Archives for category: Democrats

Veteran journalist Mark Liebovich notes in this opinion article In the New York Times how Trump has ditched the long-time tradition of bipartisan unity in the face of national crisis.

There used to be a tradition that politics stops at the water’s edge, meaning a bipartisan foreign policy. That’s gone. In the aftermath of 9/11, politics was replaced by shared mourning. Liebovich notes the failure to mark the anniversary of the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, as well as Trump’s natural tendency to turn the current crisis into political fodder. No more reaching across the aisle. With rare exceptions, like the Senate report on Russian interference in 2026, bipartisanship is dead. One thinks sadly of the late Senator John McCain’s plea for a return to regular order,” which was spurned by Trump and Mitch McConnell, in their eagerness to push through a radical right agenda and to stuff the judiciary with extremist judges.

Liebovich writes:

WASHINGTON — Last weekend, an anniversary of the kind that would have once united the country in reflection — the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, 25 years ago — passed without much in the way of comment. As the days inside pile up, our usual approach to a national moment of remembrance appeared lost to the fog of time, germs and Trump era news cycles.

The lack of attention was cast in relief by one person who did speak up: Former President Bill Clinton, who for a variety of reasons seems to have receded from public view since his wife was defeated by Donald Trump for the presidency in 2016. Mr. Clinton, the embattled first-term president of early 1995, would become the dominant presence in the brittle aftermath of Oklahoma City. The various psychodramas of his two terms can obscure the significance of the incident as a political marker of that era; now, it is a global pandemic that is seizing attention from Washington traditions like civic remembrance and bipartisan affirmation.

“In many ways, this is the perfect time to remember Oklahoma City and to repeat the promise we made to them in 1995 to all Americans today,” Mr. Clinton said in an op-ed that ran last Sunday in The Oklahoman.

It’s easy to dismiss this as boilerplate pulled straight from the “stuff politicians say” binder. But its tone is also conspicuous in how it contrasts with the words to a nation in need of solace and mending that come from the current White House.

One of the recurring features of the Trump years has been the president’s knack for detonating so many of our powerful shared experiences into us-versus-them grenades. Whether it’s the anniversary of a national catastrophe like the Oklahoma City bombing, the death of a widely admired statesman (Senator John McCain) or a lethal pathogen, Mr. Trump has exhibited minimal interest in the tradition of national strife placing a pause upon the usual smallness of politics.

In this fractured political environment, the president has shown particular zest for identifying symbols that reveal and exacerbate cultural divisions. Kneeling football players, plastic straws and the question of whether a commander in chief should be trumpeting an untested antimalarial drug from the White House briefing room have all become fast identifiers of what team you’re on. Looming sickness and mass death are no exception. The reflex to unite during a period of collective grief feels like another casualty of the current moment.

It used to be a norm, back before everything got stripped down to its noisiest culture war essence. Tradition dictated that whenever a national loss or trauma occurred, political combatants would stand down, at least for a time. President George W. Bush could embrace Senator Tom Daschle, then the Democratic majority leader, after an emotional address that Mr. Bush delivered to a joint session of congress in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. President Barack Obama did the same with Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, when Mr. Obama visited the state and saw the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

To varying degrees, both Mr. Daschle and Mr. Christie caught heat from within their parties after the crises faded into the past and partisan engines revved up again. At the time, though, the gestures felt appropriate and stature-enhancing for everyone involved. Those dynamics have since shifted considerably.

“I think we’re dealing with a whole different world and set of personalities,” said Mr. Daschle, now a former senator from South Dakota, adding that acts of solidarity during adverse times benefit all parties. “I remember after 9/11, congressional approval was something like in the ’80s, and for the president it was around the same,” he said.

Oklahoma City also offered a political gift to Mr. Clinton, a battered leader whose party had lost control of Congress the year before and who had, a few days earlier, found himself defending the “relevance” of his office. Mr. Clinton performed his role of eulogist and comforter, won bipartisan praise for his “performance” and an increase of good will that would eventually help right his presidency on a path to his re-election in 1996.

Mr. Clinton, historians said, always appreciated the power of big, bipartisan gestures, even when they involved incendiary rivals. “He understood the healing powers of the presidency,” said Ted Widmer, a presidential historian at City University of New York, and a former adviser to Mr. Clinton who assisted him in writing his memoirs. He mentioned a generous eulogy that Mr. Clinton delivered for disgraced former President Richard Nixon, after he died in 1994. “There is a basic impulse a president can have for when the country wants their leader to rise above politics and mudslinging,” Mr. Widmer said.

In that regard, Mr. Trump’s performance during this pandemic has been a missed opportunity. “The coronavirus could have been Donald Trump’s finest hour,” Mr. Widmer said. “You really sensed that Americans wanted to be brought together. But now that appears unattainable.”

For whatever reason, Mr. Trump seems uninterested in setting aside personal resentment, even when some small gestures — a photo op or a joint statement with Democratic leaders in Congress; a bipartisan pandemic commission chaired by former presidents — could score him easy statesmanship points.

His unwillingness to deal in any way with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (they have reportedly not spoken since the House voted to impeach Mr. Trump in January) has rendered him a bystander during negotiations with Congress on massive economic recovery bills that were by and large led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He has taken shots at popular Democratic governors in the hard-hit states of Washington and of Michigan; his approval ratings are dipping — and lag behind that of most governors.

Supporters of Mr. Trump say they appreciate that he doesn’t betray his true feelings for the sake of adhering to Beltway happy talk. This resolve appears central to his credibility with them. They elected him to disrupt, not to play nice and don a mask, whether made of artifice or cloth.

This weekend was supposed to mark another of those pauses in D.C. hostilities, albeit of a very different nature: the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the spring tradition that brings together a hair-sprayed throng along a pecking order of A- to D-list celebrities. The festivities are embedded with the ostensibly high-minded purpose of saluting the First Amendment and raising money for journalism scholarships. If you can score yourself a selfie with Gayle King, all the better.

