Archives for category: Democrats

As Politico explains in this article, the odds of stopping another Trump appointment to the Supreme Court are slim to none.

Republicans have 53 Senate members. Democrats 47.

It would require four Republicans to vote no. If only three vote no, there will be a tie, and VP Pence will cast a tie-breaker in favor.

There has been speculation that Collins and McSally might vote no if the vote is held before the election. Murkowski of Alaska has said she thought it was inappropriate to confirm a new justice right before the election. That’s a possible three.

James Hohmann has a fascinating article in the Washington Post. He writes that Republicans will forge ahead with a nominee and won’t care f they are called hypocrites for saying the opposite in 2016, when they refused to give a hearing to Obama’s appointee Merrick Garland, ten months before the election.

He says the Senate would likely vote after the election, during the lame duck session.

He says Trump called McConnell and said he would appoint a woman, a conservative to be sure. Trump called McConnell on his flight back to Washington from a rally in Minnesota to say he likes Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit, two people briefed on the discussion tell Seung Min Kim….

Barrett, only 48, was confirmed to her post in late 2017 on an almost party-line vote. The only two Democrats who defected were Sens. Joe Manchin (W.V.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.), who was defeated the next year. As a devout and outspoken Roman Catholic (she has seven children), she has left little doubt in her public comments and jurisprudence about her deeply-held hostility to reproductive rights. “Your legal career is but a means to an end, and … that end is building the kingdom of God,” Barrett said in a 2006 speech to graduates of Notre Dame, where she attended law school.

He added that the Supreme Court battle would energize the right and enable Trump to change the subject away from the pandemic.

He also said that if the Democrats win, the left will pressure them to expand the Court and “pack” them.

The Green Party will not be on the ballot in Pennsylvania. The state’s Supreme Court removed the party because of deficiencies in its application. This follows a similar decision a few days ago in Wisconsin. This is good news for Democrats, bad news for Republicans. In 2016, Jill Stein received over one million votes, which tipped key states to Trump.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Green Party presidential ticket from state ballots, allowing state and local election officials to resume preparations for Nov. 3 and begin mailing ballots to voters.
The court ruled that presidential contender Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, did not qualify for the ballot because the party did not submit signed filing papers in person, as required by state rules.


It’s the second such ruling in a week. On Monday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found deficiencies in the Green Party’s ballot petition in that state, excluding the party from the ballot.
The decision is a blow to the third-party ticket and a win for Democrats, who worried that the Green Party could siphon votes from presidential nominee Joe Biden in the key battleground state.


In Wisconsin, the Green Party effort to get on the ballot was boosted by help from some Republicans and a prominent law firm that does work for the GOP.


In 2016, President Trump won both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by fewer votes than the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, collected in each state.

Mike Rose blogs once every few weeks. One day I will copy his excellent model. But this season it is hard to cut back, in view of the pandemic, the uncertainty about keeping our students and staff safe, and the most consequential national election of many, many years. Those who know Mike Rose’s work usually become Mike Rose Fan Boys or Fan Girls 

I am grateful that he shared his latest post, in which he offers advice to Joe Biden and Kemala Harris. 

In this post, Mike captures the anxiety that so many of us feel about the polls. Biden is leading in all of them but we remember what happened in 2016. Trump is like a monster who lurks behind every door and in every dark alley, ready to spring at a moment’s notice to swallow our democracy.

Rose is worried about the so-called “enthusiasm gap.” Trump supporters remain fervently loyal. Biden-Harris voters express a commitment that is rational but not as intense. Will that matter on November 3?

Rose offers advice:

Be more than “not-Trump.”

Educate the public, starting with what Trump wants to do to health care. He is a consummate liar and many of his own followers have no understanding of his malign plans for the future.

Get out and meet with large crowds, safely.

When you visit towns and cities, highlight the good work happening in those places.

