If one thing in American politics has been clear in recent years it’s that liberals hate ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. For over 40 years ALEC has served as a clearinghouse of ideas for state lawmakers seeking policy proposals that serve the public good. As a voluntary, independent organization, ALEC brings together lawmakers, policy experts and business professionals from around the country to share ideas and promote sound public policy in the states.
In fairness, liberals only have one problem with ALEC – it’s too successful. It turns out that hosting meetings where legislators from the fifty states can gather and share ideas is both popular and productive. It is a great way for state leaders to avoid “reinventing the wheel” by seeing how other states have tackled common problems, like improving schools, protecting the environment or promoting a healthy business climate. As a result, dozens of ALEC model bills have served as the inspiration for state laws, allowing governors and lawmakers to solve real problems faced by people in their respective states.
In response, liberals launched a national attack campaign in an unsuccessful effort to run down ALEC’s reputation, calling it biased and a front for corporate interests, but the long-standing service organization remains as popular and effective as ever.
Seeing that direct assault didn’t work, liberals decided to create their own version, which they call ALICE. They probably hoped people wouldn’t notice they are trying to do exactly what they attack others for doing. Actually, coming up with more original name would have helped.
ALICE is the American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange. Its sponsors say its aim is “to provide a one-stop, web-based, public library of progressive model law on a wide variety of issues in state and local policy.” Here are the services ALICE seeks to provide:
“We’ll be providing model bills for local legislators as well as state ones, and models for executive-originating law (regulation and executive orders) and direct citizen-lawmaking (through ballot initiatives or referenda) as well as legislation. And along with model law language, we plan on providing commentary, policy options, and written supports in argument for it (documentation of its positive effects, public support, talking points, etc.).”
There is a good reason this list of legislative and policy activities sounds familiar. This is exactly the kind of work ALEC has been doing for four decades, but with one important difference.
Members of ALEC are using their freedom of speech and of association to promote ideas in which they believe, ideas based on voluntary participation and citizen involvement. ALEC’s core principle is that individuals and families, cooperating in civil society, know best how to make decisions that work for themselves and their communities. Members of ALEC believe in trusting people to run their own lives, and that the power of government should be reasonably limited by law and by each state’s constitution.
In contrast, the people pushing ALICE are using their freedoms to promote concepts that restrict other people’s freedom. Nearly all the policies and programs promoted by liberals are based on force, Exhibit A being Obamacare. Their desire is to restrict choices and extend the reach and power of government even farther into the lives of ordinary people. Liberals want to promote a vision of how they think people should live, instead of letting people decide for themselves. As they say, deep down liberals don’t care what you do, as long as it’s mandatory.
So liberals are opposed to the concept of an organization having too much influence in promoting best practices for state-level legislating, except of course when they do it themselves. If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then liberals must absolutely love ALEC.