In the view of many inside the Beltway, the correspondents’ dinner had long outlived its appeal and probably should have been canceled well before Covid-19 did the trick this year (the dinner has been postponed until August). Regardless, presidents of both parties would reliably show up, if only as a gesture of good faith or nod to a local bipartisan tradition.

But Mr. Trump — a veteran of the dinners in his pre-political days, including a memorable evening in which he endured a brutal roasting at the hands of then-President Barack Obama in 2011 — wanted no part of the correspondents’ dinner from the outset of his presidency. Instead, he would take the opportunity to hold “alternative programming” events in the form of Saturday night rallies in places like Pennsylvania, deftly placing himself in populist opposition to the preening Tux-and-Gowned creatures of the swamp.

Mr. Trump’s arrival in Washington inspired another counter-programing surrogate for the main event when the comedian Samantha Bee, host of the TBS program “Full Frontal,” started her own production across town, called “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.” There, she would toss affectionate barbs at the assembled press, usually at the expense of Mr. Trump. “You continue to fact-check the president,” she said in 2017, “as if he might actually someday get embarrassed.”

Beyond the excesses of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, for a president to partake of this tradition also requires an ability to be a good sport. The guest of honor will inevitably suffer good-natured ribbing at the hands of the hired comedian (or, better yet, not-so-good-natured ribbing — the most memorable routine occurring in 2006, when Stephen Colbert unleashed a sarcastic takedown of then-President George W. Bush and the press corps that Mr. Colbert pointedly suggested had coddled him).

The exercise also requires a president with at least minimal skill at solemnly paying heed to the principles that brought everyone together in the first place. First among these is the preservation of a free and fair press, not something a president fond of the term “fake news” will ever be synonymous with.

Still, for the many Washingtonians lucky enough to be working from home, six weeks being trapped indoors and fighting with family members about dishes can breed nostalgia for even the most played-out D.C. tradition. The correspondents’ dinner might confirm every worst stereotype of a full-of-itself political class. But anything that involves getting dressed up and actually doing stuff with other people sounds appetizing right about now, especially if it doesn’t involve Zoom.

Wisconsin long ago scheduled its primaries for April 7. When the dimensions of the public health crisis became apparent, Governor Tony Evers tried to postpone the election and to encourage voting by mail. Evers’s order to postpone the election was overturned by the state court, and its ruling was sustained by the U.S. Supreme Court, voting along partisan lines. Hundreds of thousands of people were disenfranchised.

To understand the fiasco, read this article by Stephen Rosenfeld:

The Republican Party affirmed with startling clarity on Monday that preserving political power was a higher priority than protecting public health or enabling voters to cast ballots that will be counted in the COVID-19 era.

The stage for this stunning partisan display embracing voter suppression was a constitutional crisis that erupted in Wisconsin, a day before scheduled statewide elections on April 7 for its 2020 presidential primary, a state Supreme Court seat, and contests for hundreds of local offices.

The election will continue on April 7, but the reverberations from Monday rulings by Wisconsin’s Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court later in the day in a related lawsuit have set down markers that suggest that securing voting rights in a pandemic is anything but assured—especially if anti-participatory state laws and voting procedures will be upheld by majorities on the highest courts.

Efforts by Democrats to postpone in-person voting and extend voting by mail due to the pandemic were rejected by conservative majorities on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and on the U.S. Supreme Court. In separate rulings, both courts sided with the Republican National Committee and Wisconsin Republicans.

“The Court’s order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote
in a dissent signed by the court’s three other liberal justices. “A voter cannot deliver for postmarking a ballot she has not received. Yet tens of thousands of voters who timely requested ballots are unlikely to receive them by April 7, the Court’s postmark deadline [to return ballots].”

While this ideological split may not be new in electoral politics, especially in voting right cases where conservatives seek strict laws limiting participation and liberals seek flexibility to enfranchise voters, it was a “bad sign” for the climate heading into elections in the fall, said Rick Hasen, ElectionLawBlog.org founder and a nationally known constitutional scholar.

“It is a very bad sign for November that the Court could not come together and find some form of compromise here in the midst of a global pandemic unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes,” he wrote. “Like the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court divided along partisan and ideological lines.”

The courts’ rulings capped a day of high drama and a state constitutional crisis.

On Monday afternoon, Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order to postpone in-person voting and extend the deadline for absentee ballots to be mailed in, citing the pandemic. But the state’s Republican majority legislature challenged Evers’ order before the conservative-led Wisconsin Supreme Court. The GOP legislative leadership issued a statement telling local officials to keep planning for Tuesday’s election, creating great tension and uncertainty as the Democratic governor and Republican legislature headed into court.

By a 4-2 vote later in the day, the Wisconsin Supreme Court nullified Evers’ executive order, forcing the in-person voting to continue on April 7 and restoring the deadline for absentee ballots to be returned by the same day for them to count. Meanwhile, hundreds of polling places were not going to open after poll workers withdrew due to the pandemic. For example, only five of Milwaukee’s 180 polls would be opened in that non-white epicenter, ElectionLawBlog.org noted.

“The April 7 Spring Election and Presidential Preference Primary is occurring as scheduled,” a headline on the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) website said after the state Supreme Court ruling.

In addition to in-person voting, the WEC website said that 1,275,254 absentee ballots had been requested by voters and that 724,777 had been returned by April 6. Other reports by academics citing WEC data said that local officials had yet to mail out 10,000 ballots. Meanwhile, half-a-million ballots had yet to be returned.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision was not entirely unexpected, because in 2016 outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-led legislature stripped many authorities from the incoming Democratic governor. Democrats had fought those laws, enacted after the 2016 election in a lame-duck session, but lost.

“This is a real constitutional showdown,” said Kevin Kennedy, the ex-executive director of Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, which oversaw the elections for decades until Walker and GOP legislators dismantled the board.

