Pivoting to the General Election



Pivot noun  piv·ot \ˈpi-vət\

: a pin or shaft on which a mechanical part turns

: the action of turning around a point: the action of pivoting

: a person or thing that is central or important to someone or something else

Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary


The primary process is winding down for the 2016 presidential election. Professional pundits (the people who get paid well to do what bloggers do for free) are scratching their heads about how Donald Trump just became the Republican candidate for president. Meanwhile the press corps is completely distancing themselves from responsibility of promoting the Trump campaign non-stop the past 10 months.  The media involvement is a discussion for another day. Now, is the time to discuss pivoting.

What is pivoting?

Pivoting is what candidates do to expand their message from one that is crafted specifically for the base of their political party in the language of speeches and messaging; which they then expanded to become palatable for the wider General Election audience. For example, in Donald Trump’s case his immigrant, Muslim, woman bashing sketch about building the Wall and making Mexico pay for it switches to being something more along the lines of, ah they aren’t so bad.

On the Republican side, Trump is pivoting to the General Election. The Democrats are still having a race to decide the candidate. Regardless of what you may see with the media who assume it is over. Hillary Clinton would like to believe that they are right. Hillary Clinton wants to pivot to the General Election, even though she has gone from a forgone conclusion to facing a real possibility that Bernie Sanders may be the final choice of the voters because of his authenticity. Authenticity means that there is no need to pivot because for better or worse, depending on your opinion, one thing we can agree on is that his message stays the same.

Don’t go changing.

The question I have today is why does a candidate have to pivot at all? The Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary says that to pivot in this context is when “A person or thing is central or important to someone or something else; and the action of turning around a point: the action of pivoting.” So it means to change a fundamental position to something else that is important to someone else.

Here is the problem I have with pivoting. It is true that this is a common strategy with candidates. The reason why it is common, is because candidates craft a message to please their audience, to persuade them to vote the way the candidate wants them to.  However, the candidate has a real agenda we all realize this. Many times the real agenda has nothing to do with what they tell voters during a campaign to secure votes. Most of us also realize that. These speeches that some call pandering, is considered a means to an end. When a candidate pivots, they change the message to become more likable to another more expansive audience. The problem is that voters of 2016 are no longer interested in appeasing talking points, they are looking for accountability and results. There for business as usual will be problematic for 2016 candidates up and down the ticket.

Who are they today?

The pivot is the core reason why many people do not trust politicians. I would invite political insiders to embrace the fact that the pivot is dead. Here is why. The Internet. The internet has collected all of the televised speeches. All of the speeches that attendees recorded with their cell phones. The public appearances and pretty much everything that a candidate has ever said. It is naïve at best and obtuse at worst to think that a candidate is going to be able to say one thing and then get away with saying something completely different later.

Take for example ex-candidate Ted Cruz’s “New York Values” moment.  It happened during one of the earlier Republican debates when Cruz proceeded to slam liberal New York values because we all know what that means in a crowd of uptight Evangelicals, right? His problem was when he arrived in New York and wanted to put all of that behind him like that never happened. The people of New York however, had a clearer recall of his statement, and Cruz learned that the lack of admiration was mutual, as he slunk away with 0% of the New York vote.

Be yourself.

Pivots do not work. What they do is make voters think that nothing a politician says is real. Most of the time voters are right, politicians are just saying what they think a voter wants to hear to vote for them. That is what makes it so unusual when one politician continues to say the same thing for over 40 years no matter how he thinks it will be received. He says the things he does, because he believes in it, and he believes it is the best path forward for America. It is difficult not to respect that rare brand of authenticity in today’s world; whether or not you agree with what he is saying. No pivots for Sanders, steady as she goes. I don’t respect a pivot. If a message is changing that much it is difficult to know what the truth may be.

Pivots build lack of trust, and why would anyone agree to give power to a person that they do not trust? I know this is totally out of left field but politicians need to just tell us what they want to do. Just tell us the truth. Put their policy platforms and their voting records out there to be judged and see what happens. I know insane right. But the rest is just distraction that is how it goes now that there is an internet we will find the truth out, so quit wasting time and just tell us the truth. We have busy lives here! We have a record of everything that has been said.

