It took about 10 minutes for a picture of Ronald Reagan to emerge on the screen at the opening American Legislative Exchange Council lunch I attended after my arrival in New Orleans for the 45th ALEC conference earlier this month. I never did see a picture of President Donald Trump. As the hot mess of the Trump presidency unfolds, ALEC is struggling to both embrace the major things they love about him (deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy), while keeping a healthy distance from the chaos and corruption engulfing his administration.
But ALEC provided a platform for a Trump hatemonger to spread his racist and sexist propaganda this year. At a workshop of the Convention of States (COS), a project to call an Article V constitutional convention for the purposes of amending the federal Constitution to limit the power of the federal government, right-wing provocateur David Horowitz was a featured panelist. Horowitz, who runs his own think tank, has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of America’s most dangerous hatemongers." According to the Center for Media and Democracy, Horowitz is bankrolled to the tune of $3.4 million by the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation. He recently gained fame as a key mentor to Trump adviser Stephen Miller, the "architect” of Trump’s family separation policy, according to the Atlantic.
Horowitz gave two inflammatory speeches. Over breakfast he claimed that “at the K-12 level, school curricula have been turned over to racist organizations like Black Lives Matter and terrorist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood.”
At the subsequent COS workshop, he commended Trump for not retreating after calling Rosie O’Donnell a “big fat pig.” Regarding Trump, Horowitz commented: “This guy showed what you can do if you have confidence and you are always on the offensive, which he always is.”
Horowitz’s other allegation was that “the left’s attitude towards the Constitution is they hate it.”
As justification that Democrats hate the Constitution, Horowitz stated: “One of the really vicious things about the left is how they attack the founding principles of this country. I’ve heard this from Democratic leaders, I remember Al Gore saying it, they say it all the time, that the Constitution is designed by slaveowners and it regards blacks as three-fifths of a human being. The words ‘black,’ ‘white,’ ‘male,’ ‘female,’ those words do not exist in the Constitution. The whole identity politics is anti-Constitution. . .And of course you need to understand that the three-fifths of a human being, it was not blacks because there were 500,000 free blacks in America at the time. But it was ‘unfree’ persons and ‘free persons.’"
Horowitz’s ignores that the vast majority of the "unfree" persons happened to be African-American slaves, who were the largest forced labor pool in American history. And his moral outrage isn’t directed at the brutality of slavery or its incorporation into our country’s foundational document, but at “the left” who criticize it as a fundamental flaw in the original Constitution and as an inhumane, shameful practice in our country’s history. Instead, Horowitz characterizes Democrats’ criticism of this sub-human constitutional designation as “vicious” and inspired by “identity politics.”
I recently called on ALEC to immediately condemn Horowitz’s statements. But the reality is that ALEC needs Trump and his hatemongers to further their right-wing agenda, including gutting the Affordable Care Act and federal environmental standards, repealing workers’ rights, pushing down wages and privatizing public education. It appears the corporate members that bankroll ALEC are willing to embrace this hate-mongering to continue to advance their corporate agenda of maximizing profits.
Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, is a member of the Wisconsin Assembly.
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