How Can the Democrats Build a Coalition to Win the November Midterms: Fire Arne

President Obama is in trouble, real trouble.

Each and every day in the House and the Senate the single goal of the Republicans is to damage the Democrats and increase their chances of maintaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate, and, the Democrats are worried, they should be.

Nate Silver, in his FiveThirtyEight blog predicts,

When FiveThirtyEight last issued a U.S. Senate forecast way back in July — we concluded the race for Senate control was a toss-up. That was a little ahead of the conventional wisdom at the time, which characterized the Democrats as vulnerable but more likely than not to retain the chamber.

Our new forecast goes a half-step further: We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber.

If the Republicans seize control of the Senate they will begin to undo six years of Obama legislation – beginning with the Affordable Care Act and working through worker rights, social issues and appointing as many conservative justices as possible. Six years of an Obama administration can be undone in his last two years, as well as setting the stage for the 2016 presidential election.

The policymakers, the Harvard and Yale graduates are at the top of the policy junta. From education to healthcare to the environment and energy policy the intellectual “elites” design policies. How do we assure that every American has affordable healthcare? How do we reduce and/or eliminate poverty? How do we save the environment? How do we improve the economy, reduce unemployment, and lessen income inequality? How do we both secure our borders and create a path to citizenship for the undocumented? How do we improve education for all students?

The next level is the policy implementers, the bureaucrats who steer the regulations and legislation through the maze of government into actual implementation.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committe (DCCC) are in full campaign mode with six months until November elections.

Motivating the core, fundraising, building an army of foot soldiers, expanding social media, all preparing for that Tuesday in November.

Outside of the loop, or more accurately on the edge of the loop are the strategists, the guys and gals on the ground that actually run campaigns, for a fee.

SKDKnickerbocker, Pitta Bishop Del Giorno, Red Horse Strategies, there are scores of firms, some regional, others national, some only work for Republicans or Democrats while others will work across the political spectrum.

John Del Cecato at AKPD Media crafted the “Dante” TV commercial that is credited with pushing Bill de Blasio’s campaign ahead of the pack of candidates.

Browse a directory of consulting firms here

There are frequently tensions between the policymakers and the folks that actually run campaigns. Bill de Blasio ran a brilliant campaign, beginning as a lightly regarded much too liberal candidate and besting the favorites Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson and avoiding a runoff. The brilliance of the campaign has not transferred into the first few months of his mayoralty, the glow of victory has worn off, and there whispers are a one-term mayor.

If I were invited to a meeting of policymakers, strategists and consulting firms I would advise:

“In 2008 and 2012 new voters, Afro-Americans, women, LGTs, millennials and progressives across the age spectrum; a coalition that came together only for the elections; in 2010, the midterms, the coalition never came together; the Republicans seized the House and eroded the Democratic majority in the Senate. Are we doing anything differently in 2014?

Will the 2008 and 2012 new voters come back to the polls? Have we motivated the core constituency? Not only is the answer “no,” we have lost voters in the middle.

The Affordable Care Act has become Obamacare, a tarnished plan that has motivated the Republicans and the uncommitted. Will the eight million who signed up for the Affordable Care Act vote in 2014? Will they vote for Democrats? The rollout of the Affordable Care Act was a disaster, an avoidable disaster, a disaster that could cost seats in the Senate. A disaster that is not remediable.

Another bubbling disaster is the Common Core and the alienation of teachers.

There are three million teachers: they vote, they get involved in campaigns, they man phone banks, they knock on doors, they are respected in their communities, they were key players in 2008 and 2012, and Arne Duncan has driven them away from the administration.

Whether the Common Core and Race to the Top are disasters or wonderful is irrelevant. Teachers and increasing numbers of parents perceive them as disasters. A Republican Congress will dismantle the Obama education policies and Democrats will join them.

I hear the policymakers and strategists argue that progressives and teachers have no other place to go, after all Republican policy is anathema. They are shortsighted, the alternative is staying at home, not to volunteer, not to contribute to campaigns, to walk away from involvement.

There is one action that would motivate and invigorate teachers and progressive voters.

Fire Arne Duncan (and select a highly regarded career educator).

I know, I know, he’s Barrack’s best bud, he’s a homeboy, the President would never consider dumping Arne.

If the Republicans control Congress the President will spend his last two years vetoing bill after bill and trying to convince other Democrats not to vote to override his veto – with only limited success. The Republicans and the Democrats will be in full 2016 election mode and you better believe the President will not only be irrelevant, he will attacked by his own party.