“When I was there I thought the governor had the power to do something [like postpone an election in a crisis], but in 2016 the Legislature severely restricted the governor’s power,” Kennedy said. “He [Walker] signed all of these laws that he would never have tolerated as restrictions on his power. Even the Attorney General can’t settle a lawsuit without approval from the legislature.”

However, shortly after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in—responding to another lawsuit filed late on Friday by the Republican National Committee and Wisconsin’s GOP-led legislature. (Its Republican majority was created by gerrymandering after the 2010 census.)

The U.S. Supreme Court decision followed a tortuous path that began with lower court orders that sought to help voters but ended with its ruling withdrawing that help.

Earlier on Friday, April 3, a federal district court with a judge appointed by President Obama extended the Wisconsin election’s mail-in balloting deadline by a week and said that absentee voters did not have to find a witness to sign their ballots. The witness requirement was a pre-existing state law.

That pro-voter ruling was appealed by Republicans to a federal circuit court, which reinstated the witness requirement but kept the week-long extension for absentee ballots to be returned. The RNC then appealed the extension to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that some Wisconsin voters would be voting after Election Day.

The Republicans argued that no special exceptions should be made, even though the pandemic had led local officials to send out six times as many vote-by-mail ballots as in the 2018 election—and by late Monday more than 500,000 hadn’t been returned, according to the WEC.

The Supreme Court’s conservative bloc agreed with the Republican litigants, issuing a ruling that drew harsh criticism by the court’s liberal minority.

“The Court’s [majority] suggestion that the current situation is not ‘substantially different’ from ‘an ordinary election’ boggles the mind,” Justice Ginsburg’s dissent said. “Some 150,000 requests for absentee ballots have been processed since Thursday, state records indicate. The surge in absentee-ballot requests has overwhelmed election officials, who face a huge backlog in sending ballots.”

“It is among the most cynical decisions I have read from this Court—devoid of even the pretense of engaging with the reality that this decision will mean one of two things for many WI voters: either they will risk their health & lives to vote, or they will be disenfranchised,” tweeted Sherrilyn Ifill, president and lead counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

A Troubling Precedent

In the coming days, it will become clear how many thousands of voters will see their absentee ballots rejected because they arrived too late to be returned by April 7. But Monday’s high court rulings—by a state supreme court and federal Supreme Court—will resonate in other 2020 swing states that are wrestling with expanding absentee balloting in response to the pandemic.

The partisan divide that led to Wisconsin’s constitutional crisis, where a Democratic executive branch and a Republican-led legislature could not agree on voting reforms, is not unusual—although the Wisconsin governor’s weakened authority is somewhat unique. The 2020 swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina all have different parties controlling their executive and legislative branches. These states are already seeing clashes over expanding absentee voting in response to the pandemic.

Analysts in Wisconsin, including conservatives such as Charlie Sykes, said that no one should doubt that the Wisconsin GOP was putting partisan power before the public interest. Sykes noted that Republicans believe they can win a state Supreme Court seat if the April 7 election continued and other voting options were curtailed.

“In Wisconsin, the GOP would rather endanger people’s lives and have a clusterf—-k election, so long as it gives them a chance at clinging to a piece of government power,” he wrote Monday on TheBulwark.com, which Sykes founded and where he is an editor at large. “Don’t be confused about any [of] the motivations here: [The] GOP position is about power, not ideology.”

[Please read the rest of the article by opening the link.]

Politico Morning Education reported yesterday that the coronavirus legislation in Congress has been delayed because Republicans and Democrats disagree about including college student debt relief.

Of course, other issues between the parties have stymied an agreement, especially the $500 billion economic recovery fund that would be administered by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. Republicans want him to have broad discretion over where the money goes; Democrats insist on oversight, to ensure that he is not favoring Republican donors and underwriting Trump family properties, like Mar-a-Lago and Trump hotels. The latest speculation in the media is that the parties may reach agreement later today. Keep your eye on the Mnuchin fund.

REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS SPAR OVER STUDENT DEBT RELIEF IN STIMULUS BILL: Republicans and Democrats are fighting over how to structure relief for the nation’s tens of millions of student loan borrowers as part of the massive stimulus plan to address the economic havoc caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

— At the core of the student debt dispute: Republicans have largely embraced the idea that borrowers should immediately be able to put their payments on hold without accruing interest; Democrats say that’s an insufficient half-measure and want to see some amount of debt cancellation.

— The latest Senate GOP stimulus bill circulated on Sunday would require the Education Department to suspend payments on federally held student loans for six months without interest accruing — a modest expansion from an earlier bill that called for a three-month mandatory suspension with an additional three-month pause at the discretion of the department.

— Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unable to advance the bill through a procedural vote on Sunday evening as Democrats objected. Among the many “major problems” with the bill, according to a senior Democratic aide, was that it doesn’t “provide adequate relief for the 44 million federal student loan borrowers.”

— The GOP plan follows the Trump administration’s executive actions to halt interest on federally held student loans and give borrowers a new forbearance option to pause their payments for the next two months. (Sen. Mitt Romney on Friday also proposed a longer forbearance of up to three years for recent graduates entering the job market.)

— But Senate Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, are pushing a counter proposal: They want to cancel the monthly payments owed during the national emergency and guarantee each borrower receive at least $10,000 in loan forgiveness. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who campaigned on sweeping student debt cancellation, has pressed the issue with Schumer personally, including during phone calls last week, according to a Huffington Post report on Sunday.

— Biden, who has resisted calling for widespread student debt cancellation in his education plans, on Sunday backed the plan to forgive at least $10,000 in debt per borrower as part of the stimulus bill. “Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis,” Biden tweeted. “It shouldn’t happen again.”

— In the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated she may start drafting her own stimulus bill, there’s growing pressure from progressives to include student loan forgiveness. A group of progressive lawmakers, led by Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar, urged House leadership to include loan forgiveness in the bill. The letter was signed by Rep. Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Rep. Maxine Waters, the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has also separately called for including $10,000 in student debt forgiveness in a coronavirus stimulus plan.