Granted, it is not easy for politicians today; I do not envy them at all. However, they must be forthright, they must be honest. That is the only kind of person that we can trust to hold the full force of the power and prestige that comes with being the next president of the United States of America.

What does America value?

In our society money decides how resources are distributed. Those with the most money, have the most options. Sometimes I wonder is money the most efficient way to decide who gets what? In America specifically, status is determined by income. However, it can be argued that the most noble work is done by those paid the least, maybe even nothing–volunteers. At the same time there is a lot of money pooled with those who seem to be lacking a heart of service. They hoard money in off shore accounts. The work done by some of the highest income earners does not appear to be work that is life-giving. The work does not produce anything lasting. If that is the case, we are not doing our best to effectively manage resources to meet the needs of the people who our government represents. We have lost the sense of stewardship that human kind needs to live with peace of mind and in balance with the ecosystems that we occupy.

Life is about more than profits.

The first problem with having money decide who is able to access resources, is that there are many worthwhile endeavors that are not profitable. Adding the profit aspect to health care, education, and prisons creates a business model that breaks the systems they claim to serve. The fact that they are not profitable does not mean that they are not worthwhile endeavors. It simply means that society does not want to pay for them. Many of the social services are not “fun” ways to spend money. Yet, they are vital to the general well-being of the communities that we live in. There are many things worth doing for the greater good that does not make a profit.

Bringing back the balance.

How can things be brought back to balance?

Some say charity is how to solve society’s imbalances. Yet, I am not sure that charity as we know it is the answer. The first reason why that is true is because the work that needs to be done is not always the work that people want to pay for. Some of the work that is needed by society is not considered “sexy” by funders. The process to access grants is lengthy, complex, and limited. The process is cumbersome and does not always address what is needed but instead focuses on what the charity is willing to give.

There needs to be a review of the way America does business. Stockholders versus workers. Which should be the priority? When stockholders do not see the vision of the company and are looking for a one-way street to profits not seeing the long-term vision of community and the way that the organization lives in the community it can be problematic. What then should be done to keep the fiduciary promises to stockholders while still being able to invest back into the company and community.

Our society appears to be economically driven, however the economic cycle is not free-flowing and the stagnant lack of a strong economic flow worsened by the lack of disposable income, makes solving problems on a one-on-one or community level, virtually impossible. The way we think about resources and problem-solving must change and become more egalitarian so that our society begins to reflect the best of all of us manifesting real solutions. Instead of what has been happening which is the worst of all of us manifesting our fears. I still have faith that humanity is capable of amazing things. However, to get there the focus must be on working together. That gives value to all Americans and I believe that is truly what American values is all about.MiamiHeraldValues

America needs an American President not an American’t President.



When I see what is left of the 2016 Presidential field, I think to myself I am tired of the several American’ts that are running. American’ts are the people that tell us that we have to accept the status quo. There was a time in history when that was the case, we were forced to accept the status quo. However, this is not that time. Things are different now.

Something to be proud of.

The way things are now is about doing the work of creating a culture we can be proud of; doing the work it takes to make that happen. What is frustrating is the many Americans that seem stuck in a sticky time warp of ideas. They will not budge. They absolutely and unequivocally refuse to evolve. This is not the type of people to lead us all to a peaceful and prosperous future. Good leaders have earned leadership. Good leaders earn respect. Good leaders understand the concept of the consent of the governed. Good leaders understand the past and have a strong vision toward the future yet are very much in the present doing the work that needs to be done for the good of the many, not an exclusive few.

The answers are there if we choose to find them.

I want an American for President. This person does not need to have all of the answers but this person needs to be willing to find out what the answers are and go after them. This President needs to do all that is necessary so that the fewest people go to bed at night hungry, scared, worried because of circumstances that are far beyond our control. We need to create a society that says you are not alone in this. Working together to reach the optimum potential of humankind.

