Archives for category: Democrats

Jonathan Lovell, a teacher educator in California, received many messages after the election urging him to “keep your chin up ,” “don’t be discouraged,” that he decided to reply to one of them, the one that came from President Obama.

Here is his message to the President, followed by the President’s message to him.

Dear Mr President,

Thanks very much for this email. It has given me a lift during a period in which I’ll admit to experiencing “post mid-term blues.”

As a teacher educator who has spent the last 35 years visiting middle and high school English classrooms — about 2500 of them — helping beginning teachers reflect on their teaching practices, I cannot say that I am a supporter of the present RTTT-inspired direction of the USDOE.
I am, however, a strong supporter of your presidency and the overall direction, educational policy excepted, in which you have helped to steer our nation over the past six years.

I hope these next two years will provide you an opportunity to review and eventually approve an overhaul and eventual reauthorization of the ESEA.

As you know better than most, this piece of legislation has had unintended but easily anticipated consequences. Right now, it is leaving most children, and virtually all teachers, not only “behind,” but demoralized and frustrated.

I hope your next two years will give you a chance to publicly celebrate the public school teaching profession for the great contributions it has made to the strength and promise of our unique democracy.

And in the spirit of Bob Herbert’s magnificent new book Losing Our Way, I hope these next two years will also provide you with opportunities to celebrate the true mission of American public education, and to clarify for the nation, as well as to personally and politically confront, those powerful forces that threaten to undermine its fundamental importance.

My best,

Jonathan Lovell
Professor of English and Director of the San Jose Area Writing Project
San Jose State University

On Nov 7, 2014, at 2:00 PM, Barack Obama wrote:

Jonathan, the hardest thing in politics is changing the status quo. The easiest thing is to get cynical.

The Republicans had a good night on Tuesday, Jonathan — but believe me when I tell you that our results were better because you stepped up, talked to your family and friends, and cast your ballot.

I want you to remember that we’re making progress. There are workers who have jobs today who didn’t have them before. There are millions of families who have health insurance today who didn’t have it before. There are kids going to college today who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college before.

So don’t get cynical, Jonathan. Cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon. Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or built a business, or fed a young mind. Cynicism is a choice. And hope will always be a better choice.

I have hope for the next few years, and I have hope for what we’re going to accomplish together.

Thank you so much, Jonathan.

Barack Obama

Paid for by the Democratic National Committee, 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington DC 20003 and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Dear Diane,

I’ve been receiving so many “keep your chin up” emails over the past few days, primarily from democratic organizations and individuals to whom I’d sent donations during the past several months, that I decided to respond to one of them: the President’s.

What I wrote is below, with the President’s email below that.

Ever fondly,
Jonathan Lovell

On Nov 7, 2014, at 3:21 PM, Jonathan Lovell wrote:

Dear Mr President,

Thanks very much for this email. It has given me a lift during a period in which I’ll admit to experiencing “post mid-term blues.”

As a teacher educator who has spent the last 35 years visiting middle and high school English classrooms — about 2500 of them — helping beginning teachers reflect on their teaching practices, I cannot say that I am a supporter of the present RTTT-inspired direction of the USDOE.

I am, however, a strong supporter of your presidency and the overall direction, educational policy excepted, in which you have helped to steer our nation over the past six years.

I hope these next two years will provide you an opportunity to review and eventually approve an overhaul and eventual reauthorization of the ESEA.

As you know better than most, this piece of legislation has had unintended but easily anticipated consequences. Right now, it is leaving most children, and virtually all teachers, not only “behind,” but demoralized and frustrated.

I hope your next two years will give you a chance to publicly celebrate the public school teaching profession for the great contributions it has made to the strength and promise of our unique democracy.

And in the spirit of Bob Herbert’s magnificent new book Losing Our Way, I hope these next two years will also provide you with opportunities to celebrate the true mission of American public education, and to clarify for the nation, as well as to personally and politically confront, those powerful forces that threaten to undermine its fundamental importance.

My best,
Jonathan Lovell
Professor of English and Director of the San Jose Area Writing Project
San Jose State University

On Nov 7, 2014, at 2:00 PM, Barack Obama wrote:

Jonathan, the hardest thing in politics is changing the status quo. The easiest thing is to get cynical.

The Republicans had a good night on Tuesday, Jonathan — but believe me when I tell you that our results were better because you stepped up, talked to your family and friends, and cast your ballot.

I want you to remember that we’re making progress. There are workers who have jobs today who didn’t have them before. There are millions of families who have health insurance today who didn’t have it before. There are kids going to college today who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college before.

