Why Democrats Lose Despite Having A Majority.

The 2016 presidential election again demonstrated that a majority of US voters align with Democrats. Hillary Clinton did, after all, win the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Had she not lost 5 key battleground states by a total of approximately 100,000 votes, she would be president. And Combover Hitler would be relegated to an ugly footnote in American history.

In fact, in 2 of the last 3 elections won by a Republican, Democrats received a majority of the votes cast. That was made possible by a combination of voter suppression, Republican gerrymandering and the antiquated Electoral College (a vote in the sparsely populated state of Wyoming is worth many times that of a vote in California or New York).

Further, Republicans have a structural advantage when it comes to the news media, especially in rural areas. Since the end of the Fairness Doctrine, right wing conservatives have been able to spew their lies, conspiracy theories and anti-government hate with impunity on AM talk radio and Fox News Channel. They have also created numerous websites that cloak ideology in the guise of news.

Moreover, Republicans have unified while Democrats bicker among themselves. If elected Republican officials dare to vote their conscience against the wishes of the Party, they are labeled RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) and they are faced with well-financed candidates who are even more conservative during the primaries. Democrats, on the other hand, have difficulty keeping their members in line. Indeed, they have long taken pride in describing themselves with a line by Will Rogers – “I’m not a member of an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

In addition, when in office, Democrats have been unwilling to do anything that will cause substantial harm to the nation. Unlike Republicans, they have not used the filibuster to block every initiative of a presidential opponent. They have not shut down the government. And they have been far less likely to use parliamentary tricks in order to get their way.

Far too often, voters are left with the feeling that Democrats do not have the courage of their convictions.

Of course, Democratic voters are not blameless for the mess we now face. For decades, they have been willing to turn out in large numbers for presidential races. But many have failed to vote in local and state elections – a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by Republican leaders who for decades have focused their attention on such races with the knowledge that candidates who are successful at the local level eventually become successful in more important races.

It is this strategy that has allowed Republicans to control statehouses and governorships across the country. And, in turn, that allows Republicans to pass laws to gerrymander districts and to pass laws that suppress the votes of minority voters who traditionally vote against them. In these efforts, they are aided by greedy corporations that use ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) to pass one-sided legislation that undermines working class voters.

During such assaults on our democracy, the leaders of the Democratic Party have remained relatively silent, choosing to believe that the future is in their favor; that the growing numbers of people of color, especially Latinos will turn the tide.

Don’t count on it. Because of the structural imbalance in the media, far too few people understand what Democrats stand for. They can tell you that Republicans stand for “smaller government and lower taxes.” But if you ask 100 people, even 100 Democrats, what Democrats stand for, you’re likely to get 100 different answers. Worse, the most common answer will be the label created by Republicans – “tax and spend Democrats .”

Given these obstacles, what are Democrats to do?

First, quit apologizing for your beliefs whenever you are confronted by conservatives. You are on the side of working people – the largest group of American voters. You also have a great track record. After all, it was Democrats that passed Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. It was Democrats that rescued our economy from the Great Depression and the Great Recession. It is Democrats that have been the party of fiscal responsibility while Republicans have blithely rung up huge deficits and debts.

Second, show that you have the courage of your convictions. Show that you are willing to fight for the people who elect you.

Third, vote! Don’t sit out any election. And don’t let any Republican candidate go unchallenged. Don’t concede a single federal, state or local office to a Republican just because you think you might lose. History is filled with accounts of long shots who have won elections and gone on to accomplish great things.

Fourth, stop bickering among yourselves. Support those who will support the majority of your beliefs. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good. You may not think a particular Democratic leader or candidate is perfect. But they’re almost certainly better than the Republican alternative. (How many of those who voted for the Green Party now wish they would have voted for Clinton?)

Fifth, police the candidates who run under the Party banner. Don’t support a candidate who doesn’t, for the most part, toe the Party line. You don’t have to agree with everything a candidate says, but you should be able to agree with a majority of what the candidate says.

Sixth, and most important, communicate your beliefs. Make the label Democrat stand for something. Make your message succinct, clear and memorable. Then plaster that message everywhere. In other words, create a brand!

