Will Blue States Eventually Have To Surrender Their “Woke” Agendas?
America is increasingly becoming two nations, a result of the Great Neoliberal Experiment playing out across the country since the start of Reaganism in 1981.
One is made up of states representing modern democracy holding egalitarian values; the other has reverted to racist reaction, widespread indigence, and oligarchic ownership of state political systems.
States run by Democrats generally offer better educational opportunities, higher quality and more readily available healthcare, and easier access to the ballot box. States run by Republicans generally see shorter lifespans, poorer health, more gun violence, and deeper poverty.
This is not an accident or merely a remnant of history. It’s the final playing out of a worldview that, at one time in this nation, sanctioned people owning other people and exploiting, torturing, and even killing them with impunity.
Slavemasters and plantations have been replaced by billionaires and corporations, but in many cases that worldview still predominates. “Might makes right,” and wealth is the ultimate might.
In the years since conservatives on the US Supreme Court legalized bribing American politicians, multiple organizations have emerged dedicated to bringing Red state lawmakers together with potential corporate or billionaire “sponsors.”
One of the nation’s most effective, according to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), is the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC.
Twice a year they hold a national convention bringing together state legislators and corporate lobbyists to work out the details of state-based laws their mostly-Republican members will then sponsor in upcoming legislative sessions.
As ALEC notes in a press release on their website:
“[B]etween 2010 and 2018, ALEC model bills were introduced 2,900 times across all 50 states and in Congress, and had a 21 percent passage rate.”
ALEC has, it appears from reading their model bills, proposed legislation that:
— limits workers’ and consumers’ rights,
— makes it harder for victims of corporate crime to sue,
— promotes privatized schools and opposes government help for young people to get a college education,
— blocks government-funded healthcare,
— protects the profits of pharmaceutical companies,
— guts the social safety net,
— increases the profits of the fossil fuel industry,
— ramps up the difficulty facing working class people who want to vote,
— expands private for-profit prisons,
— and fills states with more guns.
Small wonder, then, that the Red states adopting these laws often have the highest rates of gun murders in the developed world, maternal mortality and morbidity rates that compare to third-world countries, and even widespread health crises involving parasites and sexually transmitted diseases.
Particularly troubling is how the conservative movement has morphed, over the past 40 years, into a revanchist movement seeking to “reclaim” from working class people the wealth “looters,” “takers,” and “moochers” have extracted from “producers,” “makers,” and “job creators.”
In the past 40 years the top 1 percent have “recovered” over $50 trillion that was once the wealth of a heavily unionized American middle class.
Their naked cynicism has led to some rather unusual policy positions.
For example, given how phobic rightwing billionaires and oil industry barons — like the ones who put together ALEC — are about “big government power,” you’d assume they’d oppose any efforts by state governments to use their political and economic power to influence corporate behavior.
In that, you’d be wrong.
ALEC’s latest venture, according to CMD, is the “Energy Discrimination Elimination Act” which punishes companies that make decisions using “social, political, or ideological” factors, particularly those that may disadvantage the fossil fuel industry, Big Mining, Big Logging, or Big Ag.
This past month, CMD reports:
“ALEC’s energy task force — made up of industry lobbyists and GOP legislators — voted to adopt an even more radical model bill calling for states to blacklist any business that considers any ‘social, political, or ideological’ factors to limit their commercial relations with fossil fuel, logging, mining, or agricultural industries.
“ALEC’s radical measure would authorize state governments to scrutinize corporate speech for any ‘evidence’ that a company is taking into account environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors—along with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)—in its business practices.
“It would prohibit state contracts based on a company’s ‘branding, advertising, statements, explanations, reports, letters to clients, communications with portfolio companies, statements of principles,’ and so forth, or even a company’s association with ‘any coalition, initiative, joint statement of principles, or agreement’ that the [state] government deems unacceptably ‘woke.’”
Their main targets appear to be financial institutions, from banks to investment houses and hedge funds, that are trying to behave in a socially responsible fashion. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations have become the new Critical Race Theory-type club to use against “woke” major corporations (as if there were such a thing).
Like Ron DeSantis’ famous war against Disney for being considerate of its LGBTQ customers and employees, Red states are increasingly trying to force corporations to reflect anti-gay, anti-Black, anti-education, anti-environment, and anti-consumer attitudes.
More often than not, corporations — being essentially conservative institutions to begin with — are going along. Sometimes it’s their own lobbyists who are writing the laws ALEC and others are pushing via business groups they belong to or control.
Will the billionaires and corporations behind ALEC and other groups fighting racial, gender, income, and educational opportunity in America succeed? Will Blue states eventually have to surrender their “woke” agendas?
ALEC’s most recent project, along with other groups funded by rightwing billionaires, is to force Blue states into submission by rewriting the US Constitution. Republicans are just a handful of states short of their goal and have been holding practice Constitutional Conventions almost every year for over a decade.
It’s a Hail Mary move, but as long as the Supreme Court’s endorsement of political bribery stands as US law, it’ll be dicey to bet against the billionaires and their bloated corporate coffers.
Thom Hartmann is a NY Times bestselling author 34 books in 17 languages & nation's #1 progressive radio host. Psychotherapist, international relief worker. Politics, history, spirituality, psychology, science, anthropology, pre-history, culture, and the natural world.