He adds:

You are both skilled retail politicians, a talent constrained by COVID, because, unlike Trump, you believe in the basics of public health. There is a great challenge before you, and I hope all the bright campaign people around you are focused on it: How to integrate the potency of human encounters on the campaign trail with the communication possibilities of virtual technology. Unfortunately, you have to solve this problem while the campaign is in high gear, steer the boat while building it. But if you can do it, you will make history – and reclaim what remains of our democracy.

 

Mercedes Schneider has written an indispensable post about standardized testing: She noticed that the annual testing mandated by the federal government is beloved by those who are farthest from the classroom and have nothing to do with teaching and learning.

Perhaps she is responding to the recent report that Betsy DeVos will not allow waivers from the mandated testing next year, since the tests are so vital, and her announcement was cheered by the Center for American Progress (a neoliberal think tank), Education Trust (led by former Secretary of Education John King), the Council of Chief State School Officers, Senator Patty Murray (ranking Democrat on the Senate HELP Committee), and Rep. Bobby Scott (chair of the House Education Committee).

Schneider writes:

This is what standardized testing has been in public schools across America ever since No Child Left Behind (NCLB):

It’s like some president-backed, bipartisan Congress decided that we need to measure student physical health based on student weight. Of course, student physical health is by far too complex a concept to be captured by student weight, but let’s just put that reality aside in favor of the appearance of being able to pack a huge, complex package into a matchbox by getting those kids on the scale and putting the onus on teachers and schools to make students weight what the state (answering to the federal government in exchange for funding) decides those students should weigh.

Now, it is ridiculous on its face to hold teachers and schools responsible for student weight– which is why no bathroom scale company will guarantee that their scales are meant to be used to determine anything beyond the weight of the person standing on the scale. However, that president-backed, bipartisan Congress has decided that schools and teachers must ensure that their students achieve some predetermined optimal weight.

So. Weight-prep programs are instituted for students at risk of not achieving their state-determined optimal weights, the point of which is to drill students in scale-optimizing strategies (i.e., where to stand on the scale in order to make the weight appear higher or lower; how to push down on the scale to “weigh more”). In order to make time in the school day for these at-risk weighers to be drilled and redrilled, they must miss lunch, group sports, and playtime, but what is important to the school and to the teacher is achieving the optimal weight number so that we can tout that number, tag the student as physically healthy, keep our jobs, and collect federal dollars.

Surely we also congratulate the hungry and lethargic student for achieving that state-determined weight number. And if anyone points out that the student is hungry and lethargic, supporters of the process ignore the child and tout the number.

Be it noted that the annual standardized testing mandated by NCLB has led to cheating scandals, narrowing of the curriculum, and teaching to the test. For the past decade, there has been no change in NAEP scores.

NCLB failed. Why not admit it and move forward? Why continue to inhale the stale fumes of past policies that failed?

Why won’t prominent Democrats stop embracing NCLB and develop a vision of their own that actually helps students and teachers?

Almost every reviewer of the Democratic National Convention agreed that this was the most moving speech of all.

Thirteen-year-old Brayden Harrington met Joe Biden at a town hall in New Hampshire. When Biden learned that the boy stutters, he asked to meet privately afterwards. He told him how he had overcome his stutter and gave him some helpful,advice. Above all, he gave him hope and the confidence to speak to a national audience. His speech was filmed on a cell phone at home in New Hampshire.

Do you think the Trump Convention will have a video of Trump performing a random act of kindness?

Harold Meyerson, editor of The American Prospect and a prominent spokesman for the American left, explains here what he liked and did not like about the second day of the Democratic National (virtual) Convention.

I loved Bernie Sanders’ speech on the first night. I loved the roll call on the second night. In a usual convention, the roll call is a succession of politicians making political statements and announcing their state’s votes in a huge hall where people are milling around and no one is listening. This year, almost every state represented itself in an iconic setting, and the speakers were mostly regular people, not big-name politicians. The speaker in Kansas was a farmer in his fields, worried about the future. The speaker in Arizona was a teacher wearing a Red for Ed T-shirt, talking about the need to fund our schools. You really got a sense of the wonderful breadth and diversity of our country by watching the roll call. It was actually thrilling.