So don’t get cynical, Jonathan. Cynicism didn’t put a man on the moon. Cynicism has never won a war, or cured a disease, or built a business, or fed a young mind. Cynicism is a choice. And hope will always be a better choice.

I have hope for the next few years, and I have hope for what we’re going to accomplish together.

Thank you so much, Jonathan.

Barack Obama

Paid for by the Democratic National Committee, 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington DC 20003 and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Harold Meyerson, editor of “The American Prospect,” takes a close look at the election results and concludes that the Democrats lost because they failed to govern as Democrats. They did not take action to increase economic prosperity, and consequently, did not turn out their base of voters. Republicans are even less likely to produce policies to increase economic prosperity, but in a contest to turn out your base, the Democrats had nothing to offer their base, and a sizable chunk of the base didn’t bother to vote.

 

It would be wrong, he writes, to conclude that the electorate turned more conservative, because wherever offered the chance to raise the minimum wage, the voters did.

 

He writes:

 

Sixty-three percent of respondents told pollsters they believed that the U.S. economic system generally favors the wealthy, while just 32 percent said that it is fair to most. And a wave of ballot measures to raise state or city minimum wages carried wherever they were put before voters — from deepest-blue San Francisco and Oakland to solid-red Nebraska, South Dakota, Arkansas and Alaska…..

 

Tuesday’s verdict makes clear that the Democrats cannot win by demographics alone. Republicans failed to improve their dismal performance among Latino and African American voters or among the young, but these groups’ low turnout helped doom Democrats in blue states particularly. Voters ages 18 to 29 constituted just 13 percent of the electorate, down from 19 percent in 2012. Latinos favored Democrats by 62 percent to 36 percent, but they constituted just 8 percent of voters, the same level as in 2010, despite their growing share of the population. Tuesday’s electorate tilted white and old — which is to say, Republican….

 

Yet the same factors that lowered the turnout of the Democratic base also cost the party votes among whites: the failure of government to remedy, or even address, the downward mobility of most Americans. Democrats who touted the nation’s economic growth did so at their own peril: When 95 percent of the income growth since the recession ended goes to the wealthiest 1 percent, as economist Emmanuel Saez has documented, voters view reports of a recovery as they would news from a distant land. Even though it was the Republicans who blocked Democrats’ efforts to raise the federal minimum wage or authorize job-generating infrastructure projects or diminish student debt, it was Democrats — the party generally perceived as controlling the government — who paid the price for that government’s failure to act.

 

But with the exception of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has been plenty outspoken about diminishing the power of Wall Street, the Democrats have had precious little to say about how to re-create the kind of widely shared prosperity that emerged from the New Deal. The regulated and more equitable capitalism of the mid-20th century has morphed into a far harsher system, just as Americans told the exit pollsters, and the Democrats, whose calling card to generations of voters was their ability to foster good economies, are at a loss for how to proceed.

 

Educators had little reason to come out to vote; in many states, the Democratic candidate was indistinguishable from the Republican candidate, and both took campaign contributions from the same Wall Street sources. Education should have been the Democrats’ strong suit, given that there are at least five million professional educators, and many millions of public school candidates. But this was an issue that the Obama administration gave to the Republicans by acting like Republicans, by embracing the Republican education agenda of testing, punitive accountability, and choice.

 

The lesson of this election should be clear: Democrats can’t win by acting like Republicans.

 

 

Edward F. Berger explains one reason why Democrats got hammered on Election Day. President Obama alienated teachers by walking in the footsteps of George W. Bush. He and Arne Duncan wreaked havoc on public schools. They outraged and demoralized teachers.

 

The Democratic party adopted the Republican agenda, and they turned off a day part of their base:

 

“The Obama administration, and especially Arne Duncan, dealt a blow to educators, parents and educated citizens when they sided with corporations like Pearson, and those who believe a punishing blow to teachers and public community schools will improve American education.

 

“The USDOE is now an agency without credibility, driven by ideologies that are not based in reality. For example, pushing the false belief that bad teachers are responsible for troubled schools. The Obama administration discounted the real factors that hold children back – poverty, fear, instability, and futility generated by a failed economic system, not teachers or bad parents. In doing this, President Obama has lost the confidence of our educated leaders and shamed his largest support base.

 

“By systematically destroying the nations confidence in educators and public schools, and following unqualified, self-appointed change agents like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Michelle Rhee, Mike Bloomberg, and a few dozen other profiteers, this administration undermined confidence in educators and fact-based education. To do this they develop tests to prove that bad teachers are exposed by student tests. They do this by whatever means Pearson can profit by selling tests, and more tests, that are made mandatory for all school districts to buy and force into place. To do this, they overlook what schools really do for children and for the future.