An American sees the obstacles, rises to the challenges, and has the political will to be honest about the solutions. Putting together a strong team that will come up with viable solutions and communicate those solutions to the citizens of this nation in ways they can understand and engage in. An American is what makes our nation the best in the world. Americans are bold, innovative, we adapt and we overcome. Americans meet the challenge that life throws at us, we do not cower or deny that the challenges are happening.

Americans see the vision and want the world to be a fair place.

Many Americans see the power dynamics of the world changing and see what needs to be done. There are tens of thousands, perhaps millions, in line with this vision that knows that humans are capable of developing the answers to live modern lives that are not at the expense of the ecosystems that we share with the rest of the world. Americans who refuse to be in a state of perpetual war creating pain for others. Americans who want to live in a world that feels fair and in balance. We know that the American’ts tell us this is not possible. However, something inside us burns, letting us know that this is possible, all we have to do is go through the steps to bring things back into balance.

The next leader of the free world needs to be an American not an American’t. I look forward to see what happens on Election Day next Fall.

Torn: Arizona Prop 123


A special election will be held May 17, 2016 in Arizona; my heart and stomach wretches at the options placed before the electorate. Proposition 123 is supposed to be a solution to the starvation of funding that the Arizona Legislature has inflicted on public education funding over the past decade. Governor Doug Ducey has put it to the voters to increase funding over the next ten years by $3.5 Billion. This sounds awesome and of course the Chamber of Commerce is on board. In the voter pamphlet sent out by the Secretary of State’s office, David Gowan, Speaker of the House says that this proposition would “mean an end to a lengthy and contentious lawsuit that has racked up legal bills and put the health of our entire state budget at risk.” Here is the thing about that, the lawsuit is the result of poor leadership and why should Arizona voters come to save the butts of those who have sold out Arizona’s students time and time again?

The dilemma.

The first thing that is frustrating is the way that the law is presented to the voters. I believe it was intentionally made to be deceptive and difficult to understand. What it comes down to is either we give the legislature more money by dipping into the state land trust fund so they can cover the debt they created with their own partisan politics, or we face being a state with the least funded schools in the nation even after the territory of Puerto Rico that is currently in a position of trying to restructure great debt.

I don’t want to tell the students no. I want to tell the students that we care about them and want their education to be supported in every way including financially. The problem is that this is another badly written bill from the state legislature. It is not a sustainable solution and it encourages continued bad behavior from the state capitol.

Who does the bailout benefit?

Funding education is vital to a prosperous Arizona future. What is so frustrating is that it is the poor leadership and mismanagement of funds by the Arizona State Legislature that put us in this position and they are double-dipping into the State Land Trust Fund to cover their mistake, yet more important to them they are making more of the State Trust Land available to developers. The land is supposed to last “in perpetuity” to fund Arizona education. It will not do that if we increase the sales whenever the legislature wants to pull out more money. I want to fully fund education in Arizona, but at what cost?

I am angry as an Arizonan that we have again be left with a difficult decision because of poor leadership.

Who are we electing anyway?

Related image

Watching the selection process for the Presidential Candidate of the Democratic Party over the last few days leaves me wondering. Who are we electing anyway? The leader of the free world or the head fundraiser of the party, and should that person be the same person?

Many in the Democrat camp this week have circled the wagons around the talking point that Bernie Sanders does not deserve to be the Democratic candidate for the presidential race because he has not raised enough money compared to Hillary Clinton for down ticket candidates. In case you are not familiar with the term, down ticket candidates are those who are running for office in the Senate, House of Representatives, and for state elections. Where I do agree that winning down ticket races is an important part of standing up to the shortsighted and irresponsibly bad written laws coming from the Republicans lately; I don’t think that the president should also be the head Party fundraiser.

While Bernie Sanders went to participate in an economic conference hosted by the Vatican discussing a moral economy, Hillary Clinton went to actor George Clooney’s house for a fundraiser that in Clooney’s words raised an “obscene amount of money.”

