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October 31, 2016

Isiah 40:4 states that “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain” and I wish this applied to Question 2 because the pro-charter side could be made a bit straighter. Recently a new committee filed with OCPF calling itself Advancing Obama's Legacy on Charter Schools Ballot Committee. It’s a front for Dark Money Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts of New York, but since DFER is a front for hedge fund billionaires behind Education Reform Now, why create a front for a front? Or why can’t the crooked be made straight, and the rough places plain?

Advancing Obama's Legacy on Charter Schools Ballot Committee of New York filed on October 17 with Liam Kerr, head of DFER Massachusetts of New York as chairman. The next day Mr. Kerr was replaced by political consultant Frank Perullo, former channeler of Alice Walton’s WalMart inheritance. But then on October 25 Mr. Kerr was back as spokesman for Obama’s Legacy announcing that the group would spend $500,000.00 to shore up sinking support among Democrats. 

Who speaks for the Democrats: Democrats for Education Reform, or the Democrats? Mr. Kerr says that both President Obama and Hillary Clinton favor charters, though he doesn’t note that neither of them has taken any position on Question 2. On the other side, the Democratic State Committee and many prominent leaders including Senator Elizabeth Warren oppose Question 2. There is a cleavage in the Democratic Party, one addressed recently by David Shribman in Democrats-the party of the professional class?

The key tension described by Shribman is that the Democratic Party’s historical identity is as “the defender of rank-and-file workers.” But today the party courts the rise of “a new professional class that is progressive on social issues” but distant from labor, and this is occurring as labor’s long slide continues. Some party leaders applaud the electoral benefit of moving away from the working class and toward well-educated suburban whites, while retaining a base minority voters. But that movement is undergoing a significant push back, including from senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. To stay within our Massachusetts circle, nothing tops this quote from former Governor Michael Dukakis:

We have badly neglected the work we should have been doing for blue-collar working folks, especially men. There’s no excuse for that. These are our people. They have no business voting Republican. But you have got to take care of people and pay attention to them.

Here is the point Shribman did not emphasize: the professional class Democratic Party is dismissing