Several weeks ago, I joined Democrats for Public Education and by doing so I publicly said something that I thought I would never say. I do not support this Democratic President because he had betrayed the very foundation of Democratic values for a corporatist ideology. For a long time, I would not admit the obvious truth that there appears to really be one political party in this country. The two major political parties tend to slide into each other. Both political parties have corporatist wings that are controlled by big money. This wing, which is in both parties, is socially liberal and believes the purpose of government is to enrich those who have power and control. This wing is the pivot that appears to connect both political parties. First we saw this split in the GOP and now the split is in the open within the Democratic Party. We have left-wing (true Democrats) now beginning to publicly separate themselves from the corporatist wing while in the Republican party, we have the teabagger wing splitting from their corporatist partners. If you put a corporatist Republican and Democrat in the same room, I bet they would immediately fall in love.
The corporatists of both parties are not in any way conservative. They do not believe in a limited government and have the belief that a free market will solve all problems. In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan created the welfare queen out of a woman who was a con-artist and criminal who managed to squeeze money out of dozens of federal programs. The corporatists should be dubbed the welfare kings. The thousands this woman took in the 1980s is pocket change compared to the billions these corporate Democrats and Republicans have legally swindled from our government at the federal, state and local level. They love government subsidies and bailouts. Think of the billions that were given to this group during the great recession six years ago to stabilize the economy. The cry went out that these banks and brokerages were too big to fail. Unfortunately, they probably were because if we would not have kept certain banks and businesses afloat, millions more would have been unemployed. But when the dust cleared, workers kept their jobs often with give-backs while corporatists walked away with billions in their pockets.
Now back to President Obama. Many of us supported him because he embodied our dreams and aspirations for this country. We believed his election would bring the rebirth of true progressivism. However, what he has wrought is a mutated version of the liberal ideal. If you study the New Deal under Roosevelt, you will see that many of his reforms did not come from the top, but started at the grass roots level. A good example was Dr. Francis Townsend who published an extended letter to the editor in a California newspaper in which he came up with a solution to poverty among the elderly. His proposal would lead to social security. From his initial letter, grassroot organizations began to form around the country advocating for an old age pension system. At first, FDR ignored the proposal, but when he realized that a significant portion of his coalition supported the idea of social security, Franklin Roosevelt changed his tune when he ran for re-election in 1936. The initial law did not have everything that Townsend and his grassroots organization wanted, but it was a start and did pretty much wipe out poverty among most of America’s aged population in the next seventy-five years.
It is at great peril that the Democratic Party ignore approximately 3.7 million teachers and their families. The votes of several thousand billionaires will not win elections, but the support of teachers and the unions that represent them who are the ground troops that man telephones as well as go door-to-door for a candidate. It is for this reason that tomorrow, I will for the first time in my political memory not support or vote for New York’s incumbent Democratic governor and my state senator in a primary. I cannot support a governor and senator that support the 3% of students that attend charter school over the 97% that go to public schools. It is amazing that earlier this year, the governor supported and got passed a law that is nothing less than welfare for wealthy charter schools. Here is a law in which the wealthy Success Academy can dispossess public school children at whim and not pay a cent to the city in rent even though this charter is rich enough to move its offices to Wall Street and its CEO Eva Moskowitz makes twice as much as the President. I am a political realist and know that Teachout does not have a chance over a $25 million war chest. However, even if she gets 25% of the vote, that is the beginning of a grassroots movement. That is enough for people to start to think about forming a third party in this election that could put Cuomo’s November re-election in jeopardy.
Ignoring parents and teachers who oppose privatization, the common-core, and an evaluation system that punishes teachers for things that they cannot control in order to deprofessionalize educators and create a cheap, transient teaching force is a perilous act. History teaches that political movements are not started by the weakest in a society, but from the educated middle class. Historical examples are all around us. The French Revolution was started by the educated merchant and professional class. People who are overwhelmed by poverty never begin political movements. It is always the educated middle class that leads them. Even the Russian Bolshevik Revolution was led by the educated middle class. Lenin and Trotsky were not peasants or factory workers living on subsistence wages, but educated professionals. Therefore, the attempt to destroy the livelihood and profession of a group of very educated members of the middle class is nothing less than an act of political folly. Teachers are abandoning the Democratic Party because it is the party that is abandoning us. Unless Democrats from the President on down abandon this fake educational reform that is hurting several of its major constituents, they are almost insuring the eventual creation of a political movement which may very well lead to a third political party. And our own history has shown that third parties often throw elections in strange ways. In New York, whenever three parties run for statewide office, it is often the Democrats who end up on the short end often leading to the election of a right-wing candidate. People should remember the 1970 election of James Buckley as US Senator when two liberals split the Democratic vote in a six way race.
Many corporatist Democrats do not think they need us teachers. That is why several have joined against us in those Anti-Tenure lawsuits. What they do not understand is that once they split the Democratic Party and the party no longer controls any branch of government, their power will be gone. Instead, you may end up with people controlling this country who hold social views far different than the majority of Americans, which also includes the neo-liberal corporatists of both political parties. What happened in Missouri is a skirmish compared to what may happen when people take control of this country that hate working women, immigrants, gays and other minority groups and begin to use government to act against such groups. We are in the middle of an education war right now in which everyone may come out the loser. However, for myself and my family, I have to vote my conscience and not the lesser of two evils. As I finish this article, the telephone rang with a robo-call from our supposedly very liberal Mayor who is supporting Cuomo. That call represents everything that is wrong with politics in this country. Obviously, he has to support the Governor or he will be politically punished by someone who is nothing less than a bully and the holder of many purse strings. On the other hand, when you attempt to take away everything from a group, you cannot expect that group’s support. Those in power may ignore us now, but I can guarantee they will not ignore us if we contribute to their loss of power.
I’m a New Jersey teacher who feels as disgusted as you do with the Democrats. I’m also conflicted, because I fear the changes in social policies should the Republicans become the majority party. Thank you for writing this.