Meyerson wrote:

Unconventional: The Democrats, Day Two

If the first night of this year’s Democratic National Sort-Of Convention was all about Donald Trump’s disgraceful and aberrant presidency, night two was all about Joe Biden’s rooted normality.

Those roots were white working class—now a term almost interchangeable with Trump’s base, and tinged with assumptions of white tribalism and racism. Not so the Biden version of white working class-ness, however, and this more benign identity was a theme that was artfully woven through the night’s session.

The theme also expanded to include Biden’s embrace of the universal working class, with Joe talking with and sharing the concerns of a cross section of Americans fearful of losing their health insurance, which yet may prove his most potent point of contrast with Trump and the Republicans come November (as it was for Democrats in 2018). But looking at Hillary Clinton’s devastating and decisive failure to carry Bidenland in 2016—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, home of a multiracial working class, of which the white section largely voted for Trump—Biden’s advisers made the obvious but still smart decision to plunk him down where he came from. On Tuesday night, he was the kid from Scranton who’s suffered more than his share of tragedy but always kept on punching (or as Jill Biden said, squaring his shoulders and going out to meet the world).

And it wasn’t just Biden. The roll call of the states, which was far better than its convention-hall predecessors, not only because of the visuals but because it wasn’t dominated by bloviating mid-level pols, featured more than a smattering of working-class Americans. There was the woman who worked in a Nebraska meatpacking plant who noted that she and her co-workers weren’t afforded paid sick leave, and asserted, “We’re human beings; we’re not robots; we’re not disposable.” There was the Missouri bricklayer and the Ohio worker wearing his IBEW union T-shirt who flatly declared, “Under Trump, working people end up getting screwed.”

The roll-call participants were anything but monochromatic; those from Maryland positioned themselves by an oversized bust of Frederick Douglass. But the contrast with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 convention couldn’t have been clearer. I remember noting it at the time but failed to realize how it portended her coming defeat, but that convention lacked any speakers who were working-class whites. Clinton’s convention showcased Democratic social liberalism; Biden’s, so far, has showcased a more class-based economic liberalism.

Yes, Monday’s session affirmed its support for Black Lives Matter, but both nights have highlighted the economic contrasts with contemporary Republicanism, of which Trump is merely the reductio ad absurdum. And it emphasized the access-to-health-care contrast, which runs along the race and class lines, and in a time of pandemic is the kind of contrast that can decide an election.

The foreign-policy section, with notables rightly pointing out that Trump’s policy, to the limited extent he has one, basically amounts to his expressions of admiration for leaders even more thuggish than he, was obligatory, but isn’t going to change many votes. What will change or solidify some votes is the image of Biden as a normal, decent, hard-working guy—three qualities no one has ever invoked to describe Donald Trump. What will change or solidify some votes is the knowledge that Biden respects and works within established democratic norms, as Trump does not. And these are all among the reasons that not only Republicans but also Bernie leftists are going to vote for Biden, because the left knows its vision depends on a functioning, and flourishing, democracy…

I’m fine with the airtime given to Republicans; I just wish there were more given to the left pole of the front. The millennials and Gen Zers who are transforming the Democratic Party into a more social democratic party have been underrepresented at this convention, and the 17 youngish keynoters who whizzed through the speed-dating version of a keynote address on Tuesday night lacked the time to establish their own generation’s politics, or, in fact, whether they actually identified with it. (As none of the keynoters had endorsed Bernie Sanders for president, there’s some question as to just how representative they are.) So the task of representing the new left fell to AOC and a dying Ady Barkan, but there are lots more where those two stalwarts come from, if the Biden folks just go looking. (The ever remarkable Barkan managed to endorse Medicare for All without actually saying the words.)