— Rep. Bobby Scott, the chair of the House education committee, hasn’t publicly backed any student loan forgiveness plan and it wasn’t included as part of his $3 billion coronavirus bill to address education rolled out last week. But a Democratic committee aide told POLITICO: “The Senate Democrats proposal is a step in the right direction.”

— Republicans, meanwhile, say Democrats are exploiting a crisis to enact their policy agenda. “Democrats are trying to reduce student loans by $10,000. What the hell has that got to do with the virus,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Fox News on Sunday. “I’m sure everybody could use more money, but I don’t want to give money to people who have a paycheck. I want to give money to people who have lost their jobs.”

Arthur Camins writes about the importance of voting Democratic in November. He says he supports Senator Sanders but recognizes that he is unlikely to win the nomination, given the double-digit losses sustained by his personal choice. The stakes are high, he writes, and he’s prepared to support former Vice President Joe Biden.

https://www.dailykos.com/story/2020/3/19/1929172/-A-Time-to-Every-Purpose-Vote-for-the-Democrat-in-November

He begins:

“Short of some unexpected dramatic development, there is a high potential for Joe Biden’s nomination. I want Bernie to win, but the delegate numbers are not just media hype. It is real.

“I see a lot of non-voting, 3rd party and write- in sentiment. I have no idea if this is widespread or just a feature of a few websites or bots out to suppress the vote. Either way, I find it alarming. I hope it is in-the-moment anger and disappointment rather than long-term resolve.

“I have supported Bernie. I’m furious and frustrated too. So, I’m writing to persuade, not condemn.

“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven ….

“A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

“And a time to every purpose, under heaven

“A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late (Peter Seeger)

“Now is not the time to count on an alternative progressive 3rd party win, never done before in a substantive way at the national level. That takes years of grassroots organizing at the local level. It cannot be done in time to prevent Trump from being elected.

“Now is not the time for a symbolic protest vote. Stopping Trump’s reelection is essential. Lives depend on it.

“For me, a lifelong progressive, that means that anyone who cares about human and political rights must vote for whoever is the Democratic nominee. There is no moral equivalence between Trump and Biden. Even if Bernie wins the nomination, that organizing would be essential for him to implement his agenda. That is what “political revolution” means. If Trump wins– the assured result of non-voting, 3rd party, or write-in votes– his authoritarian impulses will be unleashed and uncontrolled.”

Please read on.

The National Education Association has endorsed Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination for president.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Joe Biden continued to consolidate support in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination today when he won the endorsement of the National Education Assn., the country’s largest labor union. With 3 million members, the union’s announcement will probably accelerate Biden’s effort to cement his standing as the Democratic front-runner.

How much has changed in only one week!

A week ago, Biden was counted out and had almost run out of money.

Then came South Carolina, and African American voters picked Biden and turned him into a top contender. Endorsements by Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and Beto quickly buoyed Biden’s campaign.

Michael Bloomberg, the only open supporter of charter schools, was routed, despite spending more than all the other candidates put together. To everyone’s surprise, voters ignored Bloomberg’s effort to outspend everyone else, to open more offices and hire more staff. The nomination was not for sale. He did win America Samoa. But it’s only a matter of time—hours or days—until he drops out. He is no longer a factor. Now let’s see if he follows through with his pledge to support the Democratic nominee and to spend big money to match the Republican money juggernaut.

Trump doesn’t want to face Biden in November. He made that clear when he twisted the arm of the president of Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden. He appealed publicly to China to find dirt on Biden.

I know that Sanders supports public schools. I hope that Biden doesn’t revive the Obama approach to education. Biden does support unions and recognizes that they built the middle class.

The election is not over. Warren remains but it’s hard to see how she survives after losing her home state. It’s come down to Sanders and Biden. I will gladly support either one.

Only days ago, the American Federation of Teachers encouraged its members to support one of the following three candidates: Joe Biden, Bernard Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren.

Today, Randi announced her support for Warren. Some locals, such as UTLA, have already endorsed Sanders. The AFT endorsement will be one of the three already named.

This is Randi’s personal statement:

Why I’m Supporting Elizabeth Warren

I get asked a lot by our members and others about which candidate I’m supporting for president. And I often pivot to the stakes in this election, and to a plea for unity for the ultimate Democratic nominee. In this election—clearly, the most important in our lifetime—our voices and our actions matter. For me, for my family, my union, our members and their families, and the communities we serve—the outcome of the presidential and congressional elections in November will have momentous consequences.

This election represents an existential crisis for our democracy and our very way of life. Will we be a country that privileges the unimaginably wealthy over people who work every day to build a better life for their families? Will we support the rights of all our children to attend safe and welcoming public schools where they can get a world-class education and the wraparound services they need to help overcome challenges they might face? Will we permit young people to drown in college debt that compromises their future? Will we provide affordable, accessible healthcare and affordable, needed prescription drugs to all, regardless of whether they have pre-existing conditions or live in rural areas? Will we turn a blind eye to this nation’s burgeoning bigotry, racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, hate and acts of violence? Will we literally save the planet for future generations? Will we preserve and strengthen our democracy?

And that doesn’t even address having a president with the basic competency to handle a global public health crisis like coronavirus that no longer falls into a neat ideological “them versus us” bucket.

Neither I nor the AFT executive council thought the answers to these questions could wait. We decided we couldn’t sit on the sidelines waiting for a challenger to emerge from these primary contests.

As a union, we’ve had a robust endorsement process that more than 300,000 members have engaged in. Now, as most of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be elected in the coming weeks, we thought it was time to go from listening and questioning to advocacy and support.

