What if the rational majority of Americans decided to reject the nation’s culture warriors and their grievances? What if they went to the polls and rejected the candidates who were appealing to their fears and biases?
What if the gratifying results of the country’s school board races that took place earlier this month in several states were “leading indicators” of that rejection?
The above link will take you to a Politico article headlined, “Why GOP Culture Warriors Lost Big in School Board Races this Month,” and it began with the following paragraphs:
Amid all the attention on this month’s elections in Wisconsin and Illinois, one outcome with major implications for 2024 flew under the national radar: School board candidates who ran culture-war campaigns flamed out.
Democrats and teachers’ unions boasted candidates they backed in Midwestern suburbs trounced their opponents in the once-sleepy races. The winning record, they said, was particularly noticeable in elections where conservative candidates emphasized agendas packed with race, gender identity and parental involvement in classrooms.
The article went on to suggest that the results ought to serve as a warning to the Republican presidential hopefuls who are emphasizing those culture-war themes.(Trump, DeSantis et al are unlikely to heed that warning. Culture war is all they have.)
Appeals to racial and religious grievance might play well in Republican primary elections, but a variety of indicators–including this one–raise the likelihood that General election voters will be less interested in crusades against critical race theory, transgender students and Black Lives Matter activists than they are in a working government, just as the recent school board elections brought out voters more interested in funding schools and ensuring that students are safe than empowering aggrieved parents to censor what goes on in the classroom.
“Where culture war issues were being waged by some school board candidates, those issues fell flat with voters,” said Kim Anderson, executive director of the National Education Association labor union. “The takeaway for us is that parents and community members and voters want candidates who are focused on strengthening our public schools, not abandoning them.”
A recent column by Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect considered a radical idea: What If we fixed the public schools rather than destroying them?
Watching the news, you might think that teachers are the most disrespected workers in America. Reading state budgets, you might think they’re the most underpaid.
That first assertion is true only if you limit your intake to the anti-teacher jihads that the right is currently waging. As poll after poll makes clear, however, the great majority of Americans actually think well of their teachers—and perhaps even more important, support their freedom to teach. If anything, the polling here is even more lopsided. As one recent CBS News/YouGov poll showed, when asked if books used in public schools should “ever be banned for criticizing U.S. history,” fully 83 percent of the public answered “no.”
Meyerson’s column began by listing numerous, thorny problems currently confronting American public education, and noted that those challenges had been addressed in a recent, major address by Randi Weingarten, the current President of the American Federation of Teachers.
The right’s current attacks on public education, she began, have to be viewed as an effort to destroy it. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s universal voucher program, which he signed into law on Monday, will reduce support for his state’s public schools by $4 billion—this in a state, she noted, that already ranks 44th in per-pupil spending and 48th in average teacher pay.
After listing a number of the AFT’s current programmatic efforts, Weingarten concluded her speech by saying that “Teachers should have the freedom to teach, and students should have the freedom to learn. A great nation does not fear people being educated.”
To which I would add: a great nation doesn’t fear an electoral system that facilitates, rather than impedes, citizens’ efforts to vote. A great nation accedes to the will of its electorate, and declares the winner of each election to be the candidate who garners the most votes. A great nation doesn’t fail to act decisively when faced with evidence of judicial corruption.
What if, in addition to fixing our public schools, America’s rational majority voted to fix the nation’s democratic institutions?