Rep. Mark Pocan's Special Report From New Orleans

I really thought it would take more than five minutes in New Orleans before I realized the conservative movement had landed.

But it didn’t.

As I was waiting for my bags, I heard a mid-thirties woman talking on the phone. “Yah, I’m down in New Orleans for the American Legislative Exchange Council meeting. We write legislation, and they pass our ideas. It’s the free market.”

I could have taken the next flight home, as that pretty much summed up what I am to experience over the next three days. ALEC (it’s acronym) is an organization that is much like a dating service, only with legislators and special interests. It matches them up, builds a relationships, culminates with the birth of special interest legislation and ends happily ever after. That’s happy for the special corporate interests that is.

I’ve followed ALEC for a while, including crashing their winter meeting about 4 years ago. I wrote a piece for the Progressive Magazine at the time. But with all the renewed attention on conservative legislation passing in the states recently--especially in Wisconsin--this seemed like an opportunity too good to pass up.

Half of the organization is made up of legislators, mostly conservative Republicans. There is a smattering of conservative Democrats, a handful of people of color and, well, me. The other half are the corporate special interests. They pay big bucks to put their logos, lobbyists and legislation in front of the objects of their attraction--state legislators.

Legislators can join for $100. For a corporation or other organization make that thousands of dollars to join. Every working group is an equal mix of - you got it - legislators and lobbyists.

Governor Bobby Jindahl (R-Louisiana) opened the lunch on the first day, with a pretty good delivery of some red meat - European Socialism bad, debt worse, Obama THE worst. He also gave some pretty sage advice based on the debt negotiations nationally: "It pays to be stubborn." Those are his words, not mine.

He basically told the gang of about 2,000 people that they win when they hold out and hold out and hold out. Just like they did in the debt ceiling fight. I wish he had delivered that speech to a big group of Congressional Democrats.

I spent the afternoon walking through the trade show floor, learning about model legislation to reform education and how the private sector can save states when it comes to Medicaid. But more on those later.

This is the first blog of several on this topic. Also, look forward to a much longer article in the Progressive Magazine soon.

But for now, I am your eyes and ears on what the cutting edge of the conservative movement is up to in the states. I’ll go to workshops, talk to vendors and eat with the conservative leaders, but don’t worry: I’m making sure I don’t drink any Kool-Aid. (Look a corporate plug, and I’ve only been here one day!)

Wish me luck.

Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison), who coined the term FitzWalkerstan on the floor of the State Assembly, served three terms on the state’s budget committee, including one as its co-chair. He also served as the vice-chair of the non-partisan National Council on State Legislature’s Budget and Policy committee. Pocan’s Assembly district includes both the State Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion, making Governor Scott Walker his most infamous constituent.

Madison Protest

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project