 

“President Obama ignored votes of no confidence in Arne Duncan and the present course of the USDOE. He totally discounts scholars and experienced education leaders. In doing so, he destroyed his base. He has let stand the false charges that teachers and teachers associations are the problem, and he has allowed the re-segregation of schools in many states. He has supported access to public tax dollars by religious schools. He has provided wealth from our education tax dollars to profit-driven corporations, not to kids.”

Amy B. Dean explains why the inability of Karen Lewis to oppose Rahm Emanuel due to her health is a huge loss, not only on a personal level to all those who love and admire her, but because she was a threat to the Democratic political establishment that has severed its ties with the labor movement. Once upon a time, there was a coalition of Democrats, labor unions, and civil rights groups. The rise of the business-minded politicians like Rahm Emanuel, Dannel Malloy, and Andrew Cuomo has shattered that coalition. Such right-of-center politicians rely on Wall Street and corporations for the campaign funds they need, and they actively fight labor unions. Karen Lewis would have revived the sturdy progressive coalition that once commanded American politics. Will there be others to take her place?

Jonathan Pelto, Connecticut’s Watchdog, reports on an excellent column by Sarah Darrerr Littman. She explains the corrupting influence of big money on politics.

Corruption, she says, is bipartisan. The Republican governor of Connecticut went to jail a decade ago. They pass laws to restrict pay-to-play, but engage in dubious behavior when the take office.

She writes:

“Doris Kearns Goodwin, a historian and writer whom I admire greatly, was a recent guest of the Connecticut Forum for a discussion called, “Debating Our Broken Political System.” She observed: “If I had to name one reason why it’s broken, it is power of money in the system today. It is the poison in the system . . . it is the amount of time that it takes our politicians to raise the funds, it’s the special interests that they are then beholden to, it’s the fact that they’re not doing the business of the country, and I blame everybody for it.”

“If we want to restore faith in government, we need a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United and McCutcheon decisions.”

Laurel M. Sturt, education activist, explains here why she is voting for the Green Party this November. In New York, where she lives, the two major parties have become indistinguishable.

She writes:

“In the last decade, the Democratic party has become increasingly indistinct from the Republican, both parties in virtually impervious thrall to the siren of money. As exacerbated by the Citizens United and McCutcheon Supreme Court decisions, the–for all intents and purposes–wholesale prostitution of both parties to special interests has forced the true agenda of today’s elected officials into the light: the sacred civic duty supposedly embodied in a position called, after all, “public service,” has been exposed to be less motivational than the perks and influence inherent in a position of power. While we watch, haplessly marginalized on the sidelines of integrity, these unworthies blithely ply their incompetence–via obstructionism (McConnell), corruption (Rangel), or any number of ignominious affronts to decency, or democracy. This laser-focused drive to maintain a privileged position, moreover, comes with the most flagrant, arrogant dismissal of accountability. We came very close, after all, to electing a president with the hubris to trumpet the slogan “Country First” while simultaneously exposing us to the possibility of governance by Sarah Palin–and Rod Serling wasn’t even in the room when that decision was made! Indeed, her very choice as a running mate was a perfectly indicting metaphor for a system whose morality has gone AWOL, in a scenario increasingly where an elected official is not a bonafide public servant but simply playing one on tv. As such, our national script has abandoned the dignified legacy of John Adams, alas, in favor of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

“The convergence of the two political parties in a shared embrace to protect the power status quo–enabled by money overriding principle–has been nowhere more evident than in the attack on public education. No Child Left Behind, despite its feel-good soundbite of education as a civil right, has been revealed to be a privatizing agenda from conservatives not compassionate but impassioned, in fact, by the prospect of public dollars pouring into private coffers. Indeed, the tools for this, among them a pervasive culture of high-stakes testing, have had the added bonus of busting teacher unions, the last inhibition to fully exploiting the education cash cow, a trillion dollar business opportunity here and abroad. Yet far from coming to the rescue of public education, Obama and likeminded Democrats such as New York’s Governor Cuomo have taken up their own torch and pitchfork with alarming alacrity: Race to the Top, and its proponents, have seized on the malevolent premise–and promise–of NCLB, simply ramping it up with steroids. Between the Common Core and other elements designed to privatize a public good, our education system is on the verge of devastation; incredibly, both parties have proven to be equal opportunity plunderers not just of any resource but that most precious of all, our children, the very future of our nation. We could use a Patriot Act, alright, one expressly for education.”

Let’s face it. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t like public schools. He sneers at teachers. If he is re-elected, expect the attacks on public education and teachers to escalate.

Don’t vote for the lesser of two evils. In this race, there is no lesser.