That said, the thematic emphasis the convention has put on matters of race and class is not only smart positioning but lays down markers that the young left and their elders should endeavor to hold Biden to, should he be elected. Biden’s long career has been marked by draconian crime legislation, solicitude to banks, and other normal political stances of the Reagan years, but Biden understands that those days are done, and the party’s ascendant left must ensure that they’re dead and buried. The Normal Joe persona is a valuable asset in this doctrinal transformation; it recasts the party’s newfound (or newly re-found) progressivism as Normal Joe’s concern for the average guy and gal.

I must close with my favorite moment of the night, a combination of convention hokum, the roll call’s remote locations, and, yes, average folks’ normality. It came when the roll call reached Rhode Island, and we were transported to a shot of two guys standing by the seashore, one of them holding a plate or dish of something tan with something red on top of it. The speaker, as is the custom, extolled the state and its Democratic governor and its favorite products, among which he mentioned calamari. At which point it became clear that what the other guy was holding was a platter of fried calamari topped with dip.

How better to symbolize a convention yearning for normality, marketing its nominee as Mr. Normal, than to promise us a bright future filled with fried calamari?

~ HAROLD MEYERSON

The American Prospect, Inc., 1225 I Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005, United States

The Biden and Sanders campaigns created a “Unity Task Force” to make recommendations on important issues.

Here is their report with recommendations. It is 110 pages.

There is much to like in the report, proposing an agenda to reverse four years of savage attacks by Trump on the environment, on the rule of law, on government itself.

The education portion aPears on pp. 22-27.

It contains welcome pledges of increased funding, more equitable funding, universal early childhood education, a commitment to racial integration of schools, a commitment to making higher education affordable (including tuition-free community colleges), debt relief for college graduates, and other worthy goals and policies.

On the two issues where Democrats found themselves committed to Republican strategies, the panel has a mixed record.

It took a clear stand against the high-stakes standardized testing that is a legacy of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law of 2001-2002:

The evidence from nearly two decades of education reforms that hinge on standardized test scores shows clearly that high-stakes annual testing has not led to enough improvement in outcomes for students or for schools, and can lead to discrimination against students, particularly students with disabilities, students of color, low-income students, and English language learners. Democrats will work to end the use of such high-stakes tests and encourage states to develop evidence-based approaches to student assessment that rely on multiple and holistic measures that better represent student achievement.

That’s a step forward, especially since so many high-profile DemocratIc Senators voted to retain high-stakes testing when NCLB turned into the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015. So, we can celebrate the fact that the Unity Task Force is prepared to discard the Bush policy based on the non-existent “Texas Miracle.”

The other issue that has been a huge burden for public schools is the Republican claim that competition improves public schools. This faulty idea has spurred the development of privately managed charter schools and vouchers. Charters have a flimsy record. Those that get high test scores are known for their low enrollments of students with disabilities and English language learners, as well as their harsh discipline policies (no excuses). Many Republicans love charters because they are a stepping stone to vouchers. They wean people away from public schools and encourage parents to think of themselves as consumers, not citizens. Thanks to private management, charters have been plagued by multiple scandals involving waste, fraud abuse, and bloated administrative overhead. The teacher turnover rate at charters is very large in some high-performing charters, as much as 50% every year. The virtual charter industry is a disaster that has been associated with multimillion dollar embezzlement.

The Network for Public Education published two reports documenting the failure of the federal Charter Schools Program, which hands out $440 million every year to open new charters and expand existing ones. I have referred to the CSP as Betsy DeVos’s personal slush fund because she has given huge grants to corporate charter chains like KIPP and IDEA. THE NPE reports (Asleep at the Wheel and Still Asleep at the Wheel) demonstrate that nearly 40% of the charters funded by the CSP either never opened or closed soon after opening. During the campaign, Senator Sanders called for elimination of the federal a Charter Schools Program.