Then, and only then, will the Party that represents the majority of Americans control the majority of elected offices.

Fascism, American Style.

Let me begin by stating that I recognize that fascism is a loaded and almost universally misunderstood term. Indeed, it’s one of the F words used to end conversations. But, in most cases, the fascist label is wrongly applied. For example, if you are intolerant of other races and ethnic groups, you may be a bigot. But you are not necessarily a fascist. Or, if, like President Obama, you are a democratically-elected official attempting to act on an agenda you were elected to enact, you are almost certainly not a fascist.

On the other hand, if you believe in extreme nationalism (that your country is always right, regardless of its actions) and that large corporations should necessarily enjoy a special status above that of individuals then you are almost certainly a fascist.

That’s not just my opinion.

It’s based on the words of the man who has been widely recognized as the founder of fascism, Benito Mussolini, who once said, “The definition of fascism is the marriage of corporation and state” and “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism.” Mussolini also believed in an extreme form of nationalism. As the Italian Prime Minister, he demanded complete authority, believing that he was the only person capable of solving his nation’s problems. Yet he decried state ownership of institutions, writing, “It leads only to absurd and monstrous conclusions; state ownership means state monopoly…”

If these beliefs and statements remind you of the GOP vision for America – unfettered free markets, privatization of all public institutions, a belief in “American Exceptionalism”, the co-opting of the American flag as a show of nationalism and party affiliation, a determination to enforce “family values” and a powerful leader who promises to run the nation as a business – they should. By Mussolini’s definition, such views are the very embodiment of fascism.

In fact, thanks to the Republican Party, the US now leans heavily toward fascism. After all, the vast majority of our media are controlled by a very few large corporations. We have begun to privatize our schools, our prisons, even our roads. Large corporations have been allowed to hide their profits offshore to avoid taxes. Defense suppliers have been given no-bid contracts and are allowed to pass billions of dollars in cost overruns along to taxpayers. Our government is not permitted to negotiate the prices of pharmaceuticals on behalf of our citizens. And Republicans have called for the privatization of Social Security and Medicare.

So how did we get here?

First, it should be noted that among certain circles – primarily those including powerful industrialists and financiers – fascism was popular in the US before WWII. But, though it was defeated, the concepts of fascism began to reappear in the US with corporate lobbying and what former President Eisenhower termed “the military-industrial complex.”

The ideology gained traction when Reagan vilified government and attacked labor unions. It was aided by the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which required media to act in the public interest. It was legalized when the conservative-dominated Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech, that corporations are people, and that limits on political donations are unconstitutional. And it was institutionalized through the creation of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) which brings large corporations and legislators together. As part of its charter, ALEC’s corporate lawyers write corporate-friendly bills dubbed “model legislation” then hand them to ALEC’s conservative legislative members who take them back to their respective states – often without reading them – and introduce the bills as if they are their own.

As a result of all this, large corporations and the very wealthy control most of Congress, many state legislatures and many other elected officials. And to ensure future control, the Koch brothers and their associates are using their wealth to meddle in many down-ballot races, including city councils, county boards of supervisors, even school boards.

All of this is bad enough. But what happens if we elect a nationalistic, authoritarian ideologue to the White House who believes government should be run like a business? I shudder to think of the possibility.

The Planned Dysfunction Of Our Government.

As has been repeatedly demonstrated, Republicans and conservatives have mastered the art of telling lies. And, on the rare occasions when the corporate-owned media challenge those lies, they seldom bother to correct their falsehoods, choosing instead to double-down. Why wouldn’t they? After all, there are rarely any consequences for lying. For example, Politifact.com has ruled that more than 90 percent of Donald Trump’s statements are false. Yet his supporters don’t seem to care.

For many, facts no longer matter. They’d rather rely on their guts than their heads – a phenomenon that, if Trump becomes president, is likely to result in a severe case of national indigestion.

How did we reach the point where candidates can lie with impunity? How could a candidate like Trump become the presumptive presidential nominee while spreading falsehoods and fomenting hate? He is only taking advantage of a political climate created by the Republican Party – a culture of fear and a deep-seated hatred of the federal government.