As I have shared this idea that head fundraiser and the president should not be the same person with those in my social media circles, I was told more than once that I just don’t understand how things work. To that I answer I do understand how things work, however the way things work isn’t working for millions of people in the United States and to not even try to do something differently to see if it works better makes no sense to me.

It seems to me that the way that candidates are forced to make the ask for money for the Party places them in a vulnerable position. The party is supposed to be doing the fundraising work, which ought not be a major problem if the candidate they are supporting is good at her/his job. I think a great deal of the problem is that many candidates have not been servants of the people that they wish to have vote for them in elections. That is why they need to spend so much money to get their name out to the people and share a common narrative that they think the people will buy. I would argue that that is not the way it should work. I am old-fashioned however because I believe a voting record of a candidate or the previous works of service that they are known for should do the talking, that should be enough to fundraise from.

The strategy of fundraising from previous work will not be a successful strategy to market to the richer crowd who only want to buy favor with the winner. However, it will work to market to Main Street and those who understand the vision that the candidate is selling to win the Election.

It is irresponsible to make the candidate running for president the same person who is responsible for raising the money for the party. The members of the party should step up and do their jobs and leave the job of interviewing to be the leader of the United States to the candidates.

CUNY drops Mr. & Ms., why it matters


Political correctness gone amok or a much-welcomed end to oppression? There are many ways to look at the CUNY decision to ban the use of Mr. and Ms. in correspondence.

Words mean SOMETHING. So what does Mr. and Ms. mean to us? Well, first let us break this Ms. down a little more Ms. is indicating 1) this person is a female. Before 1971, and the use of Ms., there was Miss or Mrs., meaning that each time you spoke or corresponded with a female woman you gave her a little reminder that 1) she was female 2) and whether she was married or not and 3) if she was married, to whom she was married. Are women this forgetful that they need reminding of this every time people tell them something? If it is indeed so important, then why is the same reminder not reserved for men? Men have the Mr. that reminds them they are indeed male, but it does not remind them that they are a married man and to whom they are married. I think many of us know at least one or two men who sometimes forget they are married and to whom they are married to, but still there is no judgment. They don’t seem to need the reminder each time they correspond with someone. So, what does the salutation tell someone.

It breaks down gender, marital status, and status in a culture. The salutation is there to remind you where you stand in the culture and about how much respect you are to be afforded because of that fact. Is it necessary in 2015 to point out to a person that they are man or woman, married or unmarried, from a particular family or not, before letting them know that there will be a quiz on chapter 4 next Friday?

Am I reading into this too much? I do not think so. Because if these words did not matter so much. Why are so many people upset about losing them? What are they losing? They are losing what they think is entitled them because of the status these words convey. That is what is fascinating about all of this.

“Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Why that doesn’t matter in the 2012 Election.

One would be hard-pressed to find an American that did not have a difficult time the last four years. America has suffered the worst economic collapse since the 1930’s. Understandably, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the Republicans want to hold President Obama accountable for the last four years. They are driving the point home by using an old line. It was October 28, 1980, when Ronald Regan recycled Franklin Roosevelt’s question “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Normally, a politician can get some traction with this question. Particularly if the past four years weren’t good ones. However, this time it is not relevant and this is why. Nothing is the same now as it was four years ago, and if trends continue we may hardly recognize what comes next in the years leading to 2016.

Economic problems are structural not cyclical.

It would be one thing if the current economic problems were a cyclical bump in the road. That is not the case, what America is experiencing is growing pains from a structural change driven by automation and constantly updating technology. This is a blessing for cost control and efficiency, yet from the employment side it is a curse. What are the employment options for folks who have a lower skill level, now that there is so much competition for coveted positions left in this shrinking job pool? In addition, though it is a good thing to think in ways that create a more environmentally sustainable future, this also causes economic growing pains. For generations, families have built their lives around the coalmines or the oil fields. The choice to move away from fossil fuels is a correct one, however leaders and policy makers need to consider those who are left behind by this fundamental change in how we look at Energy Policy and how that interacts with Labor Policy. These are but a few of the many complex challenges the US Economy faces. Not only domestic pressures, perhaps even more powerful, are the tremendous changes taking place outside of US borders and therefore outside of the President’s direct influence.