We believe as a union that three Democratic candidates best represent the values and concerns of our members and the communities we serve: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Our members are supporting these three candidates because they share our values, and we know we can count on them. Each has been a strong and reliable advocate for ensuring safe and welcoming environments in our schools, our hospitals and our communities; investing in public schools, colleges and services that are necessary to fund our future; protecting the freedom to teach and the freedom to care so we can meet our students’ and patients’ needs; fighting for the freedom to live securely on one job’s wages, with a decent retirement and the right to join a union, and without catastrophic healthcare costs or crushing student debt; fighting the destructive hate, bigotry and divisiveness that are undermining our democracy; and fighting to secure justice for all.

Any of these three Democrats would be a transformational improvement over Donald Trump. And the AFT is encouraging our members and our affiliates, including all our leaders, to support—actively and vocally—any of them.

But when I am asked which candidate I will vote for, I’ve personally concluded that there is one who has the life experience that brings an understanding of what families—all families— need today to have a better future, the bold agenda to achieve that better life, and the wherewithal to work with others to turn her ideas into reality. And, of course, the toughness and persistence to take on Donald Trump.

That’s why today I am announcing my personal support for our champion, my friend, former teacher and professor—Sen. Elizabeth Warren. I will vote for her in the New York primary on April 28.

It’s a big deal that there’s a former special education teacher running for president. Being a teacher means being fearless and flexible, loving and compassionate, hardworking and resilient, and dedicated and devoted to making life better for all kids and families. Being a teacher means having an innate understanding of the value of public education and what is needed to help all children succeed and to support all educators.

Elizabeth Warren gets this. She infuses all of those qualities and experiences into her candidacy for president. They’re evident in the plans she’s unveiled and her actions as consumer advocate and senator. And we see it in how she’s running her campaign for president.

Yes, she is smart and fearless. Yes, she has plan after plan to invest in public education, child care, infrastructure and healthcare. Yes, she has a plan to restore our democracy; fight corruption; unrig our economy so it benefits working people, with a specific focus on communities of color; and make sure our children inherit a healthier earth. But she has also shown throughout her career the ability not just to raise problems but also to turn ideas into action and get things done. That’s what we need in our next president. This election isn’t just a referendum on Donald Trump, as important as that is. It is our chance to chart a new direction for our nation and create the better life people aspire to. We need a leader up for the challenge of both defeating Donald Trump and accomplishing real change for the American people. That’s Elizabeth Warren.

Beating Expectations

On going toe-to-toe with Donald Trump, let’s remember who she defeated in 2012 to become senator. Scott Brown was a bombastic fake populist, born of the tea party and an early prototype of Trump-style politics. I remember when everyone counted her out, when people said a woman just couldn’t beat Scott Brown, and when she was down by double digits in the polls. Nevertheless, she persisted, and she worked to gain the trust and support of voters—and she beat Scott Brown by double digits.

Saying the Hard Things

And just look at her most recent debate performances after the media totally wrote her off. Just imagine the debate between Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren, if he will even debate her, because she will expose his lies and damage to our nation. And because she is a smart and strategic debater and thinker, she’s already gotten results by raising real and legitimate issues with Michael Bloomberg. While the fight might have gotten the headlines, Warren’s public pressure led Bloomberg to lift several nondisclosure agreements with women so they can share their stories if they choose. That’s getting things done.

A Game-Changer for Public Education

When it comes to public education, Biden, Sanders and Warren all have bold plans to support public schools, help all children, and support educators. But Warren embeds her experience as a special education teacher and professor into her proposals. And after a decade of disinvestment, teacher bashing and testing that supplanted the needs of children, only to be followed by the DeVos agenda to defund and decimate public education in favor of failed vouchers and privatization, it would be great to send a teacher to the White House.

Sen. Warren’s plans for public education would be a game-changer for our public schools and the 90 percent of America’s students who attend them. It is focused, first and foremost, on creating and cultivating the vibrant, safe and welcoming environments kids deserve, and on providing educators the voice and supports they need as professionals to help their students learn and thrive.

Quadrupling funding for schools serving children who live in poverty, keeping the original promise of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to children with special needs, and investing in 25,000 community schools that meet the social and emotional needs of children, and which serve as neighborhood hubs, would be transformational. So too would the plan’s investment in school infrastructure, which would ensure that students and teachers are not forced to endure lead in their drinking water, buckling floors, or other unsafe conditions in school that hurt teaching and learning. Warren’s plans are about supporting students from birth to college and career, and on supporting teachers throughout their careers. And when it comes to teachers—she couples the need to attract and retain and diversify members of our profession with a plan to invest in historically black colleges and universities, and a plan to confront student loan debt.

Her plan puts checks and balances in place to combat the effort by corporate interests to privatize and monetize our public schools. And it stops charter schools from having a competitive advantage over public schools by ensuring the transparency and accountability we have talked about for years. Written by a teacher for all students and all educators, it is a plan focused on equity and excellence that would truly fulfill the promise and potential of public education as the foundation of our democracy and the great equalizer of opportunity in our nation. And it would be pushed forward every day by having, as she promised, a teacher at the helm of the Department of Education.

Unrigging the Economy

Both Sanders and Warren have called out the rigging of the rules of our economy in favor of the rich. That’s why so many people support Sanders for his blunt talk about millionaires and billionaires and likely why he is the current front-runner. I’ve watched Warren not just talk about the decimation of the middle class and the rigging of our economy by the rich but actually take action to unrig the rules and help people get ahead.

Warren has spent nearly her entire career focused on why working- and middle-class Americans continue to fall further and further behind while the rich just keep getting richer—and what to do about it. It’s not just about income inequality, it’s about affordability and working families being squeezed every which way. It’s about confronting the structural racism that has led to predatory and discriminatory practices targeting communities of color and shutting them out of the middle class and the American dream.