This didn’t happen overnight. It began in the 1970s with the party’s “southern strategy” which was designed to capitalize on white anger with the Civil Rights Act. It was furthered by Paul Weyrich, who famously said, “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our [Republican] leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Of course, the GOP embraced Weyrich’s beliefs. Through obstruction and their refusal to compromise, Congressional Republicans have created voter anger and apathy which, ironically, serves to further their cause.

There’s more.

The GOP pandered to evangelicals by promoting a variety of “social” issues. They told voters that gay rights would diminish their own rights and destroy our military; that gay marriage would destroy traditional marriage; that a woman’s right to control her own body was “against God’s will” and that it would destroy our culture; that the inclusion of contraceptives in employer-based insurance policies destroys the freedom of religion. But, in reality, all of these issues are simply a way to generate fear and to permit government-sanctioned discrimination.

In the eighties, Ronald Reagan verbally attacked the government and Grover Norquist hatched a plan to defund the government in order that Republicans might “starve the beast.” Then, in the nineties, former Speaker Newt Gingrich superimposed another destructive philosophy on Congress. A longtime fan of European-style parliamentary politics, Gingrich convinced his GOP colleagues to vote as a unified bloc on every bill. Any Republicans who had the audacity to defy the leadership and vote his or her conscience was labeled a RINO (Republican In Name Only). The party punished them by withdrawing support for their re-election campaigns and redirecting support to their primary opponents.

Through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the GOP turned over control of state legislatures to their corporate sponsors. And, through funding from the Koch brothers, the same anti-government philosophies are now being promoted in city and county elections.

That is how the GOP has become what it is today – a party that, on the day of the inauguration, chose to vote in lock-step to obstruct every one of President Obama’s initiatives, even if the initiatives were based on Republican ideas, such as Obamacare or Cap and Trade. It is now a party that willfully ignores the needs and the wishes of the voters while pandering to the very wealthy and the powerful.

Fed up with such inequality and governmental dysfunction, a large number of voters have jumped on board the Trump train thinking that an outsider can change things. Really? He is running as a Republican, representing the very party that created this mess. And, far from being an outsider, he is one of the wealthy puppeteers who pull the strings of government officials in order to further enrich themselves, all the while taking advantage of tax loopholes and offshore shell companies to avoid paying taxes.

In other words, a vote for Trump and his Republican colleagues is a vote for those who have willfully destroyed “a government of the people, for the people and by the people” and replaced it with a functioning oligarchy. It’s impossible to imagine that even the Republican Party’s founder, Abraham Lincoln, would want that.

Exposing Republican Lies And The Failures Of A Compliant Media.

I hope you will indulge me for promoting my new book, Antidote to Fact-Free Politics: Debunking the Falsehoods, Fabrications and Distortions Told by Conservatives and Perpetuated by the Media. It’s a culmination of months of research into the partisan lies that are unchallenged by the media, and repeated so often that they have become accepted as true.

The new book addresses 159 of these lies (I could easily have covered hundreds more) and refutes them with facts drawn almost entirely from government and nonpartisan sources. In fact, of the book’s 566 pages, 43 of them are devoted to references. Following is an excerpt taken from the Foreword that may better explain the book’s purpose:

“Why were Democrats unable to leverage the Bush failures and the resulting Great Recession into a majority that lasted at least through two terms of the Obama presidency?

Republicans would have you believe that it is because President Obama was a failure – the worst president in US history. They claimed that the President and a compliant Democratic-controlled Congress were leading the US down a path toward oblivion. Yet, by every objective measure, based on studies by world-renowned economists, the Obama administration was wildly successful in steering the economy back onto firm footing even as much of the world continued to struggle.

Certainly, the Democratic National Committee has to assume some responsibility for the GOP’s resilience. It has failed to create a brand message that clearly and succinctly states the Democratic Party’s core beliefs. As a result, it has had difficulty communicating with voters, and it has been unable to unite the diverse groups and interests that comprise its membership. In fact, the Party seems to foolishly pride itself on living up to the long-ago quote by humorist Will Rogers, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

But the lack of branding, alone, does not explain what has happened in recent years. The truth of the matter is that Republicans have a number of structural advantages, including financial support from billionaires and many of the world’s largest corporations. They have an impressive number of litigation-minded “think tanks” determined to shape policy. Until recently, they enjoyed a majority in the US Supreme Court. They benefit from a network of media outlets that allow them to dominate media and control the message. In addition, over the past several decades, they have focused on building an advantage at the state and local level through gerrymandering and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that writes legislation on behalf of corporate sponsors, peddling it to its many conservative legislative members.

