Thursday, March 22, 2018

Time for Democrats to Move on (and Maybe UFT Should Too)

A pair of columns about Democrats, one about what black voters lost by hitching their star to them, and another about the price Democrats paid for letting unions die, cried out to me. It's very much something that's been freaking me out, particularly since Trump took the White House. A lot of this began with Bill Clinton and his New Democrat nonsense.

Clinton was sorely wounded after his failed effort to nationalize health care. He stood strong and said that he was going to achieve it or strike down any alternative. ( popular joke at the time--What was the difference between Elvis and Bill Clinton? Elvis was alive.) While it was the right thing to do in many ways, his failure to achieve it meant he turned down something very similar to what became Obamacare, actually proposed by the GOP. Who knows where we might've been by now had that become law?

Clinton pivoted in the other direction, giving us the Republican Lite that failed to focus on helping the groups with whom Democrats were supposed to identify. When Obama ran, I was troubled by his educational positions. I had no idea he'd give GW Bush an extra term in education, and I had no notion he'd nationalize junk science to rate teachers. Nonetheless, he looked pretty reformy to me.

He ended up a lot worse than I'd expected. One thing that made me vote for him was his promise to enable card check. The possibility of enabling more union for working people seemed worth pursuing. Alas, he didn't bother. Obama also promised to find a pair of comfortable shoes and march with labor, but when Scott Walker shot labor in the back, Obama sat at his desk, presumably wearing heavy Oxfords that didn't encourage walking.

Hillary ran an uninspiring campaign, and the best thing people like me could say about her was, "Well, at least she isn't Donald Trump." Of course, because we don't actually run a national election, votes like mine in New York are relatively meaningless. While voting against Trump was a moral imperative, our fundamental lack of democracy left him President.

And this brings us to union leadership, which endorsed Obama despite his miserable record, and jumped at the starting gate to endorse Hillary. The idea was to be ahead of the curve. An early endorsement could, perhaps, strengthen your negotiating position. After all, AFT had endorsed Hillary against Obama, and that may have emboldened Obama to take all that reformy money and stab us in the back. Who knows?

So this time, the idea was to get with a winner way in the beginning. Or maybe it was about a preexisting preference for Hillary. I remember being part of an AFT phone call, supposedly to help pick a candidate. The first person to speak, supposedly from the crowd, was a hack for NY State Unity who ran an ad hominem blog on me. He called me a part time teacher and a part time unionist. Randi Weingarten tweeted it out and praised it, but retracted it when I pointed out his baseless attack applied not only to me, but also to every single working UFT chapter leader.

It looked to me like the Hillary endorsement was in the bag. I was not persuaded by talk of a "scientific survey" because there was no talk of how respondents were chosen and we were never shown the questions asked. It could have been a push poll, and one thing I'm certain of is no one I know actually took the survey. Also, I saw no evidence that AFT had made any demands of Hillary. Some people speculated that there was a job for Randi in a Hillary administration, but I don't believe that. I don't think Hillary would ever have risked the press reaction to a union leader as Education Secretary.

The main problem, though, was none of the above. The main problem, as we now know, was that Hillary was a loser. Why? Well, there's Russian interference. There are a whole lot of electoral irregularities, like the GOP crosscheck that actively discourages potential Democratic voters. But even after we acknowledge all that nonsense, there's the fact that Hillary failed to inspire voters to get off their asses and go to the polls. Had she managed that, she'd have won the Presidency just as Barack Obama had.

And why didn't Hillary inspire? Because she offered nothing other than more of the same. Universal health care? After having failed spectacularly to get that for Bill, she wasn't gonna try that again. Affordable college? She argued that we'd be financing Donald Trump's children, as though Trump would even dream of allowing his kids to go to SUNY or anyplace remotely similar. A living wage for all Americans? Hey, let's not get carried away. In fact, I don't recall her even bothering to pay the lip service to card check and/ or union that got me to vote for Barack Obama, once.

The point is that this corporate crap is not only unproductive, but also unappealing. Obama had enough charisma to overcome the stigma of some of his awful policies, but they hang in the air as having enabled Trump, and voters have had enough. We need to dump the "New Democrats" and find someone who supports working people.

And if UFT leadership can't find and support politicians with pro-labor, pro-teacher policies, they need to find someone who can, or make way for someone who can. We're in crisis and sleepy mediocrity simply won't cut it anymore.
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