There was big news Tuesday when the shadowy right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) announced it was shutting down its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which had pushed the controversial voter suppression laws and Stand Your Ground laws in state legislatures throughout the country. Over the past few weeks, progressives, led by Color of Change and the Center for Media and Democracy, have brought significant pressure on ALEC’s corporate members to withdraw their support. The result has been not only Tuesday’s announcement by ALEC, but also at least eleven major corporations, including Coke, PepsiCo, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and McDonald’s, have publicly announced their break with ALEC.
What’s nice about the ALEC story is that it shows that progressives are finally beginning to flex their political muscles again, and that it is working. For years now, one of the big things that has enabled conservatives to have so much power is that they were more than willing to take down their opposition, whether they be politicians, organizations, businesses, or individuals. They understood that politics ain’t beanbag, but instead is a rough and tumble world in which you have to be willing to strenuously fight for your beliefs and interests, and go toe-to-toe with people who oppose you.
For far too long, progressives have been unwilling to engage in a similar sort of approach. We’ve been far more interested in rational debate, seeing both sides of an issue, and trying to reach common ground. Those things are all critically important. But some entities, like ALEC, are never going to be persuaded by debate and compromise – they have an agenda that is opposed to progressive values that we need to stop. And we can only do so by taking them and their supporters on head on.
In flexing our political muscles we progressives must, of course, ensure that we are doing so fairly and based on facts, rather than following the conservative path of smears and distortions. But figuring out how to continue flexing our muscles while staying true to our values of fairness and reality-based decisionmaking is critical to the future success of the progressive movement.
The progress we’ve made so far on ALEC is wonderful and should be celebrated. But even as ALEC purports to moves away from promoting voter suppression and other non-economic issues, the organization is committed to continuing to promote a radical right-wing economic agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization, lax corporate oversight, and weakened environmental and public health standards. And ALEC almost certainly made its announcement Tuesday with the hope that it would cause progressives to declare victory and move onto other issues. We cannot let that happen.
Instead, now is the time to push our advantage and continue the pressure on ALEC and its supporters. You can help do so by:
* Contacting ALEC’s corporate members and urging them to withdraw their support from ALEC
* Checking this list to see if your state legislators are members of ALEC. If they are, call them and urge them to drop their support of the organization.
* Contact ALEC’s Executive Director Ron Scheberle – 202-466-3800 – and let him know that the pressure on his organizations is just beginning (h/t to reader Ethan Oringel for this suggestion)
Please remember to be respectful when you make these calls. If you’d like further information about ALEC before you make your calls, check out the website ALEC Exposed.