After decades of the wealthy and well-connected using their power and influence to rig the rules so they benefit at the expense of everyone else, and as they’ve gone after unions and any kind of power and voice working people have in our economy and democracy—we’ve reached a breaking point. Wages aren’t keeping up with the basic costs of living and raising a family. Americans are buried under a mountain of student debt and being crushed by healthcare, child care and housing costs. The notion that after a lifetime of hard work a person can retire with dignity is evaporating as more and more people retire into poverty. Communities have been decimated by deindustrialization and the whims of the markets. And under Donald Trump, the rich have just gotten richer at everyone else’s expense.

When the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression struck our nation and ravaged our economy and peoples’ lives, Elizabeth Warren got the opportunity to change this. And she sprang into action. She understood that the crisis was not caused by folks just trying to achieve the American dream but by unregulated, unrestrained Wall Street banks that preyed on Americans and whose greed created a house of cards that crashed our economy and devastated peoples’ lives. And while the banks got bailed out, Americans lost their jobs, their homes, their savings, and their hopes and dreams.

She fought for Wall Street reforms that would help prevent the big banks from ever creating this kind of crisis ever again—and she went a step further to provide direct relief for Americans scammed by Wall Street and protections for consumers so they can’t be preyed upon.

She created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau through the hard work of not only making the case for it every day in public and building a diverse coalition to create public demand but also by building support in the Obama administration, in Congress and even some in the banking community. There’s a reason the economically powerful in the Republican Party and on Wall Street were so dead set against her becoming head of the CFPB. They knew how effective she would be at reining in the risky and predatory practices of Wall Street. She may never have been able to lead her creation, but the CFPB has been an effective advocate for consumers, even as Trump has tried to kill it, and has provided $12.4 billion in relief to 31 million Americans. Just imagine what Warren can achieve with the full economy to solve our affordability crisis and increase the power of working- and middle-class Americans. Warren is a capitalist, but she is someone who understands the dangers of untamed capitalism and the need for the kind of checks and balances on Wall Street and big corporations that prioritize profits above all else. And that is why she has been such a big supporter of unions as the vehicle for working people to have a voice on the job, power in our democracy, and the ability to bargain with employers for the wages and benefits we need to support ourselves and our families.

Confronting Our Student Debt Crisis and Making College Affordable

When it comes to America’s affordability crisis, the $1.6 trillion albatross of student debt is one of the biggest crises we face. Sen. Warren has been a leader in putting this crisis on the map—holding accountable the loan companies and people like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos who continues to prioritize loan servicers over loan borrowers.

When Sen. Warren talks about what gave her a shot at the American dream, she gives a lot of credit to the $50-a-semester commuter college she attended. This fight is personal to her, and that’s evident in her plan to cancel student loan debt for more than 95 percent of the nearly 42 million Americans who carry this debt. Warren’s plan would release Americans from their debt sentence so they can live their lives, care for their families and have a fair shot at the American dream. Not only would her plan wipe out student debt for most Americans, it would do so automatically and immediately, so people wouldn’t have to worry about being approved or having to deal with confusing paperwork. It would bolster the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which has been completely sabotaged by President Trump, Betsy DeVos and big student loan companies like Navient. Today, 41 states spend less on public higher education than they did before the recession: Warren’s plan would reverse that and provide universal tuition-free education at public two- and four-year colleges and technical schools, and ban for-profit colleges from receiving federal aid.

Earlier this year, Warren pressed DeVos to collect the $22.3 million that student loan servicer Navient Corp. owes the U.S. Department of Education, and she has acted to hold DeVos accountable from day one. Warren grilled DeVos during her confirmation hearing about her lack of experience on public education and her ability to manage the Department of Education’s student loan portfolio, especially given her family’s connections to for-profit colleges and student loan companies. Warren has called out DeVos for failing to support defrauded students and tearing up protections like the borrower defense rule. She’s fought to lower interest rates, refinance loans and to cancel loans for 80,000 students who were cheated by Corinthian Colleges. She’s been my go-to expert when I’ve needed advice on student debt issues.

Besides having the policy know-how and the ability to get things done, being an effective leader also means being an effective listener. Here again, I’ve watched Warren be thoughtful, listen to people, ask the tough questions, and adjust her thinking based on evidence, experts and people’s lived experiences. I’ve been in those meetings where she has asked tough questions. She is guided not by ideology but by what works.

Expanding and Improving Healthcare for Families

After Warren came out with her initial Medicare for All plan, she really took to heart the concerns of many Americans who were nervous about a sudden switch away from their private insurance as well as those of us who believe Medicare for All should be a floor, not a ceiling. And she retooled her proposal to build in a transition phase to actually make sure Medicare for All works and that the American people felt comfortable before moving forward. It’s unfortunate that she took a lot of hits for this thoughtful approach, but I want a president who listens and responds to people and builds trust.

And while it’s no longer on people’s radar, the fight a few years ago in Massachusetts over the charter school cap again demonstrated Warren’s thoughtful approach and strong leadership. This was a huge moment when billionaires were using parents as a front to open the floodgates and have an open-ended number of charters in Massachusetts without accountability and transparency. They were trying to replicate what DeVos pushed in Michigan. These wealthy interests were overpromising the public as a way to siphon off resources from public schools. Sen. Warren didn’t want to weigh in until she understood the stakes and what was really happening. She asked tough questions, and she listened to the concerns of educators and parents. She wanted to do whatever would help all kids succeed. And when she did weigh in and actively opposed open-ended charters in Massachusetts, it turned the tide. People saw her as fighting for the best interests of kids and families, and together we exposed the real motives behind the other side. That fight was a real turning point in shifting the narrative in favor of investing in the public schools that 90 percent of America’s children attend.

An American for Everyone

Elizabeth Warren believes in the dignity and worth of every human. She doesn’t pit people against one another, she doesn’t foment hatred and bigotry, she doesn’t blame “the other.” Warren believes that we are best when we live up to our ideals of justice for all and our nation’s motto: out of many, one. That’s why she is a fierce advocate for “Dreamers” and ensuring they have a place in our nation and can achieve their dreams. That’s why on nearly every issue—from education to housing to jobs to our climate—she has a specific focus on helping communities often left out and left behind. She will truly be a president for all Americans.

