Archives for category: Elections

Ed McBroom is a dairy farmer in Michigan. He is also a Republican state senator who chairs the Oversight Committee of the legislature. It was his job to determine whether the election of 2020 was marked by fraud, as Trump said on many occasions. McBroom led hearings and investigated the claims. After eight months of searching, McBroom said he was unable to find evidence of fraud. His committee’s conclusion: “This Committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election.”

The stakes could hardly have been higher. Against a backdrop of confusion and suspicion and frightening civic friction—with Trump claiming he’d been cheated out of victory, and anecdotes about fraud coursing through every corner of the state—McBroom had led an exhaustive probe of Michigan’s electoral integrity. His committee interviewed scores of witnesses, subpoenaed and reviewed thousands of pages of documents, dissected the procedural mechanics of Michigan’s highly decentralized elections system, and scrutinized the most trafficked claims about corruption at the state’s ballot box in November. McBroom’s conclusion hit Lansing like a meteor: It was all a bunch of nonsense…

“Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan,” McBroom wrote in the report. “There is no evidence presented at this time to prove either significant acts of fraud or that an organized, wide-scale effort to commit fraudulent activity was perpetrated in order to subvert the will of Michigan voters.”

For good measure, McBroom added: “The Committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain…”

Soon after the report was released, Trump issued a thundering statement calling McBroom’s investigation “a cover up, and a method of getting out of a Forensic Audit for the examination of the Presidential contest.” The former president then published the office phone numbers for McBroom and Michigan’s GOP Senate majority leader, Mike Shirkey, urging his followers to “call those two Senators now and get them to do the right thing, or vote them the hell out of office!”

McBroom had grown up a “history nerd.” He idolized the revolutionary Founders. He inhaled biographies of George Washington and McBroom had grown up a “history nerd.” He idolized the revolutionary Founders. He inhaled biographies of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt. He revered the institution of the American presidency. And here was the 45th president, calling him out by name, accusing him of unthinkable treachery.

The Atlantic has the story. I hope it is not behind a paywall.

The Boston Globe wrote about other Republican officials who investigated the election results in their state and told the truth. The Globe titled its story: They kept the wheels on democracy as Trump tried to steal an election. Now they’re paying the price.

There was Republican Bill Gates, a member of the board of supervisors in Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix). He and his colleagues certified Biden’s victory and were reviled by angry Trump supporters.

There was Liz Cheney, who sacrificed her leadership position in the House of Representatives rather than follow the party line. She put her oath to the Constitution above the wishes of Trump and paid the price.

There was Aaron Van Langevelde, who lost his position on the Michigan Board of State Canvassers because he voted to certify Biden’s victory (Biden led Trump by 150,000 votes in Michigan). The Republican leadership punished him for his courage.

Van Langevelde revealed he faced pressure from political leaders to withhold certification in a March 26 speech at Cardozo Law School, which he provided to the Globe and which has not previously been reported.

“We were asked to take power we didn’t have. What would have been the cost if we had done so?,” Van Langevelde asked. “Constitutional chaos and the loss of our integrity.”

“There were a lot of people who would have preferred I said nothing, voted no, or abstained. I am sure a lot of people didn’t want me to make it to that meeting,” he continued. “I did everything I could to make it to that meeting, even though I knew it would cost me my position on the Board….”

That backlash could very well cost some Republicans their political careers. In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stood by the election results that gave Biden a narrow, 11,779-vote lead and resisted Trump’s entreaties to “find” more votes for him. Now, Raffensperger faces a challenge from a Trump-endorsed congressman, Jody Hice, who embraced Trump’s “stop the steal” movement. Few in the state are betting on Raffensperger’s survival.

“He’s done, he’s over,” said Jay Williams, a Republican strategist in the state. “There’s just no way he’s going to recover.”

Vice President Mike Pence let Trump’s fictions about the election fester through much of the fall, but he ultimately presided over the certification of Biden’s victory at the Capitol after rioters called for him to be punished — even hanged, some said. The move was widely seen as a betrayal by the Republican base and could imperil his political ambitions…

In Philadelphia, Al Schmidt, a Republican city commissioner, pushed back on the conspiracy theories that revolved around his city through television appearances and press conferences, particularly after Trump claimed repeatedly that, “bad things happen in Philadelphia.”

“They were lying about what was going on in front of us,” said Schmidt, who was still working in the city’s tabulation facility when, on Nov. 11, Trump tweeted about him by name. Soon, he and his family received threats that named his children and called him a traitor.

“What they were really saying is, ‘If you lie, this will go away,’” Schmidt said. He wouldn’t….

As some key officials who resisted election chaos lose their jobs, face uncertain political futures, or retire, experts are also worried about another development. Since January, at least 14 states have passed bills in state houses that give partisan lawmakers more power over elections and election officials….

Gates, the member of the board of supervisors in Phoenix, can see the latest iteration of that from his office. He has a view of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where his county’s ballots were “audited” by a private company in an exercise that is widely seen as a sham.

Gates opposes the audit. He and his colleagues refused to hand over ballots and voting machines until they were forced to do so under a court ruling following a subpoena from the Senate president. He has continued to speak out against the audit, even as it draws a parade of Republicans around the country who have come to admire it.

“This is about an attempt to delegitimize our democratic system,” Gates said.

For now, he is trying not to let the threatening messages — including a voice mail reviewed by the Globe that called for him to be given an “Alabama necktie” — get to him. And though he wrestled with the decision, he’s resolved to run again to keep his job, in an attempt to keep the guardrails on the electoral system for next time.

“If following the law … leads me to losing my next political race, that’s fine,” he said. “We have to stand up to these people.”

I endorse Maya Wiley for the Democratic candidate for Mayor of New York City.

There are many candidates in the Democratic primary for Mayor of New York City. Whoever is chosen will be the next mayor because the city is 3/4 Democrat and the Republican field is weak (Michael Bloomberg spent $100 million of his own money to win the mayoralty as a Republican and one of his top priorities was to persuade the state legislature to give him total control of the public schools).

My first choice initially was Scott Stringer, the City Comptroller, who has deep experience as a citywide official. Stringer was endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers because of his strong support for public schools. But his chances began to fade when a woman stepped forward to accuse him of groping her twenty years earlier.

Then two men emerged at the top of the polls: Andrew Yang and Eric Adams. Both have received large donations from GOP billionaires who support more charter schools.

The next top contender was Kathryn Garcia, a longtime city bureaucrat who has competence and experience. She was endorsed by the New York Times and the Daily News. With all of Garcia’s plans for change, the one area where she is weakest is education. Thanks to Bloomberg, NYC has mayoral control of the schools. Garcia has promised to lift the cap on charter schools (New York City already has nearly 300), to protect the elite public high schools, and to open more of them. she has shown little or no interest in helping the 88% of students who are in the public schools for which she would be responsible. She is a graduate of the city’s public schools, but treats them as an afterthought. For this reason, I cannot support her.

I endorse Maya Wiley. Wiley is a civil rights lawyer whose values and vision align with my own. She is not beholden to billionaires or the powerful real estate industry. In the debates, she shined as a fearless and principled advocate who did not defer to the front runners. She is committed to improving the lives of children, families, and communities. She is opposed to lifting the charter cap. A Mayor with a clear vision can hire outstanding talent to manage the city’s huge bureaucracy. What matters most is that she has a clear vision, grounded in a commitment to the public good.

https://www.mayawileyformayor.com

Max Boot, former conservative, wrote about the partisan attack on the elections of 2022 and 2024. Republicans are setting in place the process to steal the elections.

He writes:

Republicans have spent nearly seven months making bogus charges of fraud in the 2020 election under the banner of “stop the steal.” Now they have segued into a “start the steal” offensive to ensure that they will win the 2022 and 2024 elections — even if most voters once again support the Democratic Party.


The Brennan Center for Justice reports that “between January 1 and May 14, 2021, at least 14 states enacted 22 new laws that restrict access to the vote” and “at least 61 bills with restrictive provisions are moving through 18 state legislatures.” Those bills are designed not to avert nonexistent voter fraud but to avert another election defeat for Republicans — and they are drawing perilously close to that goal.

