“ALEC Cookie Cutter Legislation”: Wisconsin Anti-Union Bill Is ‘Word For Word’ From Rightwing Lobbyist Group
Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin who is considering a Republican presidential run, has promised to sign into law an anti-union bill targeted at the state’s private sector workers that is an almost verbatim copy of model legislation devised by an ultra-rightwing network of corporate lobbyists.
On Friday, Walker dropped his earlier opposition to a so-called “right to work” bill, which he had described as a “distraction”, signalling that he would sign it into law should it succeed in passing the Wisconsin legislature. Republican members are rushing through the provision, which would strip private sector unions of much of their fee-collecting and bargaining powers.
On Monday, the bill cleared a committee of the state senate. A vote of the full chamber is slated for later this week, and of the assembly early next month.
The resumption of union battles in Walker’s home state comes at an awkward time for the probable 2016 candidate, as he seeks to shift attention away from Wisconsin and towards a national political platform. On Thursday he will speak at the high-profile Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, where he will seek to press home his recent meteoric rise from a relatively obscure midwest executive to a leading contender among top Republicans.
It has now been disclosed that the Wisconsin 2015 right to work bill is a virtual carbon copy of a model bill framed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec). The council acts as a form of dating agency between major US corporations and state-level Republican lawmakers, bringing them together to frame new legislation favorable to big business interests.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which monitors the activities of Alec, has compared the Alec model bill and the new Wisconsin proposal and found them to be nearly identical.
“This bill is word for word from the Alec playbook, and that’s no surprise as the Wisconsin legislature is dominated by Alec members,” said the CMD’s general counsel, Brendan Fischer.
Walker too has close ties to Alec. He actively supported several Alec bills between 1993 and 2002, when he was a member of the Wisconsin assembly. On Sunday Alec posted to its Twitter feed a photograph of Walker with the Alec chief executive, Lisa Nelson, in which she said: “Great to be with Alec alumni @ScottWalker”.
The governor is no stranger to fighting unions. His current ascendancy is in part due to the national name recognition he gained when taking on public sector unions at the start of his first term in office, leading to headline-grabbling mass demonstrations.
To some extent, a renewal of such battles could play to his favour among the hardcore of rightwing Republicans who tend to determine the outcome of the party’s primary elections. On the other hand, any suggestion that Walker gave his backing to cookie-cutter legislation devised by a corporate lobbying group could hand the Democratic party valuable ammunition should Walker win the nomination and go on to face a general election.
He has already provided his opponents with considerable material for potential attack ads. In a recent trip to London to burnish his foreign policy credentials, he dodged a question about whether he believed in evolution. In December he got his “Mazel tovs” confused when he signed a letter to a Jewish constituent: “Thank you again and Molotov.”
The brewing union confrontation comes as Walker is increasing the pace of his exploratory activities around a 2016 campaign. The son of a preacher, he has been wooing evangelical Christian conservatives who are a key constituency in the opening caucuses of the presidential election in Iowa.
He has also stepped up meetings with prominent Republican donors.
The Wisconsin right to work bill is just one part of a nationwide push by Alec to undermine union power and rein in minimum wage levels. Twenty-four states currently have right to work laws and a rash of state legislatures are taking up the issue, partly under Alec’s encouragement.
By: Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, February 23, 2015
Well, we’re getting a pretty quick narrative rethink on Scott Walker, aren’t we? Two weeks ago he was a conquering hero. Now he’s a nincompoop. The truth is undoubtedly somewhere in between—although exactly which of the two poles he ends up nearer is one of the coming campaign’s mysteries.
But whether you’re liberal or conservative—that is, whether you think his cutesy refusal to confirm Barack Obama’s religiosity to The Washington Post was an outrage or act of truth-telling—the bottom line here is what my colleague Matt Lewis said it is: The way Walker and his people handled it was plain old not-ready-for-prime-time-ism. A first-time presidential candidate doesn’t get many mulligans on that front before the media decide he’s a second-rater and start covering him that way.
The most interesting thing about this hubbub, though, is the nature of the defense of Walker, which reveals a breathtaking lack of self-awareness on the right, or maybe dishonesty, or maybe both.
