Three years ago, the combination of a $787 billion stimulus and multibillion-dollar bailouts sparked the first tea party rallies. The tea partyers protested, yes, but most importantly they pledged to “remember in November” — that is, November of the following year, when the next congressional elections would be held.
Liberals, confident the tea parties would fail, called it a “temper tantrum.” That “tantrum” wound up sweeping many a Democrat out of office. Now, liberals are throwing a fit of their own. But they aren’t waiting for the next elections. They want their way, now.
That’s the upshot of both the threatened boycotts of a conservative legislative group’s corporate sponsors and the attempted recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The left, having lost last time, is too impatient to bide its time.
The conservative group in question, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has been around since 1973. It has been quite active in Georgia since Republicans took the reins here a decade ago.
By ALEC’s count, each year one in five bills based on the group’s model texts becomes law. That rate hardly signals a rampant rubber-stamping of laws written in secret and railroaded through statehouses.
The two ALEC-approved laws at the heart of the boycott threats are one requiring voters to provide photo identification and the “stand your ground” self-defense law that gained national notoriety after the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
But states began passing voter ID laws nearly a decade ago. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 upheld Indiana’s version, one of the strictest, noting plaintiffs presented no one denied the vote because of the law. “Stand your ground,” meanwhile, is a century-old legal concept long approved by courts. In recent years, it has been codified by a number of states — including eight with Democratic governors at the time.
Now, suddenly, these court-approved laws have made ALEC public enemy No. 1. Companies that donated to it are shrinking in the face of boycott threats. What changed? Why now?
Permit a theory: The urgency stems from the conservative wave that swept over numerous statehouses in 2010. Republicans now control 26 statehouses and 29 governor’s mansions. That’s a stark change from before the 2010 elections, which produced the largest loss of statehouse seats for one party in decades and the most GOP state legislators in 82 years. Suddenly, ALEC has a lot more influence. And the left doesn’t want to wait for the next elections — and to have to win a reversal at the polls — to stop it.
In Wisconsin, labor unions aghast at the changes Walker and GOP legislators enacted — including limiting collective bargaining rights for some public workers and requiring them to contribute more toward their health care and pensions — will try to recall him in an election next month.
Never mind that Walker campaigned on most of these changes, won the election and followed through. The unions want to remove him from office more than two years early. There’s talk Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder could face a recall as well due to his union-limiting law.
Fledgling democracies mark a significant milestone when they transfer power safely from one group to another. We haven’t fallen that far.
But it is disturbing to see some groups try to lessen the effect of their electoral losses by making threats and seeking to remove officers carrying out an electoral mandate. They tread on dangerous ground.
– By Kyle Wingfield