The world is not the same.

The world has gone through mind-blowing changes over the past four years. The tumultuous birth of Democracy in the Middle East and North Africa by way of the Arab Spring is one example. This opens up a completely new set of complex and delicate issues to maneuver going forward. Things will not go back to the way they were before. The old answers are irrelevant. In addition, the economic situation with the European Union and its members who are reshaping the relationships they have with one another. This has little in common with the way it was even fifteen years before. The past four years were incredibly tumultuous, creating many unknowns that will need answers.  Can the European Union be successful without sharing political power in order to set consistent  Economic policy? Will the European Union survive the recent economic crisis? The solutions the EU come up with will  impact the United States although the President will have limited, if any control over what happens. Again, this is a minute glimpse of the many issues happening all over the globe. The next President will need to be capable of deftly maneuvering through the historically critical window for as long as it is open during the next four years. This could set the tone in US foreign relations for the next century.

There is no turning back.

The greatest concern about the direction the Conservatives in the Republican Party are taking is that it seems to be going backward. Hearing many Conservatives speak, one wonders if they are in some sort of time machine stuck in 1950’s perhaps in some episode of Mad Men? The warrants that the party operates on seem to be from a bygone era that is no longer true. It is just not like that anymore. The minorities are becoming the majority. Poverty is due to many complex variables not just because people aren’t trying hard enough. Things like pensions, a living wage, and the ability to own a home, which give stability to the middle-class that is the backbone of the American culture and economy. Women’s issues are not just issues for women. Equal pay, affordable early childhood education, food security, and the ability for a woman to decide when and how many children she feels capable to care for are all issues that influence the society as a whole. Thinking in the past in ways that women are not the breadwinners for their homes and other such lost in the ‘50s delusions driving policy is not relevant in 2012 and beyond. The looming possibility of multiple Supreme Court appointments happening in this term add higher stakes to the polices of the candidates. It’s  important to pay attention to those who influence each man, especially those who don’t want to fight once more the vicious fight for women’s personal rights.

Voters will decide.

The “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” question may have worked before. However, we are not in the same world that we were in four years ago. We are not in the 1950’s. America needs to choose the candidate who acknowledges these changes and is able to navigate them. It is difficult for me to be confident in the Romney campaign because the Romney/Ryan Republicans are so intent on living in the past when directing us into the future is so important.  I have much more confidence from seeing Barack Obama’s performance thus far,  that he is the best choice to lead us through the next four years successfully. My confidence about the President’s future success would certainly increase if the Republicans lose big in the local and Congressional races.

My Body, My Business

There is a lot of talk going on in political debate about contraception and  a woman and her partner’s control over reproductive planning. The responsibility and the power comes from the woman’s decision. Why? Because it is the woman that carries the baby.  The woman that goes through the birthing process. The woman which, in a high percentage of situations, is the primary care giver and therefore is the one who makes the most change to her life in order to care for her children, especially during their first five years of life. The first five years are vital developmentally.

I don’t think this debate is about religious freedom. I think the church leaders would like to think so. But if it were about religion we would have policy to eradicate poverty which is mentioned in the Bible 2,000 times. So it’s not about religion. What it is about is the high cost of insurance for women of childbearing age to which I say “Too damn bad.” I say that because the same group of folks who bash “socialist” health care want to leave women hanging by not assisting with her health care needs. Companies which basically own people. They tell them when to wake up, when to eat, when to sleep, when to go to the bathroom, when to take a vacation. So they own them. Even slave owners of the past realized that they have to provide slaves with basic health care. Didn’t these folks get the memo?  With all the money dolled out on studies for employee retention and satisfaction and none of those brainiacs can figure out that people need to have their family needs met to be productive employees? The company should get its consulting money back and apply it to the needs of its employees. And why wouldn’t they want their female employees on birth control? If they are on birth control, they are at work. The whole thing is ridiculous!