In Georgia, for example, a new law stipulates that mobile voting stations “shall only be used in emergencies declared by the Governor,” who is a Republican. That will put out of business two “mobile voting units” — a.k.a. buses — that collected 11,200 ballots in Atlanta’s Fulton County in November. Also, under the new law, provisional ballots will no longer be accepted from voters who go to the wrong polling place; 11,120 provisional ballots were counted in November. “Combined,” writes my Post colleague David Weigel, “the ballots cast by both methods are nearly double the margin by which [Joe] Biden won Georgia.”

A new election law in Texas, which has been temporarily blocked by a walkout of Democrats from the state House, would outlaw many of the methods used to increase minority turnout, such as drive-through voting and early voting before 1 p.m. on Sundays (crimping “souls to the polls” events after church services). But the most alarming element of the bill is that it makes it easier to overturn election results even if there is no evidence that fraud affected the outcome.

The Georgia law, for its part, includes a pernicious provision giving the Republican-controlled state legislature the right to suspend county election officials and to name the chair of the State Election Board. Previously, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had chaired the board, but he incurred Republican wrath by certifying Biden’s victory. Raffensperger is being challenged next year by a Donald Trump-endorsed opponent, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), who insists that Trump would have won in Georgia if the election had been “fair.”

Meanwhile, in Arizona — another state Trump narrowly lost — Republicans are trying to strip Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) of her power to defend election lawsuits. They want to vest that authority in the Republican attorney general. If she runs again, Hobbs, like Raffensperger, will face an election challenge from an advocate of the “big lie.” Trump die-hards are also running for the secretary of state posts in Nevada and Michigan.If the challengers win, pro-Trump conspiracy theorists will be supervising elections in key swing states.

While GOP efforts are ultimately aimed at the 2024 election, they will first make their impact felt in 2022. Off-year elections are always tough for the party in power. This one will be tougher still because of Republican-driven voter suppression, reapportionment and gerrymandering. Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report writes that Republicans will have full authority to redraw 187 congressional districts, while Democrats will control just 75. He estimates that redistricting in just four states — Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina — could be enough to deliver the House to Republican control.

This brings us to a nightmare scenario: a Republican-controlled Congress overturning the 2024 presidential election results to install Trump or a Trump mini-me in the White House. In January, 139 House Republicans and eight Senate Republicans voted not to certify electoral college results in at least one state. Since then, the most prominent GOP opponent of the “big lie,” Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), has been purged from the House leadership. Willingness to lie about election fraud has become a litmus test for Republicans, with the implicit threat of mob violence if they don’t go along. Republicans are so scared of Trump and his fanatical followers that most of them just voted against a bipartisan investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Many congressional Republicans will refuse to certify a 2024 Democratic win in swing states. If Republicans control Congress, they could deny the Democrats an electoral college majority and throw the election to the House — where each state delegation, regardless of population, would cast one ballot. Given that Republicans already control a majority of state delegations, they could override the election outcome. If that happens, it would spell the end of American democracy.


I hope I am being overly alarmist. I really do. But after the storming of the Capitol — and the Republican failure to hold the instigators to account — we have crossed a Rubicon. The best way to protect our electoral system is to pass the For the People Act, which would curb partisan gerrymandering and protect voting rights. Senate Democrats have to choose between saving the filibuster and saving democracy. They can’t do both.

Republican-controlled state legislatures are writing scores of new laws to restrict voting. Some are passing laws that would permit the legislature to reverse the will of the voters.

Our democracy is at risk. The right to vote is fundamental. Voting should be encouraged, not restricted.

One hundred scholars signed a “Statement of Concern” about the current drive to make it harder to vote. Please read it.

Statement of Concern

The Threats to American Democracy and the Need for National Voting and Election Administration Standards
STATEMENT
June 1, 2021

We, the undersigned, are scholars of democracy who have watched the recent deterioration of U.S. elections and liberal democracy with growing alarm. Specifically, we have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election. Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.

When democracy breaks down, it typically takes many years, often decades, to reverse the downward spiral. In the process, violence and corruption typically flourish, and talent and wealth flee to more stable countries, undermining national prosperity. It is not just our venerated institutions and norms that are at risk—it is our future national standing, strength, and ability to compete globally.

Statutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration, with Republican-controlled legislatures giving themselves the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations should Democrats win more votes. They are seeking to restrict access to the ballot, the most basic principle underlying the right of all adult American citizens to participate in our democracy. They are also putting in place criminal sentences and fines meant to intimidate and scare away poll workers and nonpartisan administrators. State legislatures have advanced initiatives that curtail voting methods now preferred by Democratic-leaning constituencies, such as early voting and mail voting. Republican lawmakers have openly talked about ensuring the “purity” and “quality” of the vote, echoing arguments widely used across the Jim Crow South as reasons for restricting the Black vote.

State legislators supporting these changes have cited the urgency of “electoral integrity” and the need to ensure that elections are secure and free of fraud. But by multiple expert judgments, the 2020 election was extremely secure and free of fraud. The reason that Republican voters have concerns is because many Republican officials, led by former President Donald Trump, have manufactured false claims of fraud, claims that have been repeatedly rejected by courts of law, and which Trump’s own lawyers have acknowledged were mere speculation when they testified about them before judges.

In future elections, these laws politicizing the administration and certification of elections could enable some state legislatures or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election. Further, these laws could entrench extended minority rule, violating the basic and longstanding democratic principle that parties that get the most votes should win elections.

Democracy rests on certain elemental institutional and normative conditions. Elections must be neutrally and fairly administered. They must be free of manipulation. Every citizen who is qualified must have an equal right to vote, unhindered by obstruction. And when they lose elections, political parties and their candidates and supporters must be willing to accept defeat and acknowledge the legitimacy of the outcome. The refusal of prominent Republicans to accept the outcome of the 2020 election, and the anti-democratic laws adopted (or approaching adoption) in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Montana and Texas—and under serious consideration in other Republican-controlled states—violate these principles. More profoundly, these actions call into question whether the United States will remain a democracy. As scholars of democracy, we condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms as a betrayal of our precious democratic heritage.

The most effective remedy for these anti-democratic laws at the state level is federal action to protect equal access of all citizens to the ballot and to guarantee free and fair elections. Just as it ultimately took federal voting rights law to put an end to state-led voter suppression laws throughout the South, so federal law must once again ensure that American citizens’ voting rights do not depend on which party or faction happens to be dominant in their state legislature, and that votes are cast and counted equally, regardless of the state or jurisdiction in which a citizen happens to live. This is widely recognized as a fundamental principle of electoral integrity in democracies around the world.

A new voting rights law (such as that proposed in the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) is essential but alone is not enough. True electoral integrity demands a comprehensive set of national standards that ensure the sanctity and independence of election administration, guarantee that all voters can freely exercise their right to vote, prevent partisan gerrymandering from giving dominant parties in the states an unfair advantage in the process of drawing congressional districts, and regulate ethics and money in politics.

It is always far better for major democracy reforms to be bipartisan, to give change the broadest possible legitimacy. However, in the current hyper-polarized political context such broad bipartisan support is sadly lacking. Elected Republican leaders have had numerous opportunities to repudiate Trump and his “Stop the Steal” crusade, which led to the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Each time, they have sidestepped the truth and enabled the lie to spread.

We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary—including suspending the filibuster—in order to pass national voting and election administration standards that both guarantee the vote to all Americans equally, and prevent state legislatures from manipulating the rules in order to manufacture the result they want. Our democracy is fundamentally at stake. History will judge what we do at this moment.

Signatures are still being added. This list was last updated on 6/1/21 at 9:00 a.m. ET.