Vote Green.

Angie Sullivan is a teacher who regularly emails a long list of legislators, education advocates, journalists….and me. Here is her outraged commentary about Democrats who collect money from teachers and betray them and refuse to fund public schools. And her outrage at her own state union for supporting Democrats who don’t support public education. In many other states, the Democrats act no different from Republicans in their fealty to privatization and high-stakes testing. See New York and Connecticut as examples.

Angie writes:

http://nvsos.gov/SoSCandidateServices/AnonymousAccess/ViewCCEReport.aspx?syn=%252b5BK3Q5X1G11p0Ui3uhoKg%253d%253d

I think it is time for CCEA [Carson County Education Association] to pull away from NSEA, the state. This political endorsement process is very tragic. I have never seen such a mess and so many bad decisions on too many levels to even speak about here.

To me it was a simple year – no TEI [The Education Initiative] – no endorsement, no money. Doesn’t have to mean we are not friends – just have to focus on TEI.

That would mean NO to almost everyone except about 5 people.

So Oct 10th my union gave $10,000 to Justin Jones to keep the Nevada Senate Democratic? Surely we could NOT have given it to Justin based on his education voting record or actually doing anything productive for public schools.

If I thought the Nevada Senate Democrats would act like this:

http://nhlabornews.com/2014/07/stop-the-attack-on-public-education-aft-welcomes-democrats-for-public-education/

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JabOtrfzjf8

I would be the yellow dog democrat Ive been my whole life. Straight ticket. But the abuse I have received over the last few years has opened my eyes to just how sick my party and union can be.

Justin is no good as an education candidate. The End.

I have begged and pleaded with my union and others to stop rewarding democrats and any others “because the other side is so much worse”.

What could be worse than ALEC legislation?

What could be worse than championing privatizing by charter?

What could be worse than loss in pay, benefits, and retirement?

What could be worse than threatening teachers like we are dogs?

What could be worse than no funds, no revenue, no plans to fund?

What could be worse than not supporting the TEI? In fact campaigning — by strategy — to do the opposite?

I’m supposed to be frightened by vouchers? Parent Trigger co-sponsored by Jones is worse than vouchers. Parents voting to kill their neighborhood schools?

Why do we insist on rewarding this bad behavior? In case Justin Jones wins, he does what to us next? Carry out his threats to “do something about evaluations”?

I have to put up with that.

What kind of favor does Jones deserve taking $10,000 from my union and $10,000 from Students First too? Both?

Who gave him this NSEA money? A committee who votes for endorsements as a clump? Murillo? Does Ruben get special favor from Justin Jones for himself?

Have we asked the members?

So Jones gets the money and to publish we love him . . . but the voter flyer excludes his name? So he got halfway endorsed? We gave him money but do not encourage anyone to vote for him. ok.

And what about all the candidates who we denied – because they wouldn’t be positive about TEI? What do they think when we give money now . . . to those with some mysterious perceived power?

CCEA needs to have more power and control over government relations in the south. The tail needs to stop wagging the dog and the dog needs to stop hiding in Carson City. And if a candidate from any party brings ALEC education reform or votes against us – we need to kick them out.

These education democrats like Justin Jones are not real – they need to be ousted from our endorsements. DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) are simply conservative democrats pushing a privatizing agenda on public schools. They are worse than a Republican — because they have infiltrated, bribed, and been bought privatizing reformers.

Proud to have a child in a charter – and trying to pass this as a democratic value?

http://www.dfer.org/blog/

As a teacher, I can continue to be disappointed.

Someone needs to get some backbone and stand up to these privatizing democratic bullies – because kids deserve advocacy – and a lot better endorsement system than this willy nilly NSEA parade – what a nightmare.

Angie.

A little more than four months ago, New York’s Working Families Party threatened to nominate its own candidate against Governor Andrew Cuomo, because Cuomo had grown so close to his Wall Street campaign contributors and was often called “Governor 1%” for his intense desire to defend the interests of the plutocrats. The WFP was prepared to nominate an unknown law professor named Zephyr Teachout, who was an expert on government ethics.

Cuomo promised to work with the WFP to elect a Democratic majority in the State Senate so that the Legislature could pass progressive legislation, which died in the State Senate, abetted by a small caucus of Democrats who aligned with the Republicans to give them control.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, the state’s leading progressive official, worked hard to persuade the WFP to support Cuomo (even though Cuomo had just humiliated de Blasio by backing charter schools over public schools and gutting the Mayor’s power to regulate charters). De Blasio even nominated Cuomo at the state Democratic convention, burnishing his otherwise nonexistent progressive credentials.