Five facts stand out about charter schools:

1. On average, they don’t get better results than public schools.
2. They drain resources and the students they choose from public schools that take everyone, including the kids the charters don’t want.
3. About 90% of charters are non-union, by design.
4. Charters are amply funded by billionaires like the Walton family, Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch, Reed Hastings, and Michael Bloomberg.
5. If charters helped solve the problems of American education, then Detroit would be one of the outstanding districts in the nation, instead it is one of the nation’s lowest performing districts.

Why should the federal government spend $440 million every year on new charters and on expanding corporate charter chains?

Given that background, you can understand why I think the Unity Task Force statement on charters is watery pablum.

Here it is in its entirety:

Charter schools were originally intended to be publicly funded schools with increased flexibility in program design and operations. Democrats believe that education is a public good and should not be saddled with a private profit motive, which is why we will ban for-profit private charter businesses from receiving federal funding. And we recognize the need for more stringent guardrails to ensure charter schools are good stewards of federal education funds. We support measures to increase accountability for charter schools, including by requiring all charter schools to meet the same standards of transparency as traditional public schools, including with regard to civil rights protections, racial equity, admissions practices, disciplinary procedures, and school finances. We will call for conditioning federal funding for new, expanded charter schools or for charter school renewals on a district’s review of whether the charter will systematically underserve the neediest students. And Democrats oppose private school vouchers and other policies that divert taxpayer-funded resources away from the public school system.

Nothing is said here that would displease the hedge fund managers and billionaires who support charters. Even Betsy DeVos must be smiling to see the Biden-Sanders task force endorse school choice, which was birthed by southern governors resisting the Brown decision. It’s very sad to see a task force of Democratic leaders giving their blessing to the southern strategy. (Read Steve Suitts’ new book on that sordid history: “Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Legacy.”)

Taking a stand against “for-profit charters” is piffle. Arizona is the only state that allows for-profit charters. Nothing is said in this statement about banning for-profit management corporations, which manage large numbers of “nonprofit” charters all over the country.

And notice that the task force says nothing about terminating the federal Charter Schools Program, as Sanders recommended, guaranteeing that the government will continue to spend $440 million (or more) to open more non-union charters to compete with public schools. Excluding “for-profit charters” from the federal CSP is good news for KIPP, IDEA, and other “nonprofit” corporate charter chains that are bankrupting local public schools. This recommendation was made with full knowledge of the long-run failure of this program.

Of course, I will vote for Joe Biden, despite this weak-kneed capitulation to the Republican-dominated charter lobbyists. But I won’t hide my disappointment.

The failure of the task force to challenge the charter industry and stand up for public schools as the foundation stone of our democracy is troubling and is an embarrassment to the Biden campaign.

David Dayen writes in the online American Prospect’s “Unsanitized” about Jamaal Bowman’s emergence as a new kind of Democrat. Bowman just defeated 16-term Congressman Elliot Engel, who was endorsed by not only the Democratic Party leadership but the Congressional Black Caucus.

Dayen writes:


Jamaal Bowman’s campaign to defeat longtime absentee incumbent Eliot Engel in a New York House seat was inspiring. Not only did it reflect the professionalization of a left electoral apparatus, with the infrastructure to poll, organize, and raise the funds needed to run credible primary challenges. It also showed the changing tides in Black politics: the Congressional Black Caucus supported Engel, a white incumbent in a majority-minority district.

Bowman situates himself in a different place than the establishment CBC leadership and the younger Obama-era climbers who are knocking on the door of that establishment. This is a more ideological left, which now has a foothold on power. And that’s just a very different dynamic, which will bring in new voices on key issues.

For example, I was on a call yesterday that was one of Bowman’s first appearances since the primary. He wasn’t allying with an ossified Democratic interest group, but independent left organizations like the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE). And it wasn’t about some targeted investment in at-risk communities or tax-advantaged enterprise zone. The first words out of Bowman’s mouth on this call, echoing a previous speaker, was “I love the way you framed that, we’re dealing with violence being administered by the state against its own people.”