For six years Arne Duncan has skillfully evaded Congress, he has created a circle of loyal supporters: governors and corporate leaders, an elite intelligentsia that has distanced themselves from teachers and parents. On one hand Duncan consistently repeats a mantra, “education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century;” on the ground, in classrooms, in living rooms, electeds in state legislators and in Congress, have moved from suspicion to outright opposition.

David Tyack and Larry Cuban, in their seminal study of school reforms, “Tinkering Towards Utopia,” (1997) tell us,

We do not believe in educational Phoenixes and we do not think the system is in ashes … we suggest thst reformers take a broader view of the aims that should guide public education and focus on ways to improve instruction from inside out rather than top down … Reforms should be designed by educators working together to take advantage of their knowledge of their own diverse students and communities and supporting each other in new ways of teaching. It is especially important to engage the understanding and support of parents and the public when reforms challenge cultural beliefs about what a ‘real school’ should be and do.

Duncan has lost the confidence of teachers and parents.

The President has to fire Arne now and change the path of education, or, remain loyal to his best friend and watch the Congress reverse his education policies.

I fear the policymakers will prevail; the President will stay the course, remain loyal, and watch his legacy crumble.

I don’t know how to resolve Ukraine, or Syria, or the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, I’m pretty good at winning elections.

A choice: three million teachers with feet on the ground or sitting at home marking papers.”

And I don’t charge a million dollars for my advice.

10 responses to “How Can the Democrats Build a Coalition to Win the November Midterms: Fire Arne

  1. The Democrats spent the first 5 years of luxoriating in Obamas victories, as well they should have. They did this at great political expense, inspiring a Republican party whose main strategy has been “retribution” whereever they could get it. Pelosi and REid knew this day was coming. Im not sure they can save their bacon, but they can do some things which might cut their losses some. Teh first is of course to fire Arne Duncan. THey dont have to radically go in another direction, but perhaps replace him with soemone who knows a little about States Rights” and is familiar with the term “relax” as in relax the national mandate on Common Core. The 2nd huge step could be to re-evaluate the so called “Mid Country Pipeline” fiasco. It would provide a huge boost to lowering unemployment figure, while at the same time,make fro better relations on our continent. I dont think wild life will suffer all that much once its in place. Im sure theer are some other steps the Dems could take to get a hold on some of what might be sure losses if they dont make changes…


  2. Olivia Koppell

    The real problem is that people don’t really understand what is at stake. The Democrats need to make very clear what will happen with a Republican victory – a slide backwards. Yes, Obama needs to make bold moves and not rely on those “policiy elites” who have a disconnect with what needs to happen locally. And people need to take elections very personally – their way of life is at stake – and the Democrats need to make that understood. That should get people out and voting.


  3. The Prez must be getting ready to get rid of Duncan. See who his nominee is for undersecretary? If anyone can be worse than Duncan, he is.


  4. Pingback: Peter Goodman: The Only Way Obama Can Avoid Defeat in November is to Fire Arne | Diane Ravitch's blog

  5. Too late.

    It’s not like Arne represents some sort of rogue splinter cell of Democrats. Obama has backed not just him, but his policies. Meanwhile, some of the most virulently anti-public ed administrations at the state level are Democratic.

    I am a registered Democrat. I vote in every election. I will never, ever vote for a Democrat simply because they’re a Democrat, and they had better have something more compelling to say to me than just, “Well, we’ll be better than the other guy.”

    Don’t get me wrong. I’d be delighted to see Arne go. But it won’t change my attitude about November the slightest bit.


  6. Nancy Goldberg

    Duncan has never championed our local educational systems; he operates in counter-purpose to local school district policies. As such, his Race to the Top and attendant motivational “carrots” presented to state boards of education undercut local educational decisions. Top down seldom works. Tyack and Cuban have the right perspective on real improvement; Duncan doesn’t.


  7. “A Republican Congress will dismantle the Obama education policies and Democrats will join them. ”

    Big, big slip. The republicans love RttT. It’s their wet dream. Think…racing…a few winners and a bunch of losers. No better way to increase inequality.


    • After all, don’t forget. Mitt Romney admitted he liked Arne Duncan, and there were whispers Romney would invite him back had he won.

      The republicans may wish to rename the RttT program, for political reasons, but they would surely implement something similar.


      • Jim: The current Republican party views Romney as a traitor – their goal is to eliminate the US Department of Education and give every parent a voucher … pick your school: public, charter or private, let the marketplace decide.


  8. Pingback: One Possible Way to Increase Democrats’ Odds in 2014: Fire Ed. Secretary Arne Duncan | Mike the Mad Biologist

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