The main defense has been: Why was this question relevant? Why does Scott Walker even have to be asked about whether the president is a Christian? Well, maybe because for the last 30 or 35 years, the political right has dragged the question of a candidate’s piety from the fringes of the political debate, where it belonged and belongs, to the white-hot center, where it is a malignant tumor on our politics.
It wasn’t always this way. Of course we’ve had moralizers from the beginning. Thomas Jefferson’s political foes called him an “infidel” and a “howling atheist” and warned that if he won the presidency, churches would be converted into whorehouses. But then America matured, a little, and became a world power, and began taking in large numbers of immigrants, and started thinking about the world not only in terms of spirituality but in terms of psychology, social science, and so on. By the time all those forces had coalesced—the 1930s, let’s call it; the thermidorean backwash of the Scopes Trial—we by and large stopped having religious litmus tests for the presidency.
Ah but 1960, you’re thinking; well, yes, but that was totally different. No one questioned John Kennedy’s lack of religious faith. Indeed the issue was the opposite—that his Catholic faith was so all-defining that he’d govern as a Vatican fifth-columnist. For many years after that, a candidate’s religious beliefs were part of the story, certainly, but what reigned was a quality of tolerant and easy-going religious neutrality that was a reflection of the regnant, and largely bipartisan, Protestantism of the day. Candidates didn’t run around dog-whistling to the pious and implying that the impious were somehow lesser Americans whose votes ought to count for less.
Oddly it was a Democrat who first wore his religion on his sleeve in the presidential arena. Still, Jimmy Carter, though an evangelical, was still enough of a liberal to not tie his religious beliefs to a particular ideological agenda.
This all changed—and give the man his due—with Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, and the growing evangelization of the Republican primary electorate. Professions of faith from GOP candidates became more and more grandiose, like George W. Bush’s claim that Jesus Christ was his favorite philosopher. I’ve never known whether it was planned that he would say that or whether he just said it off the cuff, but whatever the case it was kind of brilliant of him, it must be admitted. When liberals made fun of him for not saying Locke or whatever, they managed to sound like snooty eggheads and Jesus-haters both at once.
At the same time that the religious right pushed Jesus into the presidential boxing ring, it did all it could to throw traditional religious neutrality out of it, such that positions that had been completely uncontroversial 20 years before grew to be toxic for Democrats. I think here of Al Gore being afraid to say in 2000 that he believed in evolution, one of the nadirs of recent presidential history.
In other words, it’s Republicans and conservatives who have made religious belief central to the conversation of presidential politics. And not just religious belief—a particular kind of (conservative) religious belief. Republicans made this a topic.
Now in fairness, Obama’s faith was a question in 2008, because of Jeremiah Wright, and that pot got a stirring not only from Republicans but from Hillary Clinton too. But the guy has now been the president for a long time, and voters twice elected him by reasonably comfortable margins. So these kinds of questions about Obama are still raised only in the fever swamps where Walker is trying to launch his dinghy. It’s only over there that these things matter.
So the question the Post put to Walker was completely logical and defensible within that tradition for which conservatism was responsible and to which Walker has recently been pandering, by weaseling around recently on the topic of evolution.
So it’s supposed to be unfair for Walker to have to answer a simple question like the one he was asked? Ridiculous. Liberals didn’t make faith a litmus test. If Walker and the others want to parade their own Christian credentials, any question along those lines is fair game. Besides, as Lewis said, there’s an easy answer: I don’t doubt that he is, it’s just his ideas and policies that are wrong. But of course that’s not enough for their base. If Walker got caught in any trap over the weekend, it’s one of conservatism’s devising, not the media’s.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 23, 2015
“He’ll Have Some Explaining To Do”: Another Republican Governor Has Accepted The Medicaid Expansion—And He Might Run For President
Indiana Governor Mike Pence announced Tuesday morning that the Obama administration had approved the state’s plan for accepting the Medicaid expansion. Starting February 1, 350,000 low-income Indianans will be enrolled in Healthy Indiana, the state’s Medicaid program. With the 2016 presidential cycle now underway, political analysts immediately are judging how Pence’s move affects his presidential odds.