Freedom, something so essential to the core of being American. The choices about who I have sex with, when I have sex, what style of sex I choose to have, and when I choose to have a pregnancy result from that sex having is MY business. I shouldn’t have to call up my elected official and ask permission. That is the essence of personal freedom. Now keeping in mind I am talking about sex with two consenting adults. Other than that, it is up to the adults what they do with their bodies. The political right wants to run archaic bills through state houses and Congress without political consequences.  To that I say, “Too damn bad.” They need to be penalized politically for taking our country backwards. That strategy (if that’s what they are calling it) is not going to win the GOP the Independent vote in November.  Independents, like reasonable Republicans and Democrats, are watching the actions not the crazy propaganda coming out of the GOP talking-heads’ mouths. The Republicans could easily lay off the social issues and focus on the economy. Pull together some jobs. Do THEIR jobs for goodness sake. The longer they entertain this penchant for the bad old days is as long as they will be locked out of public office come November.

ALEC Friend or Foe to American democracy?

Across America, states are experiencing drastic budget reductions.  The need to decrease payroll costs limits the number of staff members available to assist lawmakers with the diverse complexity involved in the enormous task of writing state legislation.  Legislatures mitigate this circumstance by soliciting outside resources for research support. Various interest groups grew from this specialized need for information gathering, they became expert sources pertaining to the needs identified about a particular issue or industry. Typically, these organizations are non-profits and claim nonpartisanship to appeal to the greatest amount of donors and clients.  Groups who remain nonpartisan preserve its reputation as credible information source without a pre-determined political agenda. Even so, the nature of an individual interest group’s work is such that it may show a certain political slant that endears them to certain lawmakers. Naturally, a lawmaker chooses to align with groups representing his or her political ideology. The function of an interest organization is to supply background information about their topic, possibly by attending meetings, and providing talking points that a legislator can utilize to speak to the press if needed.  The support of credible interest groups bolsters support from the public for the legislation, when the system works as intended it allows the system of democracy to run efficiently.

It is customary for interest groups to send their own press releases out to media outlets in support of the lawmaker and the bill they are working on together.  When the public sees the same information, coming from multiple sources it lends further validation of that point of view.  There are two ways to go about this process. One is a fact-based release, it provides an opportunity to learn about an issue and it’s solution.  The other is to release selective fact telling to the media; it calls the integrity of the information, and those who released it into question. This misleads and confuses citizens because the information is coming from multiple “expert” sources. This technique builds a storyline into the public consciousness with the use of propaganda and tampers with democracy. Whichever technique is used the reward is the same. It is the opportunity to have hands-on time with the bill in order to construct a “model” bill.  A model bill is a perfect bill from the interest group’s point of view.  Yet, if legislators are manipulating the information and interest groups act as an assist to pass what would otherwise be an unpopular bill, this too is tampering with the democratic process.

With the knowledge that state legislators are understaffed and looking to interact with industry experts, it is not difficult to see how state legislators would be enticed by the opportunity to meet with several high-power industry representatives who specialize in the issues of the day.  Influential State level Representatives and Senators gain access to a one-stop-shop meeting with experts about the types of legislation that could create jobs and improve their state’s economy. Hence, when a group like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) offers likeminded lawmakers a family getaway to a glamorous location like Scottsdale, Arizona to discuss legislative ideas, it is no wonder that they are eager to join in.  Conservative Republicans find ALEC appealing because they see ALEC’s product as tailor-made for their political interests.

