January 20, 2010
“What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?”

Allen Ginsberg


           As I write this, the political class is reeling from the Democrat’s loss of Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts to a teabagger riding the wave of public outrage at the direction of our country.  I suspect that if we plumbed the depths of the minds of the Democrats and Independents who voted for Senator Elect Brown, we would find that most disagreed with him on core issues but voted for him anyway.  They’re not against health care, but a thousand page bill that no one is able to explain to them is frightening.  They’re not against others having health care but are afraid that they will lose what they have.  How much easier it would have been to convince them to support Medicare for all.  No need to explain anything other than the taxes that would need to be raised to once and for all make medical care a right instead of a privilege.   

            The good citizens of Massachusetts probably wanted the federal government to take direct action to ward off a financial collapse, but they didn’t want to see their leaders cozy up to the people who caused the financial crisis in the first place, creating conditions that allowed the rapacious bankers to reap huge profits in just a few months while the rest of the country continues struggling with the highest unemployment rates in years.   They might have looked the other way, if in that direction they saw a sensible jobs program designed to knock down the unemployment numbers significantly.  They might have swallowed hard at the rescue of the financial system, if they felt that their government cared about their anxiety – their fears for the future – if their president had found a way to fear only fear.  

            I would bet a significant sum that among the Democrats and Independents for Scott Brown were numbers of AFT and NEA members who at least in part were motivated by the just plain stupid education policies of this administration, policies that too many union leaders are willing to embrace for a so-called seat at the table.  Their members know that it is a seat at their master’s feet begging for scraps.   They know too that no increase in the number of charter schools or divisive pay for performance scheme for public school teachers is going to address the problems of public education.  They know that the Race to the Top is but the latest scam of politicians who have neither the knowledge, political savvy nor the guts to take on what’s really wrong with America ’s schools and fix it.   

            Most of all, like the rest of the country, these NEA and AFT members were promised change they could believe in.  They wanted so much to believe.  They were told by their union leaders if they would just raise enough political action money, if they would just staff the phone banks as they were never staffed before, if they would turn out to vote in record numbers, they would see an end to the policies of the last administration.  They would no longer be seen as the problem but would be welcome partners with the new administration in bringing real reform to American public education.  No wonder they feel betrayed.  No wonder they felt moved to vote for someone who heard their rage, even though he is against them on most issues.

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