John Aldrich
Professor of Political Science
Duke University

Deborah Avant
Professor of International Studies
University of Denver

Larry M. Bartels
Professor of Political Science
Vanderbilt University

Frank R. Baumgartner
Professor of Political Science
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Sheri Berman
Professor of Political Science
Barnard College, Columbia University

Benjamin Bishin
Professor of Political Science
University of California, Riverside

Robert Blair
Assistant Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs
Brown University

Henry E. Brady
Dean, Goldman School of Public Policy
University of California, Berkeley

Rogers Brubaker
Professor of Sociology
University of California, Los Angeles

John M. Carey
Professor of Government
Dartmouth College

Michael Coppedge
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

Katherine Cramer
Professor of Political Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Larry Diamond
Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution and Freeman Spogli Institute
Stanford University

Lee Drutman
Senior Fellow
New America

Rachel Epstein
Professor of International Studies
University of Denver

Henry Farrell
Professor of International Affairs
Johns Hopkins University

Christina Fattore
Associate Professor of Political Science
West Virginia University

Morris P. Fiorina
Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution
Stanford University

Joel L. Fleishman
Professor of Law and Public Policy Studies
Duke University

Luis Fraga
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

William W. Franko
Associate Professor of Political Science
West Virginia University

Francis Fukuyama
Senior Fellow
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Stanford University

Daniel J. Galvin
Associate Professor of Political Science
Northwestern University

Laura Gamboa
Assistant Professor of Political Science
University of Utah

Martin Gilens
Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and Social Welfare
University of California, Los Angeles

Kristin Goss
Professor of Public Policy and Political Science
Duke University

Jessica Gottlieb
Associate Professor of Government & Public Service
Texas A&M University

Virginia Gray
Professor of Political Science Emeritus
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Jacob M. Grumbach
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
University of Washington

Anna Grzymala-Busse
Professor of International Studies
Stanford University

Jacob Hacker
Professor of Political Science
Yale University

Hahrie Han
Professor of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Thomas J. Hayes
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Connecticut

Gretchen Helmke
Professor of Political Science
University of Rochester

Amanda Hollis-Brusky
Associate Professor of Politics
Pomona College

Daniel Hopkins
Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania

Matthew B. Incantalupo
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Yeshiva University

Matt Jacobsmeier
Associate Professor of Political Science
West Virginia University

Hakeem Jefferson
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Stanford University

Bruce W. Jentleson
Professor of Public Policy and Political Science
Duke University

Theodore R. Johnson
Senior Fellow & Director, Fellows Program
Brennan Center for Justice

Richard Joseph
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
Northwestern University

Alex Keena
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Virginia Commonwealth University

Nathan J. Kelly
Professor of Political Science
University of Tennessee

Eric Kramon
Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs
George Washington University

Katherine Krimmel
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Barnard College, Columbia University

Didi Kuo
Senior Research Scholar, Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law
Stanford University

Matt Lacombe
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Barnard College, Columbia University

Timothy LaPira
Professor of Political Science
James Madison University

Michael Latner
Senior Fellow
Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy

Yphtach Lelkes
Assistant Professor, Annenberg School for Communication
University of Pennsylvania

Margaret Levi
Professor of Political Science
Stanford University

Steve Levitsky
Professor of Government
Harvard University

Robert Lieberman
Professor of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Scott Mainwaring
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

Jane Mansbridge
Professor Emerita of Political Leadership and Democratic Values
Harvard University

Lilliana H. Mason
Associate Research Professor, Department of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Corrine M. McConnaughy
Research Scholar and Lecturer, Department of Politics
Princeton University

Jennifer McCoy
Professor of Political Science
Georgia State University

Suzanne Mettler
Professor of American Institutions, Department of Government
Cornell University

Robert Mickey
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Michigan

Michael Minta
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Minnesota

Terry Moe
Professor of Political Science
Stanford University

Jana Morgan
Professor of Political Science
University of Tennessee

Mason Moseley
Associate Professor of Political Science
West Virginia University

Russell Muirhead
Professor of Democracy
Dartmouth College

Pippa Norris
Professor of Political Science
Harvard University

Anne Norton
Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania

Brendan Nyhan
Professor of Government
Dartmouth College

Angela X. Ocampo
Assistant Professor of Political Science
University of Michigan

Norm Ornstein
Emeritus Scholar
American Enterprise Institute

Benjamin I. Page
Professor of Decision Making
Northwestern University

Tom Pepinsky
Professor, Department of Government
Cornell University

Anibal Perez-Linan
Professor of Political Science and Global Affairs
University of Notre Dame

Dirk Philipsen
Associate Research Professor of Economic History
Duke University

Paul Pierson
Professor of Political Science
University of California, Berkeley

Ethan Porter
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
George Washington University

Robert D. Putnam
Professor of Public Policy
Harvard University

Kenneth Roberts
Professor of Government
Cornell University

Amanda Lea Robinson
Associate Professor of Political Science
Ohio State University

Deondra Rose
Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and History
Duke University

Nancy L. Rosenblum
Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government Emerita
Harvard University

Larry J. Sabato
University Professor of Politics
University of Virginia

Sara Sadhwani
Assistant Professor of Politics
Pomona College

David Schanzer
Professor of the Practice of Public Policy
Duke University

Kim L. Scheppele
Professor of Sociology and International Affairs
Princeton University

Daniel Schlozman
Associate Professor of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Kay L. Schlozman
Professor of Political Science
Boston College

Cathy Lisa Schneider
Professor, School of International Service
American University

Shauna Lani Shames
Associate Professor in Political Science
Rutgers University, Camden

Gisela Sin
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
University of Illinois

Dan Slater
Professor of Political Science
University of Michigan

Anne-Marie Slaughter
Professor Emerita of Politics and International Relations
Princeton University

Charles Anthony Smith
Professor of Political Science and Law
University of California, Irvine

Rogers M. Smith
Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania

Susan Stokes
Professor of Political Science
University of Chicago

Alexander George Theodoridis
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Chloe Thurston
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Northwestern University

Antonio Ugues Jr.
Associate Professor of Political Science
St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Omar Wasow
Assistant Professor, Department of Politics
Princeton University

Christopher Witko
Professor of Public Policy and Political Science
Pennsylvania State University

Christina Wolbrecht
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

Daniel Ziblatt
Professor of Government
Harvard University

*Institutions and titles are listed for identification purposes only.

Jeanne Kaplan is a veteran civil rights activist who was elected to serve two terms on the Denver school board. She has been active in multiple campaigns to stop privatization and over-testing and energize a genuine effort to improve the public schools. She wrote this piece for this blog.


  THE SISYPHEAN TASK IN DENVER

The dictionary defines Sisyphean task as something you keep doing but never gets completed, an endless task.  In Greek mythology Sisyphus is punished by the god Zeus and is tasked with endlessly pushing a rock up a steep mountain, only to have it roll back down each time he nears the top.  I will leave the deeper philosophical meanings to others.  Simply interpreted, public education advocates residing in the Queen City of the Rockies, “transformers” if you will, will find similarities to this story as we reflect on our battle to defeat “education reform.”  In Denver’s case the Sisyphean task master has not been a vengeful god, but rather a school board member or a school board itself which through their betrayals continues to keep “transformers” tasked with pushing the education transformational rock up the mountain.

Call it the Sisyphean Challenge, Groundhog Day, a Broken Record, Déjà vu.  However you describe it, these “transformers” are experiencing another setback in their attempts to stop or at least slow down the business-based “education reform” model. In 2009 Denver voters thought they had put an end to the then still budding “education reform” movement.  “Transformers” won four of seven seats on the school board but quickly lost that advantage when, within hours of the election, one supposed “transformer” flipped sides.  For the next ten years education reformers had free reign in Denver. Four to three boards became a six to one board, became a seven to zero board.  All for “education reform.”  Forward ten years to today.  “Transformers” once again gained control of the Denver School Board in theory.  This time the transformer majority was believed to be 5-2.  But local education reformers – with a lot of help from national reform partners – once again figured out how to get their privatization agenda through this hypothetically anti-privatization 5-2 Board.  By consistently voting to renew and re-establish privatization policies and projects, today’s Board has deprived Denver voters once again of reaching the mountain top, and usually by a 6-1 vote.  And from today’s perspective the rock has once again rolled down the mountain.

