Why We Should All Get On Board the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for Hillary Campaign

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Niemöller is remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The November, 2016 elections are the most significant in generations – on one side the far Republican Right Wing poised to drive the nation’s economic, social and political agendas versus a divided and dispirited Democratic Party. The decision of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to get in early, select a candidate and spend the next sixteen months building support for that candidate is smart and essential.

The next president may appoint a number of Supreme Court justices who write decisions that will impact for decades, the current court – four liberals, four conservatives and Justice Kennedy, a swing vote.

The Republicans control the House of Representatives and are within reach of a 60-vote super majority in the Senate.

We once thought that public employee pensions were guaranteed by state constitutions, until the courts ruled that federal bankruptcy rules trump state constitutions. Republican House leader Paul Ryan supports converting Medicare to a voucher program, and, of course, ending the Affordable Care Act.

The Scott Walker playbook, sharply limiting negotiating rights of public employee unions, would be imbedded into federal legislation.

Education policy would continue to move towards vouchers – encouraging parents to choose public, private, parochial and charters schools with tax-dollar driven vouchers.

The list is endless, and with a Republican president and Republican super majorities in Congress what once appeared to be crackpot ideas would become the law of the land.

On November 8th, 2016 a president will be selected, the president will either be a Republican or a Democrat, and, neither Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders will be elected.

Sanders reminds me of a Senator from South Dakota. George McGovern.

Sanders and McGovern have a lot in common,

I really liked George McGovern, the three-term Senator from South Dakota, who challenged Hubert Humphrey and defeated him in the Democratic primaries in 1972. McGovern, a World War 2 veteran, a Phd history professor, a leader of the anti-Vietnam War movement, a long resume of sponsoring liberal legislation, was trounced in the general election – Nixon won 49 states. (Read a description of the 1972 primary battle here). The liberal wing of the Democratic Party – the New Democratic Coalition (NDC) was derisively referred to “NDC – November Doesn’t Count.”

Winning a presidential election means creating a broad coalition, the traditional core of your party, in the case of Democrats unions, women, the “issue” voters (gay rights, immigration, environment, seniors, etc.), Afro-American and new Latino voters and appealing to the expanding pool of independent voters.

Winning a presidential election means raising a billion dollars, that’s right, a billion dollars, as well as mobilizing an army of foot soldiers. Coalitions aren’t always comfortable, the very same hedge fund folks who support charter schools may be the very same folks willing to provide the millions necessary to run a campaign for a Democratic candidate – depending on the candidate. Yes, the world of politics is complex.

Donald Trump is eating up all the air as the Republican Party moans, rather than building support by debating the narrow differences among the Republican candidates the media is concentrating on Trump, who almost daily breaks the Ronald Reagan 11th commandment, “Thou Shall Not Trash Another Republican,” In a few months Trump will fall by the wayside, remember Herman Cain, “In May 2011, Cain announced his presidential candidacy. His proposed 9–9–9 tax plan, along with his debate performances, made him the Republican front-runner in fall of 2011, during which he briefly led President Obama in the polls; by December he had withdrawn,” never-proven allegations of sexual misconduct.

On the Democratic side the Republicans are overjoyed as the Sander’s campaign pushes Hillary to the left, and you will hear nary a Republican word criticizing Sanders, the Republicans want him in the campaign as long as possible and even dream of a repeat of 1972.

A 73-year old Jewish Socialist from Vermont by way of Brooklyn, no matter how nice a guy, is not going to get elected president. Just as McGovern chased away the mainstream of the Democratic Party, the traditional coalition, Sanders would face the same fate.

The attacks would accuse him of weakness, of being too old, not willing to defend America, destroying our economy, Socialist equals godless Communist, and, of course, whatever whispering campaign they create – politics is a nasty, blood sport. Hillary has faced the attacks ever since Bill was elected.

The mantra of most newspapers and most e-news sites is “If it bleed it leads.” A reporter for a leading print newspaper tells me her editor reminds her, sex and violence bring “hits,” and hits drive advertising revenue.

The days of my falling love with a candidate are long gone, I want a candidate who will win and I want to get on board the campaign early enough to play a role setting the policy direction of the campaign.

Hillary bears the scars of attack after attack, she has the ability to raise the mega-bucks necessary to fund a campaign, and, I believe, she can win.

There are no moral victories, staying on the sidelines is a vote for the “other guys,” and there are no “do-overs,” you get one-shot at electing the next president.

The AFT jumped in early, endorsed the Democratic candidate with the best change of winning and we should all jump on board and get involved.


10 responses to “Why We Should All Get On Board the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for Hillary Campaign

  1. Eric Nadelstern

    You’re right! A candidate from Vermont can’t win.