In January of 2009, on the very day that President Obama was being sworn into office, Republicans began exploiting all of these advantages in their attempts to undermine the new president and the newly-elected Democratic Congress. Republican congressional leaders agreed to block and filibuster every Democratic initiative in order to make Barack Obama a one-term president. In doing so, they rendered Congress gridlocked and led voters to believe that Democrats were ineffectual.

At the same time, Republican representatives and former Bush officials flooded Sunday morning news shows to peddle a combination of distortions, fabrications and lies – lies that were seldom challenged by the shows’ moderators. The pundits on Fox News Channel repeated the same lies and more. They questioned the President’s birthplace, his religion and his patriotism, not to mention his policies. Talk radio, which has long been dominated by rightwing radio hosts, did the same, often going much farther. They called him a fascist, a socialist, a communist, even a racist. The rightwing blogosphere was worse, offering “proof” that the President was a Muslim interloper determined to destroy the US.

The performance by this combination of ideological zealots, demagogues and cynical opportunists would have made Richard Nixon and his “plumbers” of Watergate fame proud. And it has worked.

In this book, I strive to expose the lies. In doing so, I have relied on a combination of government reports, fact-checking organizations, peer-reviewed academic studies, investigative news reports and government statistics. Bear in mind that Republicans have also used statistics to bolster their narrative. But how you parse the numbers matters. For example, if you judge the Obama administration’s economic policies based on spending and unemployment numbers from the day President Obama took office, you would conclude that he has overspent and underperformed. In fact, that’s what his opponents want you to do. But if you consider what he inherited and the difficulties he faced – a failed economy, high unemployment and a Middle East embroiled in war – and then adjust the numbers accordingly, you will see quite a different picture.”

The book covers a wide range of subject matter ranging from lies about African-Americans to lies about war, and virtually everything in between. If you care about the future of our nation, indeed the future of our planet, I hope you will check it out.

You’ve Gotta Hand It To Conservatives.

Following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the GOP employed the Southern Strategy which was designed to employ racism in order to gain votes from long-time southern Democrats. It worked. As a result of the strategy, Republicans were able to win the White House in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988.

It took Southerners to break the GOP hold in 1976 and in 1992.

But after the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, the GOP lost Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. Seeing that demographics were aligning against them, conservatives employed an equally disturbing strategy. Sure, they continued to appeal to racists after Democrats elected the nation’s first black president. But they based their new strategy on six pillars:

1 – Government obstruction
2 – Corporate political donations
3 – Erasing limits on political donations
4 – Voter suppression
5 – “Model” legislation designed to implement right wing ideology at the state and local levels
6 – The use of conservative-dominated radio and cable TV to relentlessly attack Democrats

These strategies are now almost fully in place. Since 2009, Teapublicans in the Senate have blocked nearly 400 bills and dozens of appointments. The Teapublican-controlled House attempted to shut down the government. The conservative-dominated Supreme Court ignored decades of precedent to rule that money equals free speech; that corporations are people and therefore entitled to contribute to political campaigns; that the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed; and that individuals and corporations should be allowed to spend unlimited amounts on politics.

Concurrently, conservatives realized that it is easier to sneak bills through state legislatures than through Congress. So they began an all-out attack on groups that traditionally fund Democrats, such as labor unions. They have also pushed ideological legislation through ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and similar groups that gave us such ideological bills as Arizona’s racist SB 1070 and legalized discrimination laws such as Arizona’s SB 1062.

As a result of these efforts, corporations now have more power and influence on government (at all levels) than ever before. There has been an avalanche of corporate money from the Koch brothers and others financing political advertising disguised as “issue” ads. There are virtually untraceable millions of in political spending to influence elections. And tens of thousands, if not millions, of minorities, the elderly and the poor will be denied their right to vote in this and future elections.

