Should the American Federation of Teachers Endorse a Candidate in the Democratic Primaries? If so, Who Should They Endorse?

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has done an excellent job in engaging democratic candidates in discussions with teachers. At the 2018 AFT Convention Warren, Klobuchar, Sanders and Biden spoke, all gave passionate pro-public education, pro-teacher, pro-union speeches. Most of the candidates have attended AFT-sponsored town halls, live-streamed, a back and forth conversation with classroom, union-activist teachers; on December 10th, in Pittsburgh, the AFT will host a forum among the leading candidates.

Chalkbeat has collected the education policies for each of the candidates here.

The AFT is in no hurry to endorse a candidate and clearly wants as much membership involvement as possible. A few local AFT unions have already made endorsements, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) and Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) endorsed Bernie Sanders, the largest local, the United Federation of Teachers, in New York City is moving much more slowly.

The current national polls are swinging widely.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s support among Democratic primary voters nationwide plunged 50 percent over the past month, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll, signaling that the shake-ups in the primary field are far from over.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has retaken the lead in the poll after an autumn that saw him surrender his solid frontrunner status, climbing 3 points to earn 24 percent in the poll. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., surged into second, rising 6 points to 16 percent, with Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders not far behind at 14 and 13 percent, respectively.

Buttigieg, aka, Mayor Pete, while surging in the polls has no Afro-American support and a searing article in The Root.com, a widely read online website on Afro-American entertainment and politics  (“pete-buttigieg-is-a-lying-mf”) is sharply critical. Can a candidate win without widespread Afro-American support?

The key date, three months away, is March 3rd, Super Tuesday, fourteen states will elected 40% of delegates, that’s right, 40% of the delegates who will select the candidate at the Democratic National Convention (July 13-16). The two states with the largest number of delegates, California and Texas, will elect delegates on Super Tuesday.

Rules on who can vote are set at the state level, New York State is a “closed” primary state, you must be a registered Democrat to vote in the April 28th primary (you can change registration until February 14th), some other states are “open” primary states, any registered voter, Republican, Democrat or not registered in any party can vote in the Democratic or Republican primaries; these are referred to as “cross-over” states.

The addition of Bloomberg and his thirty-five million dollars may, or may not impact the race. Will Texans be attracted to the 78-year old anti-gun, environmentalist former New York City mayor?  My Texan friends tell me the real motto of Texas should be “God, Guns and Sports,” not exactly topics on which Bloomberg has any interest.

Politico  speculates on Bloomberg’s plan to win in the delegate-rich states by attracting “Never Trump” Republicans who will “cross-over” to vote for Bloomberg along with right-center-Democrats and/or Biden supporters.  Bloomberg is currently polling at 3% and will not be in the December debates or campagning in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, the primaires before Super Tuesday.

Tom Steyer, the other billionaire in the race has plastered his commercials across the screen. Steyer argues, as do the right wing “populists” across Europe, that democracy is broken and what the county needs is an outsider, ignoring the other two branches of government; although Steyer argues he’s a progressive, he has the same disrespect for democratic institutions as Trump and “populists” in Hungary, Poland, Italy and Germany.

Bloomberg is in the Steyer mold, moving from Democrat to Republican to Democrat using his enormous fortune to win elections.

Teachers are divided between Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg factions; the only agreement is a distinct dislike of Bloomberg, perhaps dislike is too mild a term!

Teachers are working on the ground in all the campaigns, in my view, why alienate members who are committed to candidates who have pro-education, pro-teacher and pro-union platforms by selecting one at this point?

In New York City the union is forming political action teams across the city, with training sessions. Five elections coming up over the next year and a half: presidential primary (April 28), state primary elections for the Senate and the Assembly (late June), the November presidential, City Council and City-Wide primaries in June, 2021 and City Council and City-Wide offices in November 2021.

With well over 100,000 members in New York City the teacher union is a significant force in any election. Endorsement decisions must be bottom-up, representing the views of members who are anxious to go door to door. In the special election to fill the office of public advocate all the candidates were invited to meet with union members. I asked the “charter school” questions to the candidates, I think eight candidates. We ended up by endorsing no one; all the candidates were supportive of our issues. A few months later the union interviewed for an open seat on the City Council and choose an outsider who simply was the most knowledgeable about education issues: she won!!

Who am I supporting? Is it too late for Michelle Obama to get involved in the race?

One response to “Should the American Federation of Teachers Endorse a Candidate in the Democratic Primaries? If so, Who Should They Endorse?

  1. NO!

    Like

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