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Est. April 5, 2002
April 19, 2018 - Issue 738

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Teachers and Democrats
Keys to Victory in 2018 Midterms

"Too often, the Democrats teachers have supported
have said one thing during campaign season and
done another after they have ascended to and/or
have been returned to office, e.g., Sen. Dianne
Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)."

Trump Updates to the Midterms:

  • Trump has spent the last week sending out tweets trashing former FBI Director Jim Comey about his recently published book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” which details his experiences over the past two decades with a scathing look at his tenure in the Trump Administration before his firing.

  • The raid on the home and offices of Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has revealed that Cohen was also arranging sexual hush payments for the Republican National Committee’s deputy finance chair, Elliott Broidy, who had an affair with a Playboy Magazine model and that he also represented Sean Hannity, the Fox News anchor, who has been a staunch supporter of both Cohen and Trump.

  • Trump launched missiles to destroy what have been characterized as benign sites in Syria in the wake of its assaults on its own citizens with chemical weapons, but only after warning Russia of the time and targets, as another way to distract from coverage of scandals enveloping his presidency.

  • Trump and his minions, Cory Lewandowski, his former campaign manager, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, and Kellyanne Conway, counsel to the President, who coined the term ‘alternative facts,’ all lie constantly, as does the President, about nearly all matters in the national interest as a way to keep the nation from focusing on reality.

  • Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, released a composite sketch of the man she says threatened her in 2006 over her affair with Trump, and she is offering a $100,000 reward to anyone wo can identify him, causing new headaches for the Trump White House, while gobbling up print and broadcast media coverage despite the efforts of Trump and his gang to silence her.

Teachers and Democrats are at a crossroads as they face the 2018 midterm elections which could have a major impact on their future stability and success. If Republicans keep control of the U.S. House and Senate as well as the majority of state legislatures and governorships, teachers can expect a continuing push to privatize the nation’s public schools. Despite their recent victories in increasing their pay, we can expect a claw back on wages, an escalation in contributions to their benefits packages, and a downsizing of their pensions through continued state under-funding, and a switch from defined pensions to 401k accounts which will result in lower payouts over the long term. Democrats, on the other hand, will see more determined roll backs of Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and numerous other options designed to secure a social safety net that former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began constructing in 1933 which has been expanded and refined through Democratic and Republican presidents for more than three-quarters of a century.

The challenges facing teachers are especially critical at this time when they are the linchpin in the Democrats’ quest to regain political power at the state and federal levels in 2018. They have to make certain that the Democrats they vote for will support the core of their policies and that they will constantly champion them, publicly and privately, at all levels of government. Too often, the Democrats teachers have supported have said one thing during campaign season and done another after they have ascended to and/or have been returned to office, e.g., Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Sen. Feinstein is currently being punished (denied the Democratic endorsement) by her previous Democratic supporters for not being sufficiently progressive as she runs for reelection for a seat she has held since 1992.

Many proclaim that teachers and other rank-and-file Democrats have little choice because if they do not vote for the flawed Democrats, then the anti-public education Republicans will win. But the truth of the matter is that the Republicans win anyway when these same Democrats join with them to support anti-public education policies and programs that undermine the teaching profession. An alternative is for teachers to make it clear that they will withhold on-the-ground organizing (i.e., phone banking, door knocks, lit dropping, GOTV efforts, etc.) from Democratic election and reelection efforts. In 2012, Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) let that be known, indirectly, when teachers went on strike in early September 2012, two months before the presidential election.

They walked out to maintain existing health benefits and to limit the reduction of cuts among social workers, etc. in addition to a wage increase—similar to the issues that caused teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky to stop work. When teachers from Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, and other battleground states made plans to bring busloads of their members to Chicago in a show of solidarity, the Obama Administration communicated with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to encourage him to settle the strike quickly, which he did. Obama could not politically afford to have teachers in these states (all of which he won) otherwise occupied during this critically important political coordination period. Another alternative for teachers is to run one of their own for office as they have done in in recent special elections.

Democrats, overall, need to be more respectful of their base supporters as they prepare their final plans to win 2018 midterm elections. A hopeful sign is their decision to downplay their internal opposition to the current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), their most prodigious Congressional fundraiser, until after the midterms have concluded. But they also need to mend fences with African American females, many of whom are upset about their participation in national strategy and the lack of Democratic National Committee (DNC) support of their peers running for state and national office. Democrats cannot hope to win the targeted Republican seats unless they are able to replicate the huge turnout and voting margins that propelled Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) over the top in his upset victory over Roy Moore, his Republican opponent.

The keys to Democratic victories are at hand. The question is whether teachers and Democrats will use them to unlock state and federal victories.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 

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