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Edwards ALEC connection part of myth building

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards addressing the American Legislative Exchange Council? That’s not beyond belief upon understanding the requirements of the Edwards myth of centrism.

The group convened its annual meeting in New Orleans yesterday and heard from the governor. At first glance, that may seem odd, for the group’s conservative, good government agenda hardly squares with much of what Edwards has spoken favorably about and has pursued throughout his policy-making career.

Indeed, checking upon Edwards’ score as a legislator and governor on the Louisiana Legislature Log scorecard, as a member of the House of Representatives he averaged about 30 and as governor he has averaged around 47. Higher scores indicate higher congruity with voting for a conservative/reform agenda, while lower scores denote voting fealty to liberal/populist preferences.

During his first House term, his average score of 32.5 put him near the bottom of all House members, where the House average was 69 and the Democrat-only average for that chamber was 47. In his second term, with an all-House average of 53 and with Democrats on average scoring 37, Edwards dipped to 28.

As governor, he has moved more towards the relative center In 2016, he scored his highest ever, 63; last year he reverted more to form at 33, and this year he hit 44. His combined score doesn’t fall too far below the legislative average over the period of 57, but still contrasts greatly with Republicans’ 68 even if he currently exceeds the average Democrat score of 37.

Still, Edwards governs a state whose voters demonstrate right of center preferences while he clearly governs from the left of center. His political calculus must obscure that, so he does whatever he can to make voters think he’s not as liberal as he really is.

This ties into another myth of his creation: the official party line that he had an epiphany about becoming governor in 2013. No; he was hoping to run from the day he took his House oath in 2008, if not earlier, and tactically emphasized and adjusted issue preferences over the years, such as in his contemplated congressional run of 2006 proclaiming “abortion is the freedom of choice” to in 2009 amending out of legislation the right of medical providers in the private sector to decline participating in an abortion to now signing bills restricting abortion.

As part of that, Edwards joined ALEC as a legislator, despite that voting record worked at cross-purposes with much of ALEC’s agenda. Thus, when the group returned to New Orleans, it declared Edwards an alumnus and gave him a chance to speak – even though its meeting information mentions him nowhere.

The irony should not go unnoticed that at the last meeting in New Orleans in 2011, not only did Republican former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have a major speaking role, he also received the group’s highest award. Four years later, fellow ALEC member Edwards would make criticism of his group’s honoree a major part of his election campaign. Further, ALEC once named Edwards’ 2016 State of the State address among the worst given that year.

ALEC has responded graciously to this discordance, echoing its 2011 statement that “While ALEC members gather around the principles of limited government, free market and federalism, it is the diversity of the members and their different perspectives that really further the discussions.” An official notes that Edwards recently has signed into law bills that do mesh with ALEC’s legislative priorities, such as transparency in government spending and protection of free speech rights on college campuses.

But she didn’t admit the Edwards had to be dragged towards supporting the former, called the Louisiana Checkbook, over spending concerns to which he showed no objections for much more dubious and expensive policies. Nor did she let on that the Edwards Administration had resisted the latter, with officials from the gubernatorially-appointed Board of Regents trying unsuccessfully to sabotage or gut the bill. Unable to counter either, to escape political fallout of course Edwards would sign these bills if he couldn’t prevent them from reaching his desk.

Let’s face it, Edwards has used ALEC as political cover, and now the group treats him politely like a child gone bad. As the 2019 election season advances, we’ll see more such smoke and mirrors from him.

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