The early consensus is that, if indeed Pence decides to run, this decision would cause him trouble in the GOP primary. But the issue poses a dilemma for the Republican Party more broadly, especially its hopes of recapturing the White House. As we saw during the midterms, the Medicaid expansion pits moderate Republicans versus conservatives, governors versus state legislators—and potentially undermines the party’s newfound interest in helping the poor and reducing inequality.
It’s up to governors to decide whether their state accepts the Medicaid expansion, and it’s hard to pass up. The federal government is offering states money to expand Medicaid so that people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line are eligible for the program. The federal government covers all of the costs from 2014 through 2016 and then that coverage amount phases down slowly to 90 percent by 2022. Governors also face aggressive lobbying from the hospital industry, which is eager to accept the billions of dollars that the federal government transfers to states that expand Medicaid. As a result, 10 states with Republican governors have accepted the expansion over the past few years, and two more, in Tennessee and Wyoming, are considering it.
But some Republican governors have toed the party line, including two likely 2016 candidates: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Texas Governor Rick Perry both rejected the expansion. Medicaid, after all, is part of Obamacare, which must be “repealed and replaced.” That’s one reason why most potential Republican candidates—especially those in Congress, like senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio—are opposed to the expansion.
This makes for an interesting rift in the Republican primary.
If Pence runs for president, he’ll have some explaining to do. He would likely argue that he pushed Medicaid in a much more conservative direction through a waiver from the federal government that allows Indiana to require enrollees to contribute a monthly premium to a health savings account, a typical conservative health care idea. He would also likely appeal to his evangelical base by saying that Medicaid expansion is the compassionate thing to do. But he wouldn’t be alone in defending his decision: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie accepted the expansion, too. Not known to sidestep an issue or stay on the defensive, Christie could attack the other governors for not taking advantage of the program and hurting their poor constituents, and he might accuse Cruz et al of not understanding how governing works.
The general election is a different story altogether, which brings us to the GOP’s desire to appeal to lower-class voters.
Over the past few weeks, Republicans have begun emphasizing income inequality and stagnant wages. These are important issues, but the GOP’s economic platform still consists largely of deregulation, spending cuts, and lower taxes. That won’t appeal to the poor, particularly compared to the Democratic proposals of free community college and middle-class tax breaks.
That’s where the Medicaid expansion comes in. Denouncing it as Obamacare may work with the Republican primary electorate, but it won’t work in the general election. We saw as much in the midterms, when new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell twisted himself into knots balancing his commitment to repealing Obamacare and promising not to alter the state’s health care exchange and expanded Medicaid program (both of which, of course, were the result of Obamacare). Granted, McConnell won reelection easily, but it does show how the expansion can be a political liability for Republican candidates.
If Christie or Pence emerge from the crowded field, it won’t be a problem. They can tout the expansion as evidence of their committment to fighting inequality. But the opposite is true for the rest of the field. For them, the expansion will be an even bigger liability if income inequality isn’t just Republicans’ flavor of the month, but a major part of their 2016 platform.
By: Danny Vinik, The New Republic, January 27, 2015
“Our God wins!” Who do you think made this statement on Saturday in the hopes of rallying a group of religious fundamentalists? A. The leader of ISIS; B. A Yemeni militant commander; C. A radical Islamic cleric; or D. Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal.
The correct answer is Jindal. He made the “our God wins” statement as the keynote speaker at an event sponsored by the conservative Christian organization, the American Family Association. (AFA.) Now, Jindal’s “our God wins” is a more impressive boast than you might first realize. Jindal, who is now a Christian, was raised a Hindu, a faith that features literally millions of Gods. So for Jindal’s new God to win, he is surely fully aware that it has to beat throngs of Hindu Gods. That would likely entail a massive, NCAA March madness-type bracket system pitting God versus God for years of battles.
In any event, the God Jindal and the AFA members worship has apparently been working out and is ready to kick some deity ass. And the way the crowd cheered Jindal’s notion that “my God can beat up your God” tells you a great deal about the AFA.