The tactics have even succeeded in pushing aside dozens of moderate Republican politicians. To make matters worse, Democrats seem to have no real strategy to combat these strategies. And, with few exceptions, Democratic candidates seem to think the best way to be elected is to run away from their party’s principles and pretend they’re Republicans.

Illusion Of Justice.

Since the founding of our nation, Americans have always taken pride in our rule of law.  In civics class we learned that this was what distinguished our country from others; that it provided protection from unreasonable search and seizures; that it guaranteed us a quick and fair hearing before a jury of our peers; that it protected individuals from power grabs by government; and that it gave our citizens a non-violent way of settling conflicts. As our nation expanded westward, communities took pride in instituting the rule of law by hiring marshalls, creating courts, ending vigilantism and restricting the carrying of guns. Such things were considered the necessities of polite society.

Now we seem determined to return to the lawless days of the Wild West.

The National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers it represents have written and pushed laws to encourage the carrying and the use of guns. It is now legal to carry guns in virtually every state. They have pushed for and passed the so-called Stand Your Ground laws that allowed George Zimmerman to go free after shooting a black teenager who was “armed” with a bag of Skittles and an angry white guy to get away with murder because he didn’t like a teen’s music. Most recently, a retired cop has invoked the Stand Your Ground defense after shooting a fellow movie-goer following an argument in which he claimed threatened after a bag of popcorn was thrown at him.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), aided by GOP legislators have written and passed laws requiring states to privatize prisons despite their increased costs. Our state legislators have passed laws requiring lengthy sentences for non-violent crimes. At the same time, our government continues to wage a war on drugs that has sentenced drug users to lengthy prison terms. The result is to turn prisoners into profits, proving that crime pays – for corporations.

ALEC and its GOP servants have passed anti-immigrant laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 requiring local law enforcement to check papers in order to fill the private prison facilities with immigrants whose only crime was to cross an invisible border in search of work to support their families. Now the GOP-controlled House of Representatives is pushing to defund the department that defends immigrants from detention or deportation to further pack corporate-owned prisons.

Misinformed conservative voters elect people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio despite his many instances of using his position to racially profile individuals, to prioritize the arrest of hard-working immigrants while ignoring cases of violent crimes, and to use his office to harrass, intimidate, bully and incarcerate those who disagree with him. And Sheriff Joe is not alone. Each year, there are hundreds of cases from across the country in which law enforcement officers have abused their power. Unfortunately, most of these cases are never pursued because the victims are minorities and lack the video evidence and money to pursue justice.

In the US today, money is often the key predictor of sentencing. White color crimes, such as those committed by the mortgage lenders and hedge fund managers who crashed our economy in 2008, are seldom prosecuted. (Not a single person has been tried and convicted from one of the biggest thefts in world history.) When they are prosecuted, teams of high-priced lawyers are often able to get their clients acquitted. But poor people, especially minorities, can’t afford such representation. Usually, they’re appointed a public defender and offered a plea bargain. Is it any wonder, then, that minorities represent 60 percent of our prisoners, while accounting for only 30 percent of our population? And, according to a survey requested by Frontline, in the 20 states that have Stand Your Ground laws, whites are 354 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than a white person who kills another white person.

With such statistics, it has become increasingly apparent that justice is becoming more of an illusion in the US than reality.

Illusion Of Democracy.

The passage of SB 1062 by the Arizona legislature and subsequent veto by Governor Brewer drew national attention. But there’s one aspect of the incident that has gone largely overlooked…the fact that the legislation was not written by an Arizona legislator. It was written by a national stink tank, Alliance Defending Freedom and pushed by the ultra-right wing Center for Arizona Policy. In fact, most state legislation is no longer authored by legislators. The bills are written by lawyers working for the American Legislative Exchange Council, the State Policy Network, lobbyists for large corporations, the National Rifle Association and other conservative stink tanks.

Is it any wonder, then, that our Congress and our legislatures don’t seem to represent the will of the people?