The mission statement from the organization’s website alec.org, states that ALEC is “A nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty.” ALEC files with the IRS as a 501 (c) 3 charity, a status called into question recently that may cause the organization to undergo severe penalties if misuse of this tax status is determined.  Both the tax status and mission statement omits the corporate side of the organization. It says nothing to imply corporate members spend up to $230,000 per year on membership fees and for the opportunity to sit on a task force with influential state lawmakers. During these meetings, corporate representatives collaborate by providing the elected taskforce officials, boilerplate bills written by lawyers hired by the corporation or lobbying group. (Newmyer) There are no citizens nor citizens groups from the effected states represented on these taskforces. Therefore, there is no process to get feedback from those affected by the law. That is not democracy.  During the following legislative session ALEC members introduce over 1,000, “model bills” nationally, and about 17% of the time, these bills pass. Corporate members view this percentage to be an impressive return on investment. Historically, discreet about their activities, the actions of ALEC members to stifle opposition challenges to ALEC sponsored bills is difficult to hide entirely.  The fact that this happens frequently is a detriment to the democratic process when limited, if any opposition is entertained to point out potential weakness in the bill’s language. This is particularly troublesome when such actions have unintended negative consequences on the communities they effect.  ALEC has a process to track the bills and check on its process. The organization leverages influence by implementing labeling process sending updates to members about what the organization deems “good bills” or “problematic bills.” This can result in legislative members, which are simultaneously ALEC members, taking action favorable to ALEC’s point of view.  In 2010, there were 2,000 state lawmakers nationally that were simultaneously active ALEC members.  (McIntire)

The American Legislative Exchange Council came under intense public scrutiny recently. Predominantly with its relationship to the “Stand Your Ground,” law.  This is a law created mainly by the National Rifle Association during an ALEC convention. ALEC legislative members including those from the state of Florida, and twenty other states adopted the bill into law. The subsequent result of this law was the death of teenager Trayvon Martin. An overzealous Neighborhood Watch participant, George Zimmerman, chose to pursue Martin. A struggle ensued at which time Zimmerman pulled a gun and fatally shot Martin in the chest. The case is currently at the pre-trial stage, yet there is a strong chance that Zimmerman will experience limited consequences for his actions because of the “Stand Your Ground” Law, which allows the use of lethal force on another individual, deemed self-defense if he feels there is a threat to his life—even if it is an unsubstantiated threat. (Krugman)  The ambiguity of this controversial law brought heated attention to ALEC and inspired campaigns to place pressure on ALEC’s corporate members to quit. It calls into question the manner in which laws such as these get do pass recommendation, with little or no debate by opposition. Perhaps if they had focused attention to correct that, which made the “Stand Your Ground,” Law such a poorly written piece of legislation. It would prevent this type of tragedy.

Furthermore, this is not the first time ALEC was associated with a hotly contested or controversial law. Closer to my home, Arizona’s SB1070 was created at an ALEC convention in cooperation with a private prison lobby.  (Sullivan) This bill was then shepherded through the Arizona Legislature by Russell K. Pearce.

Legislators are starting to feel the consequential sting associated with pursuing ALEC goals without the support of the people they represent. In the case of Russell Pearce, he later faced and lost a recall election due in large part because of his involvement with the SB1070 bill. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin finds himself facing recall, after he pushed through a Koch Industries bill obtained at an ALEC convention to dismantle collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin state employees. The negative impact of these bills act as a catalyst for such groups as ALEC Exposed, ALEC Watch and a project for Common Cause, a watchdog group whose mission it is to hold those in power accountable for their actions. Many of these groups have created campaigns to place pressure on ALEC participants. According to an article by New York Times writer Mike McIntire, Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist, Kraft Foods, Intuit, and Coca-Cola have recently left ALEC and there are more to follow, because of the backlash resulting from the negative attention brought on by this bill.

ALEC is a vessel for a process, though the actions of this group raise concern, the process the group represents is alarming. It casts a shadow of doubt on the democratic process of the United States. For when an exclusive group of individuals holds a large percentage of the country’s wealth and resources in addition to having such personal access to lawmakers the spirit of democracy suffers.  It is virtually impossible for middle-class voters to have an equal voice when speaking with their legislator experiencing these political conditions.  This ALEC point of view from Arizona lawmakers became apparent while attending a function for neighborhood leaders at the state capitol.  That day, several Russell Pearce constituents shared stories about the inattention paid and utter lack of respect to the voices of constituents with an opposing point of view. Pearce was not alone in the practice of shutting opposition out of the process of governance. Later, when SB1070 pummeled  its way through the legislative process it seemed no matter how many letters written, phone calls made, petitions signed or people protesting at the capitol, the legislators simply were not listening. Then when ALEC came to Scottsdale, Arizona in November of last year and Arizona citizens went to find out who was ALEC, this group writing laws for the state. The protestors were promptly pepper-sprayed and arrested for their trouble. (Cronkitenews)  If the legislators were crafting legislation at these conventions open meeting laws ought to apply.

