I was in Philadelphia last night and although I didn’t make it to the DNC convention I felt like I had. All through Center City the streets were clogged with convention paraphernalia and enthusiasts wearing tee-shirts adorned with sentiments that ranged from the familiar -- “#NeverTrump,” “Ask Me About Hillary,” “Still Feelin’ the Bern” -- to the brand-new“ "Thanks for the 'help' Debbie."
The latter, of course, is a reference to the revelation last Friday that the Democratic National Committee, chaired by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, undermined Bernie Sanders’ campaign in order to secure the nomination for Hillary Clinton. This bias from the supposedly neutral leadership group was revealed in a series of emails published by Wikileaks.
May 5, 2016: DNC officials appear to suggest a plan to bring Mr. Sanders’s religion into the primary narrative. In an email from Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall to Chief Executive Officer Amy Dacey, Mr. Marshall writes, “It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.” Ms. Dacey responds, “AMEN.”
Just as we Dems were wallowing in RNC-induced schadenfreude, we find out our national leadership is just as corrupt and, apparently, aren’t going to be the only party doing so serious post-election soul-searching. Amidst the chagrin, however, I can’t help thinking about a similar incident more than a year ago when the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) announced to great fanfare that its executive committee overwhelmingly preferred Clinton over Sanders and was therefore making an early endorsement on the behalf of its general membership. (NEA followed in lockstep two months later.)
After AFT President Randi Weingarten made the announcement in early July 2015, rebel members like the Badass Teacher Association exploded angrily. “Teachers say “No Freakin’ Way’ to AFT Endorsement,” read one headline. "Sad day,” said one tweet, “when political expediency trumps legitimate representation of members' real priorities” and another: "Clinton endorsement is a joke & local union voices are being silenced to retain AFT union funding."
Fact: both the DNC and AFT/NEA were in the bag for Hillary and gunning for Bernie because, well, Bernie couldn’t win or early endorsements buy political power or the pretense of party unity trumps genuine dissent.
Fact: anti-establishment hoi polloi, both within teacher unions and the Democratic Party, weren’t ready (still aren’t ready) to concede.
“The system’s rigged!” It's a conspiracy!"" cry betrayed teachers.
“The system’s rigged! It's a conspiracy!" cry betrayed Bernie fans in Philadelphia.
They’re right. It is. Maybe it always has been and our intense saturation in social media simply unveiled the pretense. The man (woman) behind the curtain has been outed and no one looks good. What’s that old saw? “A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality.”
Political parties are supposed to unify around shared principles, as are teacher unions. This year? Not so much. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe dissent is a salve that softens unhealthy rigidity and blind allegiance to power. Maybe we should celebrate diversity, whether we're talking about different approaches to school reform or health care or job creation.
Now if only those rumors that Clinton will choose Weingarten as her Education Secretary would go away....