For these reasons and more, I believe Elizabeth Warren is the candidate we need to defeat Donald Trump and once again achieve big things in America.

As the Boston Globe declared this week: “One candidate stands out as a leader with the qualifications, the track record, and the tenacity to defend the principles of democracy, bring fairness to an economy that is excluding too many Americans, and advance a progressive agenda,” and that person is Elizabeth Warren.

That’s why I am supporting Elizabeth Warren and voting to put a teacher in the White House. Warren is the fearless, thoughtful leader we need to enact real change to improve peoples’ lives and create a better future for all.

I will end where I started: We confront an existential crisis for our democracy and our very way of life. And I will, like so many others, support the person the Democrats ultimately nominate. I will work harder than I ever have, as I know our union will, to change the direction of our country and defeat Donald Trump.

At the same time in this moment, we can and must ensure that hope wins over despair, compassion over cruelty, fairness over inequality, and that justice and freedom become a lived experience for all. Elizabeth Warren is the candidate who can bring us together and bring out the best in America.

Mark Green was a young, vigorous, popular progressive who won the Democratic primary for mayor in 2001. New York City is overwhelmingly Democratic, and usually the Democratic nomination is enough to assure election.

But Mark Green faced an unusual Republican opponent, billionaire MIchael Bloomberg. No one knew much about Bloomberg, but he had the endorsement of Republican Mayor Rudy Guiliani, who had turned into a symbol of resilience and heroism after the devastating attack of September 11, 2001.

Green is now supporting Elizabeth Warren.

Mark Green writes here about what happened next in 2001.

Three weeks before the New York mayoral election in November of 2001, I got a call from Mark Mellman, the pollster working on my race against Michael Bloomberg.

“Well, I have good and bad news. The good news is that I’ve never had a client 20 points ahead this late in a campaign who lost. The bad news is that Bloomberg is spending a million dollars a day — not a month but a day — and gaining a point a day.” I quickly did the math and shuddered.

I lost the race by a margin of 50% to 48%, after being outspent $73.9 million to $16.3 million. Ironically, I raised more money than any other U.S. mayoral candidate in history, making 30,000 phone calls and receiving 11,000 contributions. But Mike, who didn’t have to make phone calls, spent the most money ever on a mayoral campaign. He simply wrote checks.

It’s no great surprise that after buying the mayoralty, Bloomberg decided to see if he could do the same with the presidency. There have been other self-funded candidates, of course, and they have all failed. Ross Perot spent $79 million in 1992 and Steve Forbes $60 million in 2000.

But if Mike gets the nomination, his spending already has dwarfed what they spent. He is a bank posing as a person.

I know what that looks like. In the closing weeks of our 2001 race, I had the helpless feeling that there was no strategy that could counter his spending. Everywhere I went I saw or heard a Bloomberg ad: in between innings during the Yankees’ World Series games, on hip-hop stations, on walls in Chinatown, on the rotating billboard at a Knicks game, on mailings that piled up in the lobbies of buildings across the city. He even sent small radios with his name on them….

Bloomberg does have some solid liberal credibility — on climate, guns and public health — but on many core issues his record is a liability. He has called Social Security “a Ponzi Scheme.” He opposed raising the minimum wage. He blamed the 2008 Great Recession, in part, on laws against predatory lending. He denounced Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. He enthusiastically endorsed the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004, was an apologist for the Russian takeover of Crimea and has a long record of making demeaning comments about women. And, as late as last year, he was still advocating a “stop-and-frisk” approach and defending his record on the practice.

Given Bloomberg’s shaky performance in the Nevada debate, it’s hard to feel confident he can reassure liberal Democrats on those issues.

Based on my knowledge of him from our own two debates, as well as his record as mayor and now presidential candidate, I have three questions about his prospects for 2020:

First, will his ability to carpet-bomb the country with ads be enough to overcome the liabilities of his record in the minds of millions of Democrats? Maybe. That certainly worked in New York City in 2001.

Second, if no candidate wins enough delegates to secure a majority, will Bloomberg have a large enough bloc of convention delegates to influence who the party’s choice of a nominee will be on a second or third ballot? Again, the answer is maybe.

Finally, in the event that Bloomberg secured the nomination, would liberals embrace him if Trump is the alternative? Here, there’s no maybe, even for a Warren supporter like me. After four years of watching Trump try to destroy democracy, the answer is yes.

The American Federation of Teachers Issued this statement yesterday:

 

Press Release

American Federation of Teachers Passes Resolution to Encourage Support for 3 of the 2020 Democratic Primary Candidates

For Release:

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Contact:

Oriana Korin
Oriana.Korin@aft.org

WASHINGTON—In a telephone town hall on Thursday night with thousands of American Federation of Teachers members and leaders who have been actively engaged in the union’s 2020 presidential endorsement process, AFT President Randi Weingarten, Scranton (Pa.) Federation of Teachers President Rosemary Boland, AFT Vermont President Deb Snell and Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang discussed the next steps in the AFT’s plan for supporting candidates as the 2020 Democratic presidential primary continues to unfold.

Weingarten reported on this week’s meeting of the AFT executive council, including the passage of a resolution outlining the next steps in the AFT’s 2020 endorsement process. The board voted to step up what is already unprecedented member engagement in the upcoming election by encouraging locals and state affiliates to support, be actively involved with, or endorse the candidacies of Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, ahead of the selection of more than 60 percent of the delegates by the end of March. The resolution signals to members and leaders that support for any of those three candidates is welcome at this stage of the process before the union makes a national endorsement.

