going to change.

  • Bill_Perdue

    The central questions that will transform American politics are how to handle low wages, unemployment and underemployment and how to curtail the deliberate destruction of the environment by profit gouging corporations. We’ll continue to present those as referendums and initiatives where possible as the focus of our organizing drives to build unions and as educational points when and where we’re allowed to run for office.

    Across the country socialists and the labor left have taken the lead in organizing underpaid workers and in fighting for a decent minimum wage, as opposed to the insulting anti-worker proposals of the Republicans and the Democrats. In addition we’re pushing the fight for 40 hours pay no matter how many hours are worked and for full benefits, especially socialized medicine. That’s a variant of the socialist/labor left demand for 40 hours pay for 30 hours work.

    Democrats and Republicans will never be able to catch up and when their proposals are presented side by side with our more reasonable and radical proposals, we’ll continue to press the issue and continue to win.

  • keirmeister

    The “Dean Scream” was a manufactured thing. From what I recall, people who were actually there didn’t see anything wrong with it and it added to the energy of the room.

    I remember Thom Hartmann saying that the second he knew Howard Dean’s candidacy was doomed was when Dean started going after the moneyed interests. And I agree…the media, and their Wall Street owners, went after Dean mercilessly.

  • Buford2k11

    We still have numbers…the wild card is the thing we are now wrestling with…the militarization of the police and WHY???

  • And a corrupt media. I have never understood what he did with his “roar” that was so terrible. I kind of liked it. To watch the media coverage of that you’d have thought he’d had a nervous breakdown on live television. I think that more than anything was when I realized just how horrible even the so-called “liberal” media really is.

  • Finally!

  • Mykaylila

    I liked the information that you publish, This is interesting information for me and thanks

  • As the Russians say, “better late than never.” :) (I actually freaked out our Russian guide/spy once in 1984 by using the phrase, in Russian, when I kept arriving late at our bus in the morning, and the final time she was so frustrated with me, so I dropped the phrase on her. Her jaw hit the floor, the driver let out a guffaw. The spy-guides get very upset when they find out things about you they didnt’ know :)

  • keirmeister

    Yep, that’s exactly why I make the distinction. The Democratic Establishment seems too entrenched, beholden to moneyed interests, and reliant on Villager consultants. They are comfortable…and apparently unable or unwilling to take real risks.

    I know…I’m essentially describing most long-term politicians….

    The game of politics can be changed, but it often takes boldness, fortitude, and a pinch or ruthlessness to do so.

  • Drew2u

    The Progressive Caucus needs to hit back hard, especially when McCain is taking land away from Native Americans:

    http://lastrealindians.com/house-approves-bill-to-give-apache-lands-to-foreign-corporation/

  • Rambie

    Agreed. It’s a bit late now as the Koch and other 1%’ers already bought the country.

  • Indigo

    That’s the way I see it. The DNCC represents itself but the voters be damned (unless they donate generously).

  • Demosthenes

    An interesting article on something I had wondered about: why were initiatives such as those discussed here successful at the same time as the GOP was winning.

    Excellent reporting!

  • Drew2u

    At the risk of sounding myopic, the more I hear about people’s criticisms with the Democratic Party it’s with the Democratic Establishment its self, it’s impotence or refusal to actually press any issue.

  • bkmn

    It may be too late to counter ALEC as it seems the right has now moved on to forming direct relationships with Republican Attorneys General in at least 13 states. What is known about these relationships is that they are not public and the corporations feed legal drafts directly to the AG’s to use.

  • Mark_in_MN

    The alternative of state or federal focus presents a false alternative. Both are definitely needed. We may not expect much in the next couple of years federally, so it makes sense to build on the state side. But Democrats have been limiting the state and local side for far too long, and to their significant detriment. One can’t expect to have federal success without also building local and state parties, candidates, and office holders who can step up to elect and run for the federal offices. Building on a common concerns and a common agenda between states also can set the groundwork for later federal campaigns and activity where and when it’s needed, on the same or other issues. It should be obvious. The lack of Democratic establishment work on this before now is disturbing.

  • keirmeister

    Dean got pushed out by the Democratic Establishment – even after his successful 50 State Strategy.

    If SIX is to succeed, it may have to figure out how to work around the Democratic Establishment’s talent for self-sabotage.

  • The_Fixer

    About damned time.

    As Buford2k11 notes, we have a lot of catching-up to do. This should have been job 1 as soon as progressives became aware of ALEC.

    Nothing’s more dangerous than a moneyed, well-connected Republican with an extreme agenda.

  • Buford2k11

    Ummm…ALEC and the Koch boys have a large head start in the states…they have already corrupted the AG’s, have been working on School Boards, and economics depts across this nation…and they have been pouring dark, contaminated money into the states, and they have been extremely and fearfully successful…the Democrats always seem to be playing catch up…Howard Dean…where are you??

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