The topic of the call was how to handle a fast-approaching housing crisis all over the country. Moratoria on evictions at the state level are about to expire, as is the national partial moratorium for renters fortunate enough to live in a government-subsidized property. The first of the month brings another struggle for those who have fallen through the cracks of the hastily arranged COVID-19 safety net, and in a little over three weeks, that safety net is gone without further action. The weekly unemployment boost of $600 ends July 25.

Bowman kicked off the call, but numerous other speakers gave testimony on their struggles since the crisis began. Peggy Perkins, a cosmetologist with three children, was unable to procure a small business loan and has been hounded for rent by her landlord in Hempstead, New York. Vanessa del Campo of Minneapolis demanded that the governor not lift the state’s moratorium on evictions, saying “our families are right on the point of losing their homes.” Carlos Perodin of Make the Road Pennsylvania pointed out that the state is short 279,000 available and affordable rental units. Jasmine Johnson of Action North Carolina has been out of work since March and didn’t manage to get on unemployment until two weeks ago. “Until this pandemic ends, rent should be cancelled,” Johnson said. “We don’t deserve to be put out on the street because the government can’t come up with any ideas.”

Allying with these activists was Bowman, who will almost assuredly step into Congress in January. Bowman represents a split district; “if this district were a nation, it would have the eighth-worst economic inequality in the world,” he said. There are wealthy areas in Westchester County along with the relative depravity of the Bronx. Often members of Congress in that situation pay attention to where the money is. Bowman was decidedly on the other side of that.

“How the heck are people supposed to pay rent when there’s no money coming in?” he pleaded. “We bailed out Wall Street, large corporations… Jeff Bezos’ wealth has gone up. The system is inhumane, a manifestation of institutional racism within housing and all institutions. And it’s nurtured by the people we elect to serve us, Democrats included.”

That’s powerful talk from someone headed into the halls of power. He’s backing a national eviction blockade, easily the largest sustained rent strike in recent memory, maybe ever in American history. The plan is to physically block evictions in communities of color. “We are in full support of any kind of organized rent strike, because what the hell else are people supposed to do,” Bowman said. “This is a collective trauma that I’m happy to stand with you and fight against.”

This new dynamic within Black politics is fascinating and hopeful. The gap between the radicalism on the streets and the indifference inside the Capitol is closing. The CBC has always been called the conscience of the Congress, but that consciousness is being raised, from the bottom up. As Bowman said yesterday: “People in this district haven’t always been involved and engaged. Now they are.”

While many primary races are too close to call, due to large numbers of uncounted absentee ballots, Jamaal Bowman scored a decisive upset in his race to replace veteran Cingresman Elliot Engel, chair of the House Foreigh affairs Committee.

Jamaal is/was a middle school principal who was active in the opt out movement. He received the endorsement of AOC, Sanders, Warren, and many others, including me.

Here is the speech he gave when his victory appeared certain.

Jamaal will be a strong, clear, and informed voice for the voiceless in Congress.

Nancy Bailey is well aware of the dangers to public education today, especially the threats of privatization, data mining, and technological takeover. She saw that the campaigns of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders created an education unity group and she wondered who was included and who was not included.

Here is her analysis.

She begins with who was left out:

Many want to say good riddance to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her boss. But educators and parents fighting for public education, and the ninety percent of students who attend public schools, deserve a more inclusive group of people to push back on harmful school reform. The Biden/Sanders Unity Education Task Force leaves much to be desired.

For example, parents of children with disabilities struggle to teach their children during Covid-19. Classes for their children were never fully funded before the disease. Sen. Bernie Sanders promised better in his Thurgood Marshall Plan. Searching with a magnifying glass, I see no representation for students with disabilities on this panel.

Black and brown parent advocates have started a petition to make the education task force more inclusive.

Where are the scholars from the: National Education Policy Center? Network for Public Education? Defending the Early Years? Economic Policy Center? Where are teachers from the Badass Teachers Association, or representation by those who organized and marched in the Red for Ed rallies? What about parents and school board members who fight for children?