The below listed organizations, initiatives and foundations have all had their hand in preventing educational transformation in Denver. The list is thorough but not comprehensive:

1 – A+ Colorado30 – Empower Schools
2 – Adolph Coors Foundation31 – Gates Family Foundation
3 – Anschutz Family Foundation32 – Janus Fund
4 – Bellwether Education Partners33 – KIPP – Knowledge is Power Program
5 – Bezos Family Foundation34 – Koch Family Foundations
6 – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation35 – Laura and John Arnold Foundation
7 – Bloomberg Philanthropies36 – Laurene Powell Jobs – Emerson Collective
8 – Boardhawk37 – Leadership for Educational Equity
9 – CareerWise38 – Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
10 – Chalkbeat39 – Lyra Learning – Innovation Zones
11 – Chan Zuckerberg Initiative40 – Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
12 – Schusterman Family Foundation41 – Moonshot
13 – Chiefs for Change42 – PIE Network (Policy Innovators in Ed)
14 – City Fund43 – Piton/Gary Community Investments
15 – City Year44 – Relay Graduate School of Education
16 – Colorado Health Foundation45 – Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation
17 – Colorado Succeeds46 – RootEd
18 – Community Engagement & Partners47 – Rose Foundation
19 – Daniels Fund48 – School Board Partners
20 – Democrats for Education Reform49 – Stand for Children
21 – Denver Families of Public Schools50 – Students First
22 – Denver Foundation51 – Teach for America
23 – Denver Scholarship Foundation52 – The Broad Academy/The Broad Center
24 – Donnell-Kay Foundation53 – Third Way
25 – EdLeadLeadership54 – TNTP
26 – Education Pioneers55 – Transform Education Now (TEN Can)
27 – Education Reform Now56 – Wallace Foundation
28 – Education Trust57 – Walton Family Foundation
29 – Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation

Below are some of the reform ventures coaxed through by these groups.  Many have been used to maintain the failing status quo.  Some have been used to make money for friends and colleagues.  Some have been outright failures.   But by its failure to address them or by its continued tolerance of them, the DPS Board has sanctioned the continuation of privatization in our city:

·      At a time when education reform was truly hanging on by a thread in Denver, the Board assured its continued existence for the foreseeable future by voting to renew the use of the racially biased state accountability system, going even further into reformland by promising to develop a new accountability “dashboard” (a key “reformer” tenet).  While testing is state mandated, the District did not even explore the possibility of waiving its obligation to rely on this system. This one decision has also allowed the proliferation of many of the above listed groups and has given new life to the overall privatization movement.  A lot of new players are making a lot of new money from the public education system in Denver. After all, what is the business model really about if it is not about making money?  This one vote has allowed the continuation of some of the most divisive and punitive practices such as:

1.     Relying on high stakes testing even though the Board has given lip service to wanting a waiver this year due to COVID; 

2.     Relying on a non-transparent Choice system, which some believe is being used to fill unwanted charters;

3.     Ranking of schools and continued competition resulting in winners and losers among students and schools;

4.     Relying on Student Based Budgeting where the money follows the student;

5.     Marketing of schools, whereby wealthier schools and schools with their own board of directors (charters and Innovation Zone schools) have a distinct advantage;

6.     Giving bonuses to employees of schools based on test scores.  

Other recent reform-oriented Board decisions include:

·      Voting to renew or extend all 13 charter school contracts that were up this year even when some were struggling for enrollment and academic success.  The Board claimed it did not want to disrupt kids and families.  Portfolio model.

·      Promoting school MERGERS as opposed to school CLOSURES for under enrolled neighborhood schools, somehow thinking voters won’t notice that merging schools results in the same failed policy as school closures, that campaign promises have been broken, and that charter schools are being treated differently.  Portfolio model.  

·      Voting to approve new Innovation Zones, the hybrid portfolio model that supposedly gives schools more independence while, unlike charters, is still under the control of the school board.  These Innovation Zones do, however, have their own administrative staff as well as their own boards and have ushered in their own cottage industry. Portfolio Model.

·      Working with City Fund funded School Board Partners for Board training. City Fund is a relative newcomer to the education privatization world and is largely financed by Netflix Reed Hastings and John Arnold of Laura and John Arnold Foundation.  Locally, City Fund has dropped $21 million into Denver’s own RootEd to assure “every child in Denver has the opportunity and support to achieve success in school, college and their chosen career.” This needs to be done equitably, of course!  And only within a non-union school!  Grant funding from private sources to promote private interests.

·      Hiring a Broad trained Superintendent search company, Alma Advisory Group.  Alma has also been involved in executive searches for both City Fund and The Broad Academy, two quintessential privatizers.  More than four months have gone by since DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova resigned.  Four metro Denver school districts have had superintendent vacancies this winter.  Two have already found their leaders.  Denver is still holding community meetings which if they follow DPS history, will end up be ing rather meaningless.  Most importantly, will this “reform” inclined group be able to bring a wide-ranging group of candidates forward? The Broad Academy, training leaders in education reform.

·      Continuing to allow and expand non-licensed teachers and administrators from programs such as Teach for American and Relay Graduate School of Education into DPS’ schools and continuing to tell the public they are just as qualified as professional educators.   Anyone can teach!

Why do these examples matter, you might ask?

For starters, review the list of organizations and people pushing privatization.  The sheer number is staggering.  Then check out the similarity of language in their missions, visions, and goals and the uniformity of strategies and messaging.

·      Every child deserves a great school. 

·      Every school deserves all the support it needs to ensure equity.

·      Every school should have parent and community partners.

·      Every school should be anti-racist, celebrate diversity, be inclusive.

These are all worthy goals, albeit very general ones.  But what is the overall strategy to achieve them?  Privatization and the business model focusing on innovative and charter schools using an accountability system based on high stakes testing to define success seems to be their answer.  And in spite of claims that “reformers” are agnostic as to the type of school they foster, there are a few common characteristics they demand in their privatized schools:  

·      the ability to hire and fire anyone at any time; employees do not have to be licensed; at-will employees if you will.  That’s right.  No unions in innovation or charter schools.  Anyone can teach. 

·      an accountability system based on high stakes tests; schools and employees evaluated and punished by the results of these racially inappropriate tests.

·      market-driven criteria used to define school success.  Winners and losers, competition, closures, choice, chaos, churn.

·      “learning loss,” the pandemic-based slogan, must be addressed by unrelenting dependency on high stakes testing.  No test waivers for this crazy school year.  “Reformers” must have that data, and they must remind everyone that in spite of Herculean efforts on many fronts, public education has failed. 

Add to this scenario the amount of money being spent to further this agenda. Determining this takes some patience because the tax records are often difficult to find and decipher. Then try to deduce who is benefitting from each program.  This also takes some digging, for let me assure you, public education has spawned not a cottage industry but rather a mansion industry!  Search the group you are interested in and check out its board and staff.  And finally, look at the effect all of this has had on kids.  Yeah, yeah, yeah. Isn’t it always about the kids?  In reality few of these extra ventures have had any effect on kids.  Fewer still touch kids directly.

Each privately funded unit on this list has had a privatized DPS connection of some sort.  Some initiatives are duplicative. Some are very narrowly focused. Some purport to be THE ANSWER to public education’s struggles.  There is no tolerance for differing beliefs.  Yet, after 15 years of experimentation Denver’s students remain mired in mediocrity, suffering from an ever narrowing curriculum and dependent on evaluations, ratings, and a definition of success based on racially biased tests.  Nationally, Denver Public Schools remains a leader in implementing “education reform” but alas, it also remains a leader in teacher and principal turnover and home to one of the largest achievement/opportunity gaps in the nation. 

We in Denver have been subjected to the high-octane version of “education reform” for more than 15 years.  Choice, charters, competition, closures have resulted in three unequal tiers of schools (charter schools, innovation zones, neighborhood schools).  Reformers call this “the portfolio model.”  I call it structural chaos. Michael Fullan calls it fragmentation, a system wrongly focused on “academics obsession, machine intelligence, and austerity.”  To those privatizers who say, “but you have no solution,” Fullan has one that would turn public education on its head and could possibly produce what all of us involved in the public education scene say we want: robust, equitable education for all.  Fullan has a solution for whole system success that would be focused on the human elements of public education:  learning and well-being, social intelligence, and equality of investments.   But in order for anything like this to work the superintendent and the board must be on the same page.  Elections matter.  And candidates need to understand what is at stake and what they have been elected to do.