    Go Hilary.


  2. Makes Sense. When it comes down to Hillary or Walker in the White House, Hillary starts to look really good even if she is too close to the Hedge funds. I think having a Walker move into the White House wouldn’t be much different then resurrecting a Hitler or Stalin and letting someone like them move in.


  3. I agree that given the choice between Hillary and any Republican candidate, Hillary gets my support hands down. However, we have to be aware that, by electing Hillary we’re electing the Common Core, annual testing, charters, and the corporate approach to public education. [And just a note…I don’t know if Bernie is any different. He talks against corporatization…would it carry over into his education policy? Not sure just yet.]

    AFT’s error was not necessarily in endorsing Hillary, but it was endorsing Hillary (or anyone) without saying something like, “If you want our more than 1 million votes (or 3.2 million…are you listening NEA?), then you need to understand where we stand on standardized testing, corporatization, and the privatization of our public schools. You need to understand that we expect some support in return.”

    NEA endorsed President Obama in July of 2011 no strings attached…and we got stuck with four more years of Mr. Basketball. A little mutual backscratching would have been nice. The unconditional endorsement means, “We’ll get our teachers to back you…and when you become president feel free to go back to kicking the sh!t out of America’s public schools.”

    Let’s use the power of our votes to swing the candidate to our point of view…not just because she’s the lesser of two evils.


  4. I understand being past falling in love, but I refuse to be prison-showered by partners in crime. I hoped for change once-it will be the people who are unafraid that will make it happen. Not sneaky handshakes and smooth speeches.


  5. And then they came for the third party, as always — and there was no one left to vote for it.


  6. AFT will not set the policy of the Clinton campaign, nor will they set the policy of a Clinton Presidency. Clinton’s education policy has been set for decades, and it doesn’t deviate a bit from the policy we’ve been living with for over a dozen years. I see no difference at all between Bush III and Clinton II on education. None.

    The AFT has leapt in and surrendered all negotiating power, allowing one more Dem to say, “We have those teachers no matter what, so we don’t need to worry about them. Let’s court those folks on the fence.In fact,let’s court them by showing how we’re not going to be bossed around by teachers.”

    The AFT endorsement was a dumb idea.


    • Thing is it has already happened.

      Still, pressure should be exerted from a third side if we are to ever see someone crawl out from under or get true accomplishments for all from what has become an elitist/good ol’ boys and girls club of America.


  7. Hillary Clinton supports Common Core, Charter school, Wall Street, and for federal intervention in State and local education policy. Why the rush in supporting this obviously flawed candidate? Some of the other Democrats have better policies such as Bernie Sanders and even some Republicans can be reasoned with like Lindsey Graham.

    Moreover, if Eric Nadelstern supports Hillary that alone is the best reason for real educators not to support her.


  8. Marc Korashan

    Have put off responding to this as I was traveling abroad. The stated rationale for endorsing Hillary now is to help shape her candidacy and build support. These are important goals as it is clear that she would be better than any of the 16 intellectual dwarfs running on the Republi-Con side. The question is whether having endorsed her we will have any impact on her platform.?

    What is lacking in politics is any real discussion of the issues and any challenge to established thinking by the media. Claire McCaskill is asked whether Sanders presents a real challenge to Hillary on Mornings Joe and her answer is, “no. He’s a Socialist,” as if a one word smear is enough to dismiss the only candidate who is outlining a platform that is truly pro labor and aimed at rebuilding the middle class. How does our early endorsement change this dynamic?

    Instead of endorsing early, we could have been doing what educators are good at – asking questions of the candidates and the press. Dr Phil is famous for asking guests who are repeating behaviors “how’s that working for you?” We should be asking the press to answer that question about trickle down economics, tax cuts for the rich, austerity programs that hurt working people, educational policies that reify standardized test scores, and on and on. We need to challenge the public as if they were our students to “justify their positions citing evidence.”

    For example, Jeb Bush wants to phase out Medicare but is never asked what will replace it that will work as well. He argues that working people should work more hours to raise their income but is never challenged with the facts that they are already working longer and that incomes have stagnated despite this. What will change under an administration led by him?

    In the end, we need to endorse the candidate of the Democratic party to avoid total victory of the Fascist Oligarchs, but we should serve the public, as teachers, by forcing the politicians and the press to start answering the real questions.


  9. I’ll probably wind up voting for Hillary in the general election as the lesser of evils compared with any Republican candidate. However, I’m afraid that at best she’ll be another LBJ. Great on domestic issues but too ready to step into a military quagmire to show she’s tough on foreign policy. (Did we ever get the “peace dividend” for ending the Vietnam war?)


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