The system of state legislators and congressmen sponsoring bills written by outsiders gives the illusion of representation. But the bills are written for the benefit of a few and to push a narrow ideology. They seldom benefit the majority. For example, the Iowa House recently passed a bill to legalize silencers for guns. How many Iowans will that benefit? The Ohio legislature passed a bill limiting voting hours. How many voters will that benefit? Other states have passed strict voter ID laws despite a lack of in-person voter fraud. The result will be to prevent many of the poor and the elderly from voting. Who will that benefit?

As a result of gerrymandering, issues with voter registration and the dark money used for campaign finance, a study by the non-partisan Electoral Integrity Project as reported by The Washington Post now ranks the US 26th in the world for electoral integrity and worst of all Western nations. And the situation will only get worse if Republicans and their stink tanks continue to push bills intended to rig elections.

How do we stop this blatant takeover of our democracy? Here’s an idea: Let’s ask candidates to reject any bills written by outsiders. Let’s demand that they solve problems for the majority of their constituents. Let’s treat all bills designed to limit civil rights with the same outrage as that for SB 1062. Let’s threaten to boycott states that pass such laws. Let’s refuse to do business with corporations that have co-opted our democracy.

Let’s make our votes count while we still have them.

The Groups Behind The Group Behind The Group Behind The Legislators Behind The Bill.

Passage of SB 1062 by the Teapublican dimwits in Arizona’s legislature gives the impression that the entire state is intolerant, narrow-minded and bass-ackward. Of course, that is partially true. After all, Kansas, Maine, South Dakota and Tennessee all considered the same bill and ultimately rejected it. However, Arizona doesn’t deserve all the credit for being homophobic enough to pass SB 1062.

As it turns out, many of those behind the bill live outside our borders.

The bill began in the stink tank called Alliance Defending Freedom which was founded by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, Televangelist D. James Kennedy, religious scare-monger Larry Burkett, Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright, Christian broadcaster Marlin Maddoux, and former Reagan official Alan Sears. Alliance Defending Freedom has pushed the bill nationally through its many affiliated right wing groups. One of those, Center for Arizona Policy, an Arizona-based stink tank, then shopped the bill around the legislature in search of narrow-minded sponsors.

Of course, given the hateful leanings of the Teapublican legislature, finding a sponsor willing to institutionalize and encourage discrimination based on religious beliefs (no matter how wacko) was not difficult.

In the State Senate, Sens. Steve Yarborough, Bob Worley and Nancy Barto were more than willing accomplices. In the House, a Tea Party Who’s Who consisting of Reps. Farnsworth, Kavanaugh, Allen, Boyer, Coleman, Gowan, Gray, Kavanaugh, Kwasman, Lesko, Livingston, Montenegro, Peterson, Pierce, Smith, Thorpe, Tobin, Townsend, Barton, Mesnard and Mitchell all jumped in the clown car to rush to add their names as sponsors for the companion bill HB 2153.

Many of those who voted for the bill claim to have never read it. That’s entirely believable as most of them seem to merely occupy a legislative seat as representatives of CAP, ALEC, the Goldwater Institute and others. Three state senators who voted for the bill publicly expressed their regrets after seeing the backlash. However, most of the bill’s sponsors have dug in their heels citing what they believe is a misinformation campaign carried out by the “liberal” media and other “outside interests.” They seem unconcerned that the bill was originated by outside interests.

As Gov. Jan Brewer is meeting with legislators and advisers in order to decide whether or not to veto the bill, the state is already losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cancellations for conventions and tourism. Many of the state’s largest corporations and most prominent business leaders have called for her veto. So have airlines serving the state, as well as the committee planning for next year’s Super Bowl in Arizona. Yet, I suspect Brewer is in no hurry to announce a decision. She has until Saturday to veto the measure to prevent it from becoming law. In the interim, she’s exactly where she wants to be…in the national limelight with all of the attention focused on her as it was before she signed the racist, anti-immigrant bill known as SB 1070.

Given that, it’s difficult to predict what she will do. Common sense advice and civil rights concerns have seldom swayed her before.

In 2004, Thomas Frank authored What’s the Matter with Kansas? The book explored the conditions and beliefs that led to the hateful political environment that exploded in Kansas. Maybe it’s time for Frank to write a follow-up: What’s the Matter with Arizona?