Public education is the cornerstone of our democracy. (Given today’s America it might have slipped to second place behind voting rights). I ran for school board on that belief, I witnessed its importance through the lives of my immigrant parents. I do not believe our democracy will survive without public education, but the cornerstone must change. Radically.  Dramatically.

Imagine if all of the efforts of those 50 plus organizations were combined into one united movement focused on an anti-racist, equitable systemic change.  And imagine how truly revolutionary, transformative and unifying this movement could be if it included voices and ideas not aligned with the business model but with people who are willing to truly look at things differently, people who were willing to be honest and show leadership.  Imagine how during this unique time in our nation’s history this new system could have resulted in a new and exciting way of delivering and evaluating teaching and learning, well-being, equity and equality.  Imagine how exciting this unique time in Denver could been had we taken advantage of this opportunity.  , Instead, DPS decided to continue with the status where money and power continue to rule, where a business model has been buttressed to portray a non-existent success, and where an elected Board of Education has turned its back on its mandate.

Historically “transformers” in Denver have been dogged in their attempts to get that rock to the mountain’s peak.  We have kept fighting even when betrayed by school board members, even when organization after organization has put down roots to continue the mirage of success, even when untold millions of dollars have been invested in programs that have yet to make a significant difference in educational outcomes.  Can we in Denver defy Greek mythology and end this Sisyphean nightmare? Or are there too many yet unknown obstacles in our path to stop us once again?  Elections will decide. Time will tell. 

Ezra Klein of the New York Times interviewed Senator Bernie Sanders for his podcast, “The Ezra Klein Show.”

Listen to “The Ezra Klein Show”:Apple PodcastsPocket CastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsStitcher (How to Listen)

Bernie Sanders didn’t win the 2020 election. But he may have won its aftermath.

If you look back at Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders’s careers, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, looks a lot like the proposals Sanders has fought for forever, without much of the compromise or concerns that you used to see from Senator Joe Biden. That’s not to take anything away from Biden. He’s the president. This is his plan. And it is to his credit that he saw what the country needed, what the politics of the moment would support and where his party had moved, and met it with full force.

But Sanders’s two presidential campaigns are part of the reason that the Democratic Party had moved, and the politics of the moment had changed. And so I’ve wondered what Sanders makes of this moment. Is it a triumph? A disappointment? A beginning?

And I’ve wondered about his take on some of the other questions swirling around the Democratic Party: Are liberals alienating people who agree with them on economics by being too censorious on culture? Is there room to work with populist Republicans who might be open to new economic ideas even as they turn against liberal democracy itself?

You can listen to our whole conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” wherever you get your podcasts, or clicking play above. An edited transcript follows:

The 2009 stimulus was 5.6 percent of the G.D.P. in 2008. The Rescue Plan this year is 9.1 percent of last year’s G.D.P. So it’s just much bigger. And the individual policies in it are, in my view, much less compromised. So why are 50 Democrats in 2021 legislating so much more progressively than 59 Democrats did in 2009?

Well, I think that there is a growing understanding that we face unprecedented crises, and we have got to act in an unprecedented way. Members of Congress look around this country, and they see children who don’t have enough food, people facing eviction. People can’t get health care. We have, obviously, the need to crush this terrible pandemic that has taken over 500,000 lives.

And I think the conclusion from the White House and from Congress is, now is the time to do what the American people need us to do. And it turned out to be a $1.9 trillion bill, which, to my mind, was the single most significant piece of legislation for working-class people that has been passed since the 1960s.

Let’s say I’m someone on the left who supported you in 2020. I’m looking at the American Rescue Plan and I see the $15 minimum wage got dropped, paid family leave got dropped. The child tax credit, which is my favorite part of the bill, it’s only temporary. Convince me that I should be excited about this. Why do you think it’s so significant?

I don’t have to convince you. We have already convinced 75 percent of the American people that this is a very good piece of legislation. And I think progressives out there understand that given a fairly conservative Congress, it is hard to do everything that we want to do.

I was bitterly disappointed that we lost the minimum wage in the reconciliation process as a result of a decision from the parliamentarian, which I think was a wrong decision. But we’re not giving up on that. We’re going to come back, and we’re going to do it.

But in this legislation, let us be clear we have gotten for a family of four — a working-class family struggling to put food on the table for their kids — a check of $5,600. Now people who have money may not think that’s a lot of money. But when you are struggling day and night to pay the bills, to worry about eviction, that is going to be a lifesend for millions and millions of people.

We extended unemployment to September with the $300 supplement. We expanded the child tax credit to cut child poverty in America by 50 percent. Now, that’s an issue we have not dealt with for a very long time — the disgrace of the U.S. having one of the highest rates of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth. Well, we did it, and we hope to make it permanent. That is a big deal.

And obviously, we invested heavily in dealing with the pandemic, getting the vaccines out to the people as quickly as possible to save lives. In terms of education, billions of dollars are going to make sure that we open our schools as quickly and as safely as we can. We tripled funding for summer programs so the kids will have the opportunity to make up the academic work that they have lost. Tripled funding for after-school programs so when kids come back next fall, there will be programs the likes of which we have never seen.

So this is not a perfect bill. Congress does not pass perfect bills. But for working-class people, this is the most significant piece of legislation passed since the 1960s. And I’m proud of what we have done.

However, it is clear to me — and I think the American people — that we have more to do. This is an emergency bill that says, in America families should not go hungry. People should not be forced out of their homes.

Now we have to deal with the long-term structural problems facing our country that have long, long been neglected way before the pandemic: rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, address the existential threat of climate change, create many millions of decent-paying jobs, build the millions of units of affordable housing that we need.

In terms of the social issues: fight structural racism, immigration reform, fight against the growing trend of authoritarianism. We’re living in a nation today where 30 percent or 40 percent of the American people have given up on democracy — a worldwide problem. How do we combat that? We got to deal with voter suppression and the effort of Republicans to make it harder and harder for people of color, lower-income people, to vote.

There are a huge number of issues out there. Some of them are existential — they have to be dealt with. And I intend to do everything that I can as chairman of the Budget Committee to make sure that we continue to move forward.

This bill, as you mentioned, passed through budget reconciliation. The things that couldn’t go through budget reconciliation got dropped from it. But a bunch of the different policy measures you just mentioned can’t go through budget reconciliation. You can’t do immigration reform there. You can’t do H. R. 1, the For the People Act, or H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Act.

Well, I’m not so sure.

You’re budget chairman. Tell me why.

I don’t want to bore the American people with the rules of the United States.

Bore me. [LAUGHS]

If you have insomnia, pick up the rule book. You’ll be asleep in about five minutes. It is enormously complicated. It is enormously undemocratic. It is designed to move very, very slowly, which we cannot afford to do, given the crises that we face today.

This is the way I look at it: We have a set of literally unprecedented crises. Ideally, it would be nice that we could work in a bipartisan way with our Republican colleagues — and maybe in some areas, we can. But the major goal is to address these crises. That is what the American people want. And if we can’t do it in a bipartisan way with 60 votes, we’re going to figure out a way that we get it done with 50 votes.

I have never heard a theory under which you could do democracy reform bills like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act or a major immigration reform bill through budget reconciliation. Do you see a way around that? Are you talking about the Democrats changing reconciliation or changing the filibuster?

Well, obviously, I believe that we should do away with the filibuster. I think the filibuster is an impediment to addressing the needs of this country, and especially of working-class people. So I believe that at this moment we should get rid of the filibuster, and I will work as hard as I can to do that.

I’m not going to lay out all of our strategy that we’re working on right now. But what I repeat is that this country faces huge problems. The American people want us to address those problems. And we cannot allow a minority to stop us from going forward.

There’s a lot of coverage, as there always is, about potential friction in the Democratic caucus in the Senate — differences between, say, a Senator Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and others. Do you find the caucus to be united on strategy more, or less than in the past?

Obviously, you’ve got 50 people. And when you have 50 people, the crazy situation is that any one person could prevent us from moving forward. But I think and hope that there is an understanding that despite our differences — and some of these differences are significant — we have got to work with the president of the United States, who I think is prepared to go forward aggressively in a number of issues. We cannot sabotage the needs of the American people.