Now for those unfamiliar with the AFA, here’s a primer. They are a hate group. It’s really that simple. And that’s not just my opinion, but the view of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which named the AFA a hate group for its vicious anti-gay statements over the years.
As the SPLC’s Mark Potok has noted, in recent years the AFA also added Muslim bashing to its repertoire of hate. Apparently if you ask the leaders of the AFA, “What would Jesus do?” they would respond: demonize gays and Muslims.
The AFA, however, can’t simply be ignored. It’s indisputably a powerful conservative Christian organization. Based in Tupelo, Mississippi, it boasts 500,000-plus members and employs more than 100 people. It also operates its own popular radio network featuring Bryan Fischer, a man who is hateful as he is compelling to listen to on the radio.
Republican candidates for president have long visited Fischer’s show and teamed up with AFA in the hopes of attracting its followers. And not just the likes of Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry, but also more moderate candidates like former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty who went on Fischer’s radio program during his failed 2012 bid for president.
Obviously political candidates can seek the support of any group they want. But as we saw recently with Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La), appearing before hate groups such as the white supremacist group he spoke before in 2002, could, and should, come back to haunt you.
So here’s a sample of the AFA’s views so you can understand what they are all about.
Gays are to blame for The Holocaust: “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” –May 27, 2010, Fischer’s blog.
God will use ISIS to punish America for gay rights: “God will use the pagan armies of Allah to discipline the United States for our debauchery.” August 22, 2014, Fischer’s radio show.
Freedom of religion is for Christians only: “I have contended for years that the First Amendment, as given by the Founders, provides religious liberty protections for Christianity only. “ August 1, 2014 article by Fischer.
The Charlie Hebdo attack was God’s punishment for the magazine’s blasphemy: “They made a career out of taking the name of God, the God of the Bible, the father of the Lord Jesus” which was in violation of the commandment “you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” January 9, 2015, Fischer radio show.
Bar gays from serving in public office: “I believe being an active homosexual should disqualify you from public office because it’s a form of sexual perversion.” January 8, 2015, Fischer radio show.
Immigrants to the United States must convert to Christianity: Our immigration policy should be, “convert to Christianity, fully assimilate (become an authentic American, not a hyphenated American), and support yourself. If you commit to those things, you are welcome here.” April 9, 2011, Fischer Blog.
And the list goes on and on. Yet Jindal and other Republicans have no problem being the keynote speakers at their event and appearing on the AFA radio program.
Why would a guy like Jindal, an Ivy Leaguer and a seemingly mainstream governor, team up with the likes of AFA? Well, many would say it’s out of political expediency. After all, in the 2012 presidential race, white Evangelical voters accounted for 50 percent of the voters in the early GOP primary contests.
Others would say Jindal is simply desperate. The RCP average of polls shows Jindal in eleventh place out of 12 GOP candidates with only 2.8 percent of support. Jindal is literally running behind the poll’s margin of error.
But then again, maybe we are wrong. Maybe people like Jindal, Perry, Huckabee, and the like align with the AFA because they actually agree with their views. Perhaps they too believe that gays are to blame for the Holocaust, that Muslims and Jews don’t deserve First Amendment rights, and that all immigrants need to convert to Christianity?
Sure, these views sound outlandish, but shouldn’t we assume that the politicians agree with the hateful positions of the groups they team up with unless we hear the candidate publicly denounce each one?
If Republican candidates want the support of groups like the AFA, both the general public and the AFA’s followers deserve to know which issues they agree upon and which ones they don’t. Isn’t it time that the media started asking those questions?
By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, January 27, 2015
Now that Christmas has triumphed yet again in the War on Christmas, taking place as scheduled, we can turn our attention to the presidential primaries. After all, the Iowa caucuses are only 401 days away. For quite a while yet, the candidates are going to spend their time figuring out how to bring base voters over to their side (and you should probably steel yourself for 500 or so repetitions of “It’s all about that base, ’bout that base” jokes from pundits showing they’re down with what the kids are into these days).
Here’s Anne Gearan in today’s Post:
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president, is working hard to shore up support among liberals in hopes of tamping down a serious challenge from the left in the battle for the 2016 nomination.