This next phase of the union’s 2020 endorsement process follows record member engagement in the first stage of the presidential primary, with more than 300,000 members participating to date—including the public education forum in Pittsburgh that featured seven candidates, the 10 candidate town halls hosted with members around the country, numerous telephone town halls, several member surveys and polls, five regional meetings, and countless activities at the local and affiliate levels. Several AFT locals and state federations have already made candidate endorsements, as encouraged by the initial endorsement resolution(link is external), passed in March of 2019.

Weingarten said:

“We are fighting for working families and our communities to have the freedom to live, and a voice at work and in our democracy. Donald Trump has proven himself to be an existential threat to the values and aspirations of educators, healthcare professionals, public employees and the communities we serve every day. While several candidates in this race share our values, three in particular—Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren have significant support within our membership. There is a real connection with these three candidates because of their record of working with us over the years on public education, higher education, healthcare, labor and civil rights.

“Given the stakes of this election, the enthusiasm among our membership to engage, and the nature of the democratic nomination process, our board felt strongly that until the AFT makes a national endorsement in the primary process or at the AFT convention, it is important that our affiliates, members and leaders, including the three national officers, be actively involved in supporting and helping Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren.

“It was clear that the time to take this action was now, before all the delegates are chosen and before all of the primaries are over, so that AFT members and leaders can help shape the race and the narrative, ensure our voices are heard, and ensure one of these three candidates emerges as the nominee. Because, make no mistake: We are in the fight of our lives—for a better life for our members and the communities we serve, to preserve our democracy, and to defeat Donald Trump. Ultimately, we must be unified and support the eventual Democratic nominee.”

Boland said:

 

“As a native of Scranton, Vice President Biden knows firsthand about the economic, educational and social issues that matter to our community. He has been a lifelong advocate for strong public schools, labor rights, and access to quality and affordable healthcare—issues important to our members, working families and the students we teach. I, and my members, aren’t just supporting the vice president because of his past record, but also because of his vision for the future—a vision that is focused on strengthening the middle class and providing opportunity for everyone. We are committed to turning out for Joe Biden ahead of Pennsylvania’s April 28 primary, and we resolve to do the same for whomever the eventual Democratic nominee is, too. The stakes are too high to sit on the sidelines.”

 

Snell said:

 

“AFT Vermont has proudly endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president, and our members in higher education and healthcare are already engaged in his movement to bring universal healthcare to every person in this country, and an affordable college education. Sen. Sanders has shown he has the vision, the momentum and the diversity of support necessary to enact bold policy changes that will undo the corrupting influence of corporate power on our economy, and allow working people to access the better-life issues we fight for every day: decent wages, a secure retirement, good healthcare and an opportunity for our families to get ahead. We are committed to helping Sen. Sanders win delegates, and also committed to supporting whichever Democrat ends up taking on Donald Trump in November.”

 

Tang said:

 

“Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the true visionary in this race for president: Her plans for big, structural change make her the clear choice for the Boston Teachers Union and AFT Massachusetts. Sen. Warren’s values are aligned with ours. We strongly support her plans for public education, immigration justice and building an economy that works for all by making it easier for workers in all sectors to join a union and by tackling our nation’s student debt crisis. She has stood with us every step of the way in our ongoing efforts to win the necessary funding and policies to strengthen public education for all, particularly for the students and communities with the greatest needs. This is a critical time for us to show leadership, so we’re proud to stand behind her during the Massachusetts Democratic presidential primary. We look forward to supporting her or whomever is elected as the eventual Democratic nominee.”

 

 

Charter advocates have reacted with astonishment and outrage at the Trump-DeVos decision to fold the federal Charter Schools Program into a block grant to the states, along with 29 other programs. The Trump administration’s goal is to shift federal funding to states and let them decide how to spend the money.

Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat writes the story here, detailing the administration’s rationale and charter advocates’ reaction. 

Jim Blew, formerly of the Walton Family Foundation, which claims to have launched one of every four charters in the nation, brushed off the charter lobbyists: 

“The federal lobbyists for charter schools sound a lot like the lobbyists for all of the other competitive grant programs,” Assistant Secretary Jim Blew told Chalkbeat in a statement. “In their desperate communications, they have exaggerated the importance of CSP — just like other lobbyists,” he added, referring to the Charter Schools Program.

It’s not clear that the program is in real jeopardy, since Congress has previously disregarded the Trump administration’s proposed budgets. But the budget proposal and combative rhetoric suggest that charter advocates do not have as staunch an ally in the administration as they previously believed.

“We are saddened and puzzled by the Department of Education’s comments,” said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which has receivedfederal charter dollars. “We advocate for the federal Charter Schools Program because we believe it is a lifeline for students.”

Rees formerly was education advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney and to entrepreneur MIchael Milken, who engaged in education philanthropy after serving a term in prison for financial crimes.

Strangely, Barnum refers to Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) as “left of center,” which is laughable since they were founded by and funded by hedge fund managers, some of whom are billionaires and may not even be Democrats. DFER’s funding has gone to supporters of school choice, and their beneficiaries show no interest in funding, class size, teachers’ salaries, integration or other issues that matter to progressive Democrats.

It is ironic that the Republican-dominated charter industry will now have to count on Democrats in the House to save the federal Charter Schools Program, which DeVos has used to fatten avaricious corporate charter chains.

The federal CSP has funded a large proportion of the nation’s charter schools, acting like “the Small Business Administration” for charters entrepreneurs, as NPE executive director Carol Burris said recently on Twitter.

Barnum wrote:

A recent presentation from the Department showed the figure was slightly higher: as of 2016, more than 3,100 existing charter had received such a grant, with the program helping to fund close to 45% of all operating charters. (Morabito, the spokesperson, acknowledged the error when asked about it by Chalkbeat.)

For charters that opened between 2006 and 2016, the share was even higher — 60% had received a federal grant.

Studies of the federal Charter Schools Program by the Network for Public Education found that it was riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse. More than 1/3 of the federally funded charters either never opened or closed soon after opening. This is a program that should be eliminated.

What will the Democrats do?