So any one person really has enormous power. But I would hope that by definition, when you are a member of a caucus, you fight for what your views are within the caucus. But at the end of the day, nobody is going to get everything they want. I did not get everything that I want in the American Rescue Plan. Others did not get everything they wanted.

But at the end of the day, we have got to go forward together because we need to be united. And I think there is a widespread understanding about the importance of that.

Let’s talk about the dynamics between the parties right now. A few months ago, you were working with Senator Josh Hawley on bigger stimulus checks. That was a very effective project. But then Senator Hawley votes against certifying the election. He raised his fist to the mob from the Capitol. How have your relationships with Republicans changed in the aftermath of Jan. 6?

Well, all in all, I don’t want to get into personalities here. But this is what I would say. And I think it’s a very sad state of affairs.

Obviously, in the last many years, only accelerated by Donald Trump, the Republican Party has moved not only very far to the right, but moved in the direction of authoritarianism. You have a president of the United States saying a month before the election that the only way he could lose that election is if it was stolen from him. After he lost the election, he says, obviously, it was stolen. And you have now a very significant majority of Republicans who believe that the election was stolen.

That is where many Republicans are. You got a lot of Republican senators, members of the House, who are refusing even today to say that Joe Biden won a fair and square election. So you’ve got a whole lot of problems. That’s one of the issues that as a nation, as a Democratic Party, we have got to address.

Do you think a byproduct of how the Republican Party has changed is that it puts less emphasis on economic issues than it used to? I was struck by how much more energized Republicans were the week that the American Rescue Plan passed by the debate over Dr. Seuss’s books than by this $1.9 billion spending bill.

Look, the energy in the Republican Party has nothing to do with tax breaks to the rich. Republicans are not going into the streets, the Trump Republicans, saying: We need more tax breaks for the rich, we need more deregulation, we need to end the Affordable Care Act and throw 30 million people off their health care. That’s not what they’re talking about.

What Trump understood is we are living in a very rapidly changing world. And there are many people — most often older white males, but not exclusively — who feel that they’re losing control of the world that they used to dominate. And somebody like Donald Trump says: “We are going to preserve the old way of life, where older white males dominated American society. We’re not going to let them take that away from us.” That is where their energy is.

One of the gratifying things is the American Rescue Plan had a decent amount of Republican support — 35 percent, 40 percent. But among lower-income Republicans, that number was 63 percent.

So I think that our political goal in the coming months and years is to do everything we can to reach out to young people, reach out to people of color, reach out to all people who believe in economic and social justice, but also reach out aggressively to working-class Republicans and tell them we’re going to make sure that you and your children will have a decent standard of living. We’re going to raise the minimum wage for you. We’re going to make it easier for you to join a union. We’re going to make sure that health care in America is a human right. We’re going to make sure that if we do tax breaks, you’re going to get them and not the billionaire class.

I think we have a real opportunity to pick up support in that area. And if we can do that — if you can get 10 percent of Trump’s support and grow our support by addressing the real issues that our people feel are important — you’re going to put together a coalition that is not going to lose a lot of elections.

The Republican strategy right now, to your exact point, is to go to these people and say, the Democrats want to take away things that are culturally important to you. They want to take away your Dr. Seuss books. They want to take away your guns. They want to make it so your kids can’t go to religious school.

How do you talk to voters who are actually worried about those direct questions — who may agree with Democrats on the economic side, but are worried the Democrats are going to take things they culturally care about?

It’s a good question, and no one that I know has a magical answer to it. I do think that addressing economic issues is helpful. It’s not the 100 percent solution. As you know, you’ve got the QAnon people telling their supporters that Democrats — I’m not sure what the latest particular thing is, killed babies and eat their brains or something. Is that the latest thing that we’re supposed to be doing? I don’t know.

But when people who are in trouble suddenly receive a check for $5,600 for a family of four, when their unemployment is extended, when they get health care that they previously did not have, when they’re better able to raise their child, it’s not going to solve all of these cultural problems by a long shot, but it begins maybe to open the door and say, well, you know what? This is good. Trump didn’t do this for us. And maybe these Democrats are not as bad as we thought that they were.

I think it’s going to take a lot of work. These cultural issues, I don’t know how you bridge the gap. You have people who are fervently anti-choice, and I’m not sure that you are going to win many of them over. But I think what we have got to do is do what I’m afraid the Democrats have not always done in the past. And that is treat people with respect.

I come from one of the most rural states in America, and I lived in a town of 200 people for a couple of years. And I think there is not an appreciation of rural America or the values of rural America, the sense of community that exists in rural America. And somehow or another, the intellectual elite does have, in some cases, a contempt for the people who live in rural America. I think we’ve got to change that attitude and start focusing on the needs of people in rural America, treat them with respect, and understand there are areas there are going to be disagreements, but we can’t treat people with contempt.

Do you think there is truth to the critique that liberals have become too censorious and too willing to use their cultural and corporate and political power to censor or suppress ideas and products that offend them?

Look, you have a former president in Trump, who was a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, a pathological liar, an authoritarian, somebody who doesn’t believe in the rule of law. This is a bad-news guy. But if you’re asking me, do I feel particularly comfortable that the then-president of the United States could not express his views on Twitter? I don’t feel comfortable about that.

Now, I don’t know what the answer is. Do you want hate speech and conspiracy theories traveling all over this country? No. Do you want the internet to be used for authoritarian purposes and an insurrection, if you like? No, you don’t. So how do you balance that? I don’t know, but it is an issue that we have got to be thinking about. Because yesterday it was Donald Trump who was banned, and tomorrow, it could be somebody else who has a very different point of view.

I don’t like giving that much power to a handful of high-tech people. But the devil is obviously in the details, and it’s something we’re going to have to think long and hard on.

Do you think Joe Biden is having an easier time selling an ambitious progressive agenda than Barack Obama did, at least to these audiences, partly because he’s an older white man, rather than a young Black man?

I don’t know the answer to that. Let’s not forget that Barack Obama, after four years, was re-elected with a pretty good majority. He was a popular president and a very popular figure today. But I think you can’t look at Biden or Obama without looking into the moment in which they are living. I think in the last number of years since Obama, political consciousness in this country has changed.

I think to a significant degree, the progressive movement has been successful in saying to the American people that are in the richest country in the history of the world, you know what? You’re entitled to health care as a right. You’re entitled to a decent-paying job. Your kid is entitled to go to a public college or university tuition-free. That it is absolutely imperative that we have the courage to take on the fossil-fuel industry and save this planet by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels. That it is a moral issue that we finally deal in a comprehensive way with 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.

I think Biden is in a position where this country has moved forward at the grass-roots level in a much more progressive way. It is not an accident that today the House of Representatives is far more progressive than it was when I was there in the House.

And then you had a president who was a moderate Democrat throughout his time in the Senate, who had the courage to look at the moment and say, you know what? The future of American democracy is at stake, tens of millions of people are struggling economically. They’re really in pain. Our kids are hurting. Seniors are hurting. I’ve got to act boldly. And Biden deserves credit for that.

But what I hope very much is that understanding of the need to act bold goes beyond the American Rescue Plan and is the path that Biden continues during his administration.

Let’s talk about those generational differences. You’re no spring chicken, but you were the overwhelming choice of young voters in 2020. How are the politics of younger voters different, and why are they different?

I love the younger generation. I really do. And it’s not just because they supported me. People say, how did you get the support of the younger people? We treated them with respect and we talked about the issues to them in the same way we talked about the issues to every other generation that’s out there. I think you’ve got a couple of factors, though.

No. 1, for a variety of reasons, the younger generation today is the most progressive generation in the modern history of this country. This is the generation that is firmly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobia, anti-xenophobia — a very compassionate generation that believes in economic and social and environmental justice. So you’ve got that.

And then the second thing you’ve got is, this is a generation of young people that is really hurting economically. This is the first generation in the modern history of this country where, everything being equal, they’re going to have a lower standard of living than their parents. And that’s even before the pandemic, which has made a bad situation worse.

This is a generation where, on average, young workers are making less money than their parents. They’re having a much harder time buying a home or paying the rent. This is a generation stuck with a huge amount of student debt. And I was surprised, when we first raised this issue of student debt back in 2016, how it really caught on.

