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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