Although non-profit organizations supply vital information to understaffed lawmakers are a benefit to American democracy, this no longer is the case when the organization involved represents specific interests with an agenda whose actions serve only a privileged few, instead of the greater good of America. The laws put in place concerning lobbying came to be because of the biting sting of the last Great Depression, created by robber barons and war profiteers. The laws serve a purpose of consumer protection in America. Laws meant to avoid corrupting the government and allowing full discussion pertaining to the laws of the land, which mean to show some common measure of equality for every American that wishes to be a productive member of American society. This promise, given by the founding fathers is threatened and monarchy like privilege becomes the order of the day when the middle-class families of America no longer have an equal voice with those who already control so much of American life.   It is because neighborhood representation is not at the table to discuss the issues that place ALEC’s work in question regarding democracy in America. This missing piece leads many to believe that it is not a positive force.

In conclusion, it is common for state level legislators to solicit outside help when construction legislative language for a bill. To this end, non-profit groups that specialize in information gathering for a particular expertise to assist in various ways play a role in responsible bill writing. The services these groups provide are a benefit to American democracy because they assist lawmakers in having the best information possible in order to make the best choices possible to write law.  Yet, ALEC crosses the line into pure illegal lobbying, by giving special interest members more legislative authority than the legislators have. (McIntire) While tracking the bills for the purpose of harassing lawmakers if they do not do what the non-profit advises and when that non-profit shuts residents that the law affects out of the process of governance it can hardly be looked upon with favor.  Thus, ALEC or any group that employs its process is not a benefit to democracy. We must ensure policies are in place to counter the loopholes that allow ALEC to exist. It is only then that governance for the people by the people can exist once more in America.



Works Cited

ALEC. American Legislative Exchange Council, 2012. Web. 25 April 2012.

Bravender, Robin. “ALEC Support Wanes: Kraft Abandons Conservative Group.” Politico.com. 5 April 2012. Web. 25 April 2012

Clinton, Bill. Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.

Cronkitenews. “Police pepper-spray Occupy Phoenix protestors at conservative gathering.” YouTube. YouTube. 2 December 2011. Web. 25 April 2012.

Frank, Ellen. The Raw Deal: How Myths and Misinformation About the Deficit, Inflation, and Wealth Impoverish America. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004. Print.

Hartman, Thom. Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights. United States: Rodale, 2002. Print.

Krugman, Paul. “Lobbyists, Guns, and Money.” New York Times. New York Times, 25 March 2012. Web. 25 April 2012.

McIntire, Mike. Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist.  New York Times. New York Times. 21 April 2012. Web. 25 April 2012.

Newmyer, Tory. “The Big Political Player You’ve Never Heard Of.” Fortune Editors. Fortune. 10 January 2011. Web. 25 April 2012.

Nichols, John. “ALEC Exposed.” The Nation. The Nation. 12 July 2011. Web. 25 April 2012.

Nicknicemadison. “Mark Pocan – Explains how ALEC is working to eliminate public education (AB110)” YouTube. YouTube, 13 March 2012. Web. 25 April 2012.

Sourcewatch.  The Center for Media and Democracy, 2012. Web. 25 April 2012.

Sullivan, Laura. “How Corporate Interests Got SB1070 Passed.” Laura Sullivan Show. Public Radio. NPR  9 November 2010. Web. 25 April 2012.

State of the Union Bingo Card 2012

Play along with the State of the Union Bingo Card