Because people are saying, you know what? What crime did I commit that I have to be $50,000 or $100,000 in debt? I was told over and over again, get an education. I got an education. I went to a state university. I went to a private school. I went to school for four years, and now I’m stuck with a $50,000, $100,000 debt. I went to graduate school. I went to medical school. I got $300,000 in debt. That’s insane.

I think if you look at the young generation from an idealistic point of view, it’s a generation that has expectations and views that are much more progressive than their parents and grandparents. But it is also a generation that wants the government to address the economic pain that they are feeling.

It was a striking moment when President Biden released a video pretty explicitly backing the workers trying to unionize at Amazon’s Alabama warehouse. What could Congress do to help? What do you want to do to help reverse the decline of unionization in the U.S.?

I’m chairman of the Budget Committee, and we just had a hearing which touched on that issue. We had a young woman from a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., the Amazon plant there, and she was talking about why they need a union. I invited Jeff Bezos to attend the hearing to tell me why a guy who was worth $182 billion thinks he has to spend millions of dollars to fight workers who are trying to form a union to improve their wages and working conditions.

What I have believed for a long time, what Joe Biden believes, is we need to pass legislation to make it easier for workers to join unions. Because if workers are in unions and can negotiate decent contracts, their wages will go up. Their working conditions and their benefits will improve. So we are working hard on that issue, and something I know the House has passed. I want to see it passed here in the Senate as well.

Should Democrats be pushing for something bigger, like sectoral bargaining?

I believe so. I campaigned on that. But I think bottom line is that Democrats got to take a deep breath and to make the determination of whether or not they’re going to become the party of the American working class — a class, by the way, which has suffered really terribly in the last 40 or 50 years, where today, workers are barely in real wages making any more than they did 40 or 50 years ago, despite huge increases in technology and productivity. I think we got to do that.

And I think when we do that — when we have the courage to take on powerful special interests, taking on Wall Street, taking on the drug companies, taking on the health care industry, taking on big campaign contributors who want to maintain the status quo — we are going to be able to transform this country and create an economy and a government that works for all. And I think Democrats are going to have very good political success as well.

The Rescue Plan will be followed up by a big jobs and investment package. What needs to be in that package for it to win your support?

The simple stuff and obvious stuff is, you’ve got an infrastructure which is crumbling and roads and bridges and water systems and wastewater plants. I would add affordable and low-income housing to any discussion of infrastructure. So you’ve got to deal with infrastructure, and when you do that, you can create millions of good-paying jobs.

But obviously, also, you have to deal with the existential threat of climate change. We’ve got to guarantee health care to all people as a right. You got to deal with immigration reform. You’ve got to deal with criminal justice and systemic racism. So those are some of the big, big issues that are out there.

You can listen to the entire conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” wherever you get your podcasts, or clicking play below.

Republican-controlled legislatures across the nation are planning to enact legislation that would have the effect of suppressing the vote. Georgia passed a law to restrict access to voting, known by its critics as the Jim Crow law. More states in Republican hands will do the same. Republicans in the Senate are likely to block a bill passed by the House to protect voting rights.

Why are Republicans afraid of a large turnout? Twenty years ago, Republican leaders insisted that every qualified voter should vote and that every vote should be counted.

In the aftermath of the highly disputed Presidential election of 2000, which was decided by 537 votes in the state of Florida, many of our most prominent political leaders recognized the need for reform of the voting system.

A prestigious commission was created called the National Commission of Federal Election Reform. The co-chairs of the commission were former President Jimmy Carter and former President Gerald Ford. Its composition was bipartisan. I had the honor of serving on the commission.

The commission held several meetings, debated the issues of voter I.D., got a report of the reliability of different voting machines (strangely enough, the most reliable machine was the one used in New York City, which involved pulling a lever to close a curtain, then opening the lever, which punctured the ballot–but that machine was considered obsolete as compared to the new electronic touch-screen machines).

Moving at warp speed, the commission produced a report in August 2001. The heart of its recommendations was that every eligible citizen should be assured the right to vote, and every vote should be counted.

This recommendation, on page 6, was at the heart of our discussions:

The methods for funding and administering elections—from investments in equipment through voter education to procedures at the polling place—should seek to ensure that every qualified citizen has an equal opportunity to vote and that every individual’s vote is equally effective. No individual, group, or community should be left with a justified belief that the electoral process works less well for some than for others.

I have been reflecting on the work of the commission because there were no partisan differences. Republicans did not claim that mail-in balloting was wrong. They did not look for ways to tweak the state systems to suppress the votes of African-Americans. They agreed with their Democratic peers that everyone of voting age should exercise the right to vote and their vote should be counted.

Everyone understood that the voting process needed to be modernized and that there should be both fairness and a perception of fairness.

Now we live in a time when it is hard to imagine Democrats and Republicans collaborating on a report about election integrity without descending into acrimony.

Something very fundamental has been lost in our civic life: a sense of shared purpose; a commitment to fairness and integrity; trust. The well of democracy has been poisoned by spurious claims of fraud that have no evidence to support them.

Some have foolishly blamed the schools (as usual) for not teaching civics. So, we are now to believe that grown men (and some women) run about threatening people they disagree with by brandishing Glocks and AR-15s. We have to look deep into our culture to try to determine the wellsprings of this rage and bitterness and hatred. It didn’t start in the schools.

I said I won’t repost blogs anymore, except for very rare occasions. I intend to stick to my promise.

So don’t consider this a repost. Consider it an introduction.

An ally in Florida sent me two blogs by Billy Townsend.

Here are the ones I read. I subscribed to his blog.

He wrote this blog for the benefit of Jennifer Berkshire, co-author of A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door.

He says that Florida is the state that put the nation at risk. He explains why. Great reading.

In this one, he lays out exactly how to get Biden’s attention: prepare to run a primary against him for ignoring/betraying the parents and teachers devoted to public education. Active opposition, he says, will get the wolf away from the schoolhouse door.

In this one, he describes how the voucher schools that Florida wants more of include a large number of segregated and unaccredited schools. How cynical that Florida figured out a clever way to restore segregation by lying to black parents. He asks:

Is it any wonder Florida’s FTC vouchers have a 61 percent 2-year drop out rate?

I have noticed that voucher studies typically overlook or minimize or obscure attrition rates. I remember a voucher study of Milwaukee by pro-voucher academic Patrick Wolf where he noted that voucher schools had higher graduation rates when compared to public schools. In the original study, the attrition rate was 75%. When Mercedes Schneider jumped on that statistic, Wolf said he made a error and lowered the dropout rate to 56%. Of course, 56% is a huge attrition rate too. (See here too and see here as well.)

I wrote this article a few weeks ago. I submitted it to two major newspapers as an opinion piece. The editors at both newspapers said there were no cases in the judicial pipeline, and thus my proposal was impossible. But then on Monday February 22, the Supreme Court made a decision about a Trump challenge to the Pennsylvania balloting, rejecting it with a single sentence. That might have been the chance. Maybe there is another futile legal challenge that would make this plea possible. I offer it to you because I think it makes sense even if the op-ed editors don’t.

            The United States is split almost down the middle, as the last election demonstrated. Families and friends are hopelessly divided, and some people just can’t discuss politics anymore for fear of losing touch with people they care about. Some people blame Donald Trump, some blame Newt Gingrich, some trace the fissures back even farther in time. 

            Whenever it started, the issue today is how we are able to function as a nation when we can’t even agree on basic facts. The political polarization seems likely to last a long time, but at the very least we could heal some of the divisions by establishing one basic fact: Who won the last election. According to polls, most Republicans have been persuaded by former President Trump that the election was stolen from him. To this day, Trump continues to insist he won the election.

            There is only one tribunal where this issue of fact can be resolved to the satisfaction of almost all Americans, and that is the United States Supreme Court. The current composition of the Supreme Court heavily favors Republicans. Six of its nine members were appointed by Republican presidents: Chief Justice John Roberts (appointed by President George W. Bush); Justice Clarence Thomas (appointed by President George H.W. Bush); Justice Stephen Breyer (appointed by President Bill Clinton); Justice Samuel Alito (appointed by President George W. Bush); Justice Sonia Sotomayor, appointed by President Barack Obama); Justice Elena Kagan (appointed by President Barack Obama); Justice Neil Gorsuch (appointed by President Donald Trump); Justice Brett Kavanaugh (appointed by President Trump); and Amy Coney Barrett (appointed by President Trump). 