Of course, the WFP gave its nomination to Cuomo, Teachout challenged him in the Democratic primary, and with almost no money, managed to win 1/3 of the vote and half the counties in the state.

Now, lo and behold, de Blasio is working hard to elect the Democrats who would shift the balance in the State Senate, but Cuomo has turned invisible.

The New York Times wrote:

“It has been more than four months since the fragile marriage between the governor and the Working Families Party was consummated: The group endorsed Mr. Cuomo, over many of its members’ objections, after he agreed to pursue a long list of liberal goals, as part of a deal that Mr. de Blasio helped broker.

“The top priority was an effort to tilt the balance of power in the State Senate, where Republicans currently share leadership with a group of breakaway Democrats.

“Less than a month before Election Day, with polls showing some key Senate races leaning in Republicans’ favor, the arrangement with the governor appears increasingly fraught. Despite his pledge to push for Democratic control of the Senate, Mr. Cuomo has at times seemed not to have a strong opinion about the outcome of the November elections.

“You can’t say, ‘Well, I can work well if they elect this party,’ ” he told reporters last month. “They elect a legislature: Democratic, Republican, whatever they elect. I think the job of the governor is to figure out how to make it work.”

Translation: Cuomo hoodwinked the WFP, de Blasio, and the unions.

John Cassidy of The New Yorker wrote a fascinating article on the national implications of Zephyr Teachout’s strong performance against Andrew Cuomo. With little money, little name recognition, and no television ads, she managed to capture a third of the Democratic primary vote. Cassidy says:

“The strong showing by Teachout and Wu was a victory for progressive voters who warmed to their message about tackling rising inequality, political corruption, and corporate abuses. It was also a rejection of Cuomo’s economic philosophy, which led him to introduce a series of tax cuts for the rich, at the same time that he cut the state budgets for education and social services. I’d be willing to wager that most Democrats who voted against Cuomo objected more to his policies than to his personality.

“Teachout and Wu’s insurgent campaigns gave voice to this sentiment. Eschewing the etiquette of internal party discourse, Teachout accused Cuomo of governing as a Republican, acting as a shill for the big banks and other campaign contributors, and being part of a “corrupt old boys’ club” in Albany. Making full use of social media and appearances in more traditional media, she demonstrated that, even in this day and age, a candidate with a real message doesn’t necessarily need the support of the party apparatus, or the financial backing of big donors, to have an impact.”

Interestingly, the Teachout-Wu ticket swept many upstate counties. But their candidacy had a larger meaning beyond New York politics, writes Cassidy:

“Teachout and Wu both achieved more than seemed possible a couple of months ago. By thoroughly embarrassing Cuomo, New York Democrats didn’t merely deliver a blow to whatever national aspirations he may have. They signalled to other Democrats, Hillary Clinton included, that the political center of gravity has shifted, and that a significant segment of Democratic voters won’t suffer gladly a return to the timid, pro-corporate policies of the Clinton years, which Cuomo represents.

“That’s why what happened on Tuesday wasn’t just a New York story: it has national implications. The progressive movement that emerged from the financial crisis, giving birth to Occupy Wall Street and the de Blasio campaign, may still be inchoate and splintered. But it can’t be ignored.”

As someone who has responded many times to Democratic Party fund-raising appeals on the Internet, I now get daily requests to give more. For the past few weeks, I have been responding that I will not give another penny until President Obama renounces Race to the Top and replaces Arne Duncan with someone who supports public schools. I thought I was the only one doing that, but then I got this letter from John Ogozalek, who teaches in upstate New York.

He wrote, in response to a similar appeal:

” Hancock, New York 13783
August 18, 2014

“Dear People Sitting in Fancy Offices In Charge of the Democratic Party,

“Why, why on Earth would I send a donation to politicians who seem intent on harming my family and our kids’ school?

“What a HUGE error the Democratic Party brass has made attacking public schools and teachers. What a bunch of dummies kissing off the support of millions of MIDDLE CLASS voters. (Does the corporate cash mean that much to you??)

“Tell Barack Obama and Arne Duncan that they have FAILED the Democratic Party….they’ve FAILED our children.

“Race to the Top? Farce to the Top!

“Governor Andrew Cuomo is a sellout, too. I’ve voting for Zephyr Teachout September 9 in the New York State Democratic Primary and will strongly encourage every Democratic I know to do the same

“When Democratic leaders are ready to stop sucking up to big corporate money….when Democratic leaders are ready to stand up for families and their schools…..let me know.

“And, no, I will not use my own first-class stamp on your pre-addressed, money grovelling campaign contribution envelope to “help us save much-needed funds”. How many times do I need to tell you that?

John Ogozalek”

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