Sunday, July 29, 2018

Randi Promises Teacher Unions Will be More Poltiical, Thomas Franks asks: Can Liberals Win Back the Working Class?

All education is politics. ---Paulo Freire
OK folks, this piece may be even more confusing than usual, as I try to sort out where my own confusion between left, right and center lies --- yes Virginia, I do have some libertarian - leftarian positions. I try to see as many sides of an issue as I can -- which is why I am flipping around.

The guy who taught next to me for 20 years turned highly religious and right wing in the 1980s -- a real working class guy who grew up in Little Italy - an Italian Catholic who came to school with ashes on his forehead at Lent. When I met him in the early 70s there was no more union oriented guy who taught me a lot about union consciousness. Then he turned evangelical.

I saw first hand how religion can operate as he first stopped doing COPE and then resented paying a union that supported abortion and so many other issues. He tried repeatedly to get out of the union and stop paying dues. He articulated the very type of views we hear from the Janus crowd. I don't abandon people like him by calling him a scab or free-loader. I try to understand.

We know there are union people who want the unions to stay out of politics but how does a union do that when the right is on the attack on every institution we value, including health care? Does the union keep hands off? On the other hand we see our union supporting even anti-union candidates, so they take attacks from all sides.

Last week I was with former colleagues -- very pro-union former chapter leaders who castigated people for not paying dues. Yet, they are center and even right leaning. I think one may have voted for Trump. One of them said that she was not left-wing but pro-union and if the union was a left wing union even she might not want to pay dues to support politics she does not agree with. That made me think more deeply than usual -- my scalp is hurting -- as I try to take a variety of views into account.

Here is the problem. Our top-down union leadership is exclusive of
member opinions when making policy. I know it sounds somewhat trite but a vibrant democratic union would be inclusive, even to the views of people on the right -- by having open debates on many issues, even if you don't agree, you might be able to find middle grounds. Some reports are that 30% of UFT members didn't vote for Hillary. Here's what I know -- Randi is choosing the next candidate we will support for President and then will manufacture some phony process. So look for the same kind of results.

In this spirit, check out these 2 articles from the left and the right.
Republicans had successfully inverted their historical brand-image as the party of the highborn, remaking themselves as plain-talking pals of the forgotten people who had so spurned them during the Great Depression. Republicanism’s payload, however, was the same as it had been in 1932. And just look at what conservatism proceeded to do to those average people once they welcomed it into their lives.
Instead of doing what the moment required, Democrats chose to help the banks get back on their feet and to stand by as inequality soared; they scolded their base for wanting too much and they extended their hand instead to Silicon Valley and big pharma. The task of capturing public anger was one they regarded with distaste; they left that to Tea Party demagogues and to Donald Trump.

From Michael Fiorillo:
The photo [in the article] shows a Trump demo in West Allis (as in Allis-Chalmers, a legacy industrial giant at one time) Wisconsin, which back in the day was home to some of the most most militant, Left-led unions in the country and was a reliable Democratic base until the 80's... As Frank says, if Wisconsin is a battleground state, we're in deep shit... Trump will be gone, sooner or later, but not Trumpismo... If the Democratic Party can't be revived, a more competent, less legally-challenged Trump will come along, and then we'd better really look out !
Some have suggested that unions might temper their left-wing politics in response to the decision, in the hopes of wooing potential members put off by union politics.... Frederick Hess, National Review. --- view from the right.
Thomas Frank, from the left, asks:

Can liberals please work out how to win back the working class? | Thomas Frank | Opinion | The Guardian

Frank writes from the left, indicating that the Dem Party needs to abandon its ties to the corporate interests, which is where the center of the party hangs out. Some of the links I've posted on ed notes with cries from the center to marginalize Ocasio-Cortez are indications. I think the use of the term "liberals" is problematic since liberals are also often free marketeers and verge on neo-liberals. It was the liberals who attacked and bashed teachers and their unions.

I imagine a certain class of the left may condemn Frank since there is an assumption he means the white working class - which I don't assume, as the working class is multi-cultural.

It is also worth reading the view from the right - the National Review-

Teachers’ Unions Plan to Become ‘More Political, Not Less Political’

By &
where Randi declared: “We’re becoming more political, not less political.”

This article led to some laughs on FB about Randi.

Let's see what that means in practice.  "The NEA adopted 122 total New Business Items, including commitments to promote the Black Lives Matter Week of Action." 

How interesting when the UFT refused to endorse the BLM week of action back in January. 

Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, warns that surveys show “many [teachers] see dues as too high” and “political activity as too leftist”; she also notes that “only half of all teachers voted for Hillary Clinton.” Internal documents from the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers’ union, anticipate that the union will lose a whopping 300,000 members. Things look even bleaker for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the nation’s other major teachers’ union, which has 15 of its 22 largest state affiliates in former agency-fee states — and already had fewer than half its members paying full dues.
Well, Kate Walsh from an ed deform group is not credible but the danger to the AFT is real, even more-so than the NEA. (I have a piece coming up based on Mike Antounucci reporting on this very issue.)  While Thomas Frank says the Dem party need to tack left, naturally right wingers Hess and Addison feel left politics for the AFT is a minefield.
Somehow, the AFT’s new policies leaned further left than the NEA’s. The AFT unanimously endorsed a “public investment strategy for health care and education infrastructure,” which includes: universal health care, “whether single-payer health care or MediCare for All”; free tuition at all public colleges and universities, as well as “funding for wage justice for adjuncts”; universal, full-day, free child care; doubled per-pupil spending for low-income K–12 districts; and “taxation of the rich to fully fund” a raft of education programs. AFT further resolved that they would “call on our endorsed candidates to support these priorities, and toward that end we will embed these aspirations in our questionnaires to potential candidates seeking our support.” Swing-state Democrats, beware.

For those who didn’t get quite get the message, AFT president Randi Weingarten told reporters, “We’re becoming more political, not less political.” Let educators, would-be members, and public officials be forewarned.

We had the perfect opportunity to reverse course in 2008, after a deregulatory catastrophe sent the billionaires shrieking for handouts and ruined middle America as collateral damage. That was the perfect moment for liberals to reclaim their Rooseveltian heritage by governing forcefully on behalf of ordinary people, by warring against over-powerful corporations, by demonstrating the power of the state to build a just and humane society. But they didn’t do it.

I know the excuses: those Republicans were so clever, they wouldn’t vote for Obama’s proposals, etc. But from the long-term perspective, what really mattered was the absence of Democratic will. Instead of doing what the moment required, Democrats chose to help the banks get back on their feet and to stand by as inequality soared; they scolded their base for wanting too much and they extended their hand instead to Silicon Valley and big pharma. The task of capturing public anger was one they regarded with distaste; they left that to Tea Party demagogues and to Donald Trump.

We are going to pay for that failure for a long time. The GOP should have been ruined by the financial crisis; instead the culture wars are raging all over again, with dog whistles and fights over the flag and the persecution mania of the populist right blaring from the TV screen. We’re right back where we started. The crisis went completely to waste.
For all their cunning, Republicans are a known quantity. Their motives are simple: they will do anything, say anything, profess faith in anything to get tax cuts, deregulation and a little help keeping workers in line. Nothing else is sacred to them. Rules, norms, traditions, deficits, the Bible, the constitution, whatever. They don’t care, and in this they have proven utterly predictable.

The Democrats, however, remain a mystery. We watch them hesitate at crucial moments, betray the movements that support them, and even try to suppress the leaders and ideas that generate any kind of populist electricity. Not only do they seem uninterested in doing their duty toward the middle class, but sometimes we suspect they don’t even want to win.

(This is more than just a suspicion, by the way. As none other than Tony Blair has said, “I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.”)
Still, as we are reminded at every turn, this flawed organization is the only weapon we have against the party of Trump. And as the president’s blunders take a turn for the monumental and public alarm grows, the imperative of delivering a Democratic wave this fall grows ever more urgent.

Make no mistake: it has got to happen. Democrats simply have to take one of the houses of Congress this fall and commence holding Trump accountable. Failure at this baseline mission is unthinkable; it will mean the Democratic party has no reason for being, even on its own compromised terms.
What concerns me as I begin my leave, though, is the larger picture. Trump may be an oaf, but the vicious strain of rightwing populism he introduced is not going away. Trumpism is the future for the Republican party – it delivered Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Iowa too. Wisconsin, of all places, is now a battleground state. In the hands of a real politician, Trumpism has the potential to romp even farther.

Beating the right cannot simply be a matter of waiting for a dolt in the Oval Office to screw things up. There has to be a plan for actively challenging and reversing it, for turning around the fraction of working class voters who have been abandoning the Democratic party for decades. The time is up for happy fantasies of office-park centrism and professional-class competence.
As for me, I am off to write a few books. I’ll be back in this space in a few years and we will see how things have gone.

Thomas Frank is an American political analyst and historian. His books include What’s the Matter With Kansas?. His latest is Listen, Liberal: or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?

1 comment:

  1. Liberals are essentially authoritarian. They presumed to speak for the authentic working class. The working class despise them.


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