            Chief Justice John Roberts could lead the Court in deciding to consider one of the many challenges to the Presidential election of 2020. The Supreme Court declined to hear three challenges, and at least sixty cases were decided by state and federal courts. Surely, there must still be one in the pipeline that would allow the Supreme Court to review the evidence and reach a conclusion about whether the election was wrongly decided, whether there was massive voter fraud, and whether voting machines were rigged to favor the Biden-Harris ticket. One of the voting machine companies, Smartmatic, has been accused of “rigging” the vote in multiple states, but it was used only in Los Angeles County. Both Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems have filed massive defamation lawsuits against those who accused them of switching votes from Trump to Biden.

            A careful review by the Supreme Court could take into consideration the lengthy record of litigation in federal district courts and appeals courts where the Trump campaign was unable to produce any evidence for its claims of election fraud. Outside the courtroom, campaign officials made lurid charges of voter fraud, lost ballots, rigged machines, ballot dumps, and votes cast by dead people, but they didn’t repeat those claims in the courtroom because they had no evidence.

            If the nation is ever to heal, there must be a reckoning with the charges that are now poisoning our politics. A sizable portion of the nation does not believe that Joe Biden won the election. A significant part of the Republican Party believes that his presidency is illegitimate. Such claims damage the ability of our political system to function. These claims were the basis of the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 that might have led to mass casualties, had it not been for the bravery of an overwhelmed Capitol Police force. Former President Trump has made clear that he will continue to insist that the election was stolen from him. He will not stop undermining his successor.

            Only an institution that has the trust of the majority of the American people, and especially an institution that has the trust of Republicans, can settle this matter to the satisfaction of the vast majority of our citizens. 

            Only the United States Supreme Court have the credibility to review the facts and set the record straight about the 2020 election. 

Denisha Jones explains here what happened at a televised event in Pittsburgh when she asked candidate Joe Biden if he would eliminate standardized testing. Denisha is a highly accomplished woman and a champion for children.

Biden’s Broken Promise: Time to Opt Out! 

On December 14, 2019, I asked President Biden a question about standardized testing. Seeking the Democratic nomination, he had joined other presidential candidates at a Public Education Forum, the creation of a collective of organizations, including the Schott Foundation, Network for Public Education, and Journey for Justice, live-streamed and moderated by MSNBC.

I had all day to frame my question–Biden was last in the lineup. Given the widespread havoc that standardized testing has wreaked, I had to cover a lot of ground. I wanted to demonstrate the negative impact of standardized testing on teacher autonomyand early childhood education. I needed to emphasize the racist history of standardized testing to remind everyone how we got to this point.  

“If you are elected president, will you commit to ending the use of standardized tests in public schools?” I asked.   “Yes,” said Biden. He told me that I was preaching to the choir and assured me that he was well-informed about the over-reliance on standardized tests to evaluate teachers and students.  He agreed that we need to give teachers the power to determine the curriculum and build children’s confidence. 

“When testing is the measure of whether or not the student is successful…teaching to a standardized test makes no sense,” he said. The question went viral, with many educators hopeful that this dark cloud would finally evaporate under a Biden presidency.  At the time, I didn’t believe him, and though I voted for him, I had no faith that he would keep his promise to me and America’s teachers.

I knew that Democrats were too deeply aligned with neoliberal education reform policies to end standardized testing. Some thought otherwise, hoping for a positive influence from  Dr. Jill Biden, a teacher. Democratic presidents may publicly speak out against such assessments while filling their administration with people who support them.   I remembered that President Obama also had delivered a critique of testing and then ramped it up with his Race to the Top program.  Biden could have selected Dr. Leslie Fenwick, with a proven track record against standardized testing, as his Secretary of Education. Instead, he chose a moderate, unknown candidate, Miguel Cardona.  

I was right.

On February 22ndChalkbeat reported, “States must administer federally required standardized testing this year…” the administration announced. While schools will not be held accountable for scores and can administer the test online and shorten it, states will not receive an exemption through federal waivers. 

Of course, when Biden made his promise to me, we had no idea that COVID-19 would upend public education as we know it, plunging teachers, students, and families into the world of remote teaching and learning. Now would be the perfect time for Biden to make good on his promise. Last year’s tests were canceled. As the pandemic rages on and districts struggle to move from remote to hybrid and fully in-person, why should Biden insist on keeping the standardized tests he claimed made no sense in a pre-COVID world?

Everyone is asking me what we should do now. Fortunately, parents and students have an excellent tool at their disposal.They can opt out. 

I cannot imagine a more opportune time for parents to refuse to have their children participate in a standardized test.  The last thing our children need is the added pressure of a test that won’t count, but they are still required to take.  Our focus should be on helping children build the resilience they need, not just tosurvive the trauma from this pandemic but to thrive in this new education landscape.  Jesse Hagopian passionately reminds us,  

“While corporate education reformers prattle on about a need for more high-stakes testing to evaluate ‘learning loss,’ what students truly require is the redirection of the billions of dollars wasted on the testing-industrial complex toward supporting educators and students: to gain access to COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and vaccinations, as well as psychologists, nurses, social workers, trauma counselors, after-school programs, restorative justice coordinators, and more.”

Opting out of standardized testing is a parent’s choice and right, despite administrators’ push back. Pre-COVID 19, some schools tried to force children to sit and stare for hours while their classmates took the exam. Now that testing has gone virtual, some parents had to give up their right to opt out when they signed up for online schooling. They can make you logon to the testing platform, but no one can force your child to answer the questions.  

I am not alone in my calls for widespread opt out. On Thursday, February 25th, the recently resigned Chancellor of New York City Schools, Richard Carranza, called for parents to refuse the tests. NYC Opt Out and Integrate NYC hosted a town hall to strategize opting out of spring testing.  You can sign the Integrate NYC petition here

Opting out will not hurt schools, but it will hurt the testing corporations, desperate to prove that these assessments can survive in virtual schooling and protect their bottom line. Two years in a row without standardized testing would clear the way to finally dismantle this racist practice–the likely rationale forhis broken promise. The time has come to banish this obsolete relic of a painful past.  

For more information on the opt out movement, visit http://www.unitedoptoutnational.org/

You can also read my blog, Five Myths About the Standardized Testing and the Opt Out Movement

Full Text of My Question

Good afternoon. My name is Denisha Jones, and I am the Director of the Art of Teaching Program at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Today I’m here representing the Network for Public Education Action, Defending the Early Years, the Badass Teachers Association, and The Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action National Steering Committee. 

Teaching has changed drastically over the last 20 years. Instead of being allowed to use their expertise to develop creative,engaging, culturally relevant lessons, teachers are often forced to use a scripted curriculum and move students along even when they need more time. Many teachers feel more like a test prep tutor than a teacher of children and are concerned that both teachers and students are evaluated too heavily based on test scores. Beginning in kindergarten, young children are losing time for play and discovery and instead forced into developmentally inappropriate academic instruction in an effort to get them prepared for tests. Although formal testing does not begin until 3rd grade, younger students are bombarded with practice tests that narrow the curriculum and often leave many of them hating school.

Given that standardized testing is rooted in a history of eugenics and racism, if you are elected president, will you commit to ending the use of standardized tests in public schools? 

VIDEO: Watch Biden’s response here

BIO

Denisha Jones is the Director of the Art of Teaching Program at Sarah Lawrence College. She is a former kindergarten teacher and preschool director who spent the past 17 years in teacher education.  Denisha is an education justice advocate and activist. She serves as the Co-Director for Defending the Early Years, the Assistant Executive Director for the Badass Teachers Association, an administrator for United Opt Out National, and the Network for Public Education board. Since 2017, she has served on the national Black Lives Matter at School steering committee. In 2020 she joined the organizing committee for Unite to Save Our Schools. Her first co-edited book, Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice, was published in December 2020 by Haymarket Books. She is an attorney.