Arizona Legislator Reveals Who Really Runs The State.

During an interview on All In With Chris Hayes, Arizona State Senator Steve Pierce tried to explain why he voted for SB 1062 before asking the governor to veto it. He said that he really didn’t know what the bill said – that it was written by the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), which describes itself as “Arizona’s leading prolife, pro-family organization.” In reality, CAP is one of the unelected right wing ideological groups of puppet masters that control the Arizona legislature.

For example, CAP’s website boasts that “since 1995, 123 CAP-supported bills have become law.” And that number pales in comparison to the more than 1,000 bills introduced annually to legislatures across the country by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN).

What Sen. Pierce was really saying is that Teapublican legislators don’t write legislation and they rarely even read it. That job is left to a network of corporate and ideological groups such as CAP, ALEC, SPN, the Goldwater Institute and the NRA. The job of Teapublican legislators is merely to raise money, get elected and pass the bills they’re given. In essence, these groups have made voters little more than enablers who are largely ignored by their own Teapublican legislators.

It is because of these ideological groups that we have experienced an enormous shift in tax obligations from corporations to individuals; from the wealthy to the middle class and the working poor. It’s why most of our laws now favor large corporations. It’s why funding for public education has been shifted to private religious schools. It’s why discrimination is being institutionalized in what amounts to a new set of Jim Crow laws. It’s why we have “Stand Your Ground” laws that allow racists to get away with murder. It’s why our legislators seem hell-bent on allowing corporations to destroy our environment so that extraction industries might increase their profits. It’s why the Arizona legislature continues to introduce nullification laws that would nullify regulations by the federal government.

However, don’t get the idea that the influence of these groups is limited to Arizona. Arizona’s legislature simply makes the state a sort of petri dish for right wing legislation…the cutting edge of wackadoodle ideas. Don’t believe me? Check out this exchange between CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Arizona State Senator Al Melvin.

Remember this: What happens in Arizona doesn’t necessarily stay in Arizona.

While Congress Is On Recess, The Real Government Meets In Chicago.

This weekend, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a meeting in Chicago. If you are still unfamiliar with ALEC, you are no doubt familiar with its legislation, such as Stand Your Ground laws, Arizona’s SB 1070 anti-immigration law, and the new wave of Voter ID laws designed to limit votes by minorities and the poor.

ALEC was created 40 years ago by a group of conservatives and large corporations. It was formed out of frustration with Congress; that it was too difficult to pass corporate-friendly laws at the national level. So corporations turned to state legislatures under the belief that they could more effectively change American politics state by state.

ALEC reached out to other large corporations for funding and to conservative legislators for influence and power. ALEC hired attorneys to draft “model” legislation that would benefit large corporations and the conservative cause. It charged conservative legislators a small membership fee and paid for them to attend ALEC meetings. At the meetings, ALEC handed members bills (up to 1,000/year) for them to sponsor during their legislative sessions, and many did so without even bothering to read the text.

For 38 years, all of this happened out of the sight of American citizens. No legislators talked about ALEC. No media covered the organization.

Then, in 2011, a few organizations began to shine a light on ALEC. The Center for Media and Democracy and The Nation created a project named ALEC Exposed. Moyers & Company broadcast the documentary United States of ALEC. And other groups got into the act, turning up the heat on sponsoring corporations. As a result, 49 corporations have been forced to disassociate themselves from ALEC and stop their funding.

ALEC is no longer operating below the radar and more people are discovering its impact on our democracy. As it gathered for its 40th anniversary session, thousands of union members, civil rights activists, environmentalists, and others have vowed to surround the auditorium and take to the streets to demonstrate.

The scrutiny has had an impact. Yet many of ALEC’s corporate sponsors are unphased. I have written to those with which I do business with no response. I’ve ended one long-standing business relationship as a result. I’m switching my insurance coverage from State Farm. And I plan to end relationships with any other ALEC sponsors. This is the only way we have to show our disdain for an organization that meets behind closed doors to shape laws that favor corporations over people.

Congressional lobbyists are bad. ALEC is worse. Both are undemocratic and un-American.

If you’d like to learn more and see a list of the corporations that sponsor ALEC, visit ALECWatch.org.