Governor DeSantis made headlines for his demagogic performative speech in Utah at an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference. The organization which bills itself as a bastion of free markets and limited government (a rich irony when cozying up to a statist authoritarian like DeSantis) has influenced legislation in Florida since the 1990’s.
Who is ALEC?
For more than two decades ALEC, which is a right-wing pressure group masquerading as a non-partisan legislative idea exchange has used Florida as a laboratory to push the most right-wing of legislation. Florida legislators have been in the pocket of the organization which throws grand junkets since at least 1999- the year the GOP reached 70+ State House seats and Jeb Bush assumed the Governorship.
These junkets from what I have been told through the years by various attendees push the idea of “reform,” as a doctrine but the goal is to benefit corporate donors. It’s relatively cheap for legislators to be members of ALEC because the vast majority of the organization’s funding comes from outside sources that expect a return on investment.
Some of the most onerous pieces of legislation that have made its way into Florida law originated with ALEC. Among them “Stand Your Ground,” preemption bills on sick leave (the infamous HB 655 which began Florida Republicans drift toward authoritarian statism was an ALEC concept), Medical Malpractice “reform” various pieces of tort “reform” and school voucher legislation as well as various anti-union bills.
Turning extreme rhetoric into campaigns into law
To be perfectly honest, most GOP elected officials in Florida don’t have quite the savvy or smarts to develop the legislation they are credited with “writing.” While much of the focus has been on corporate lobbyists influencing the tone of lawmaking, ALEC is the organization that often triggers such thoughts and provides the legal language framework to turn ideas into law.
Now it’s reported by various sources that ALEC has had a direct influence over DeSantis’ views on COVID, the CDC and mask enforcement. ALEC’s gift to the GOP for decades has been the ability they have to turn extreme campaign rhetoric into actual legislation – something the left lacks.
Progressives advocate various ideas to reform Health Care, and quality of life legislation but don’t have a mechanism quite like ALEC in place to push that agenda en masse on state officials. ALEC is one of the hidden weapons that has made the right so effective in governing on the state level.
It’s important those who oppose DeSantis take this moment to understand who is influencing his thinking and the success they have had in this state over the course of the last two decades.
I’d urge all concerned citizens to do more research on ALEC and begin fighting their extreme influence over our legislature.
In terms of why there is not an ALEC of the left I don’t have a good answer but I will make a couple of observations. First even in a very “blue” state like Massachusetts the so called “RomneyCare” health care reform package was largely as everyone knows by the Heritage Foundation. I point this out in particular as this is supposedly the most progressive state level legislation passed anywhere in the US in a generation. Second the political result of RomneyCare wasn’t for the left to campaign to get RomneyCare type legislation passed in the other 49 states but instead to get a “Federal” version of RomneyCare i.e. Obamacare passed at the national level.
The last point I will make is I am not even sure we have a divide ideological between political parties anymore than between whether you support Donald Trump or not. For example “blue” Massachusetts has a Republican Governor Charlie Baker who just signed an election law package expanding and extending both early and mail-in voting whereas De Santis in Florida also a Republican supports exactly the opposite.
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