Clinton has aligned herself firmly with President Obama since the November midterms on a range of liberal-friendly issues, including immigration, climate change and opening diplomatic relations with Cuba. In an impassioned human rights speech this month, she also condemned the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation tactics and decried cases of apparent police brutality against minorities.
The recent statements suggest a concerted effort by Clinton to appeal to the Democratic Party’s most activist, liberal voters, who have often eyed her with suspicion and who would be crucial to her securing the party’s nomination.
But the positions also tie her ever more tightly to a president who remains broadly unpopular, providing new lines of attack for the many Republicans jostling to oppose her if she runs.
And here’s a story from Mark Preston of CNN:
The first votes of the 2016 campaign won’t be cast for another year but there’s already a race well underway: The Christian primary.
Republicans are actively courting white evangelical and born again Christian voters, knowing they will be crucial in early-voting states such as Iowa and South Carolina.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is urging people to join him next month in Baton Rouge for a day of fasting, repentance and prayer focused on the future of the United States.
On the same day, another gathering will take place in Des Moines, where at least five potential GOP presidential candidates will address Iowa voters on “core principles” that include “social conservatism.”
Later in the story, Preston notes that if Christian conservatives fail to unite behind a single candidate, their power will be diluted and a more “centrist” candidate could get the nomination. Which is both true and false. That could be the series of events, but we shouldn’t be too quick to assign causality (and there are no “centrist” GOP candidates, only some with weightier résumés who the establishment thinks have a better chance of winning; the ideological differences between them are somewhere between tiny and nonexistent). The truth is that the party’s born-again/evangelical base almost never unites behind a single candidate. The only time it has happened in recent decades was in 2000, when George W. Bush easily beat a weak field of opponents.
But there’s no doubt that the courting of the base will indeed occupy much of the candidates’ time. One common but oversimplified narrative has it that they have to do so in order to win the nomination, but it will cost them in the general election. The truth, however, is that this is a much greater danger for the Republicans than the Democrats.
To see why, look at what Clinton is up to. She’s coming out strongly in support of some moves the Obama administration has made recently and talking more about things such as inequality. That will warm liberal Democrats’ hearts, but will it actually hurt her in the general election? It’s unlikely, because her position on all these issues is widely popular. Are voters going to punish her for advocating an end to the Cuba embargo, which 68 percent of Americans believe should happen? Or a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which is supported by about the same number? Or some set of populist economic policies, when around two-thirds of Americans say government policies favor the wealthy? Some issues, such as police practices, may not be so clear-cut, but on the whole the things Clinton is saying now are unlikely to turn up in attack ads in October 2016.
The story isn’t quite the same on the Republican side. Christian conservatives actually have relatively few policy demands, and most of them are already covered by what any Republican president would do anyway (such as appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade). What they do demand is a demonstration of affinity and loyalty. They want to know that a candidate loves them and will be there for them throughout his time in the White House.
The danger for Republican candidates is that in the process of showing love to the base, they alienate other Americans. There’s no reason a candidate couldn’t do the former without doing the latter, if he exercised enough care. One area where it may be impossible is same-sex marriage, where the more conservative evangelical voters are still firmly opposed (though those attitudes are slowly changing), while most Americans are in favor. But what those voters mostly want is to be convinced that the candidate is one of them: that he sees the world the same way they do, loves what they love and hates what they hate. In theory, even an allegedly “centrist” candidate can accomplish that. But so often in the process of this courting, they end up looking like either panderers or extremists; that’s what happened to John McCain and Mitt Romney.
In the end, base voters in both parties want to be won over. They don’t want to go into the general election having to support a candidate they can’t stand. They may approach the courtship looking reluctant, but they’re still hoping that there will be a marriage at the end of it. And they don’t need to be convinced that their nominee is the best candidate they could ever hope for — they just want to decide that he or she is good enough. If the candidate loses, they may say afterward, “Well I never liked him anyway.” But in the meantime, getting enough of their votes in the primaries doesn’t depend on being the most religious (for the Republicans) or the most populist (for the Democrats). The question is what you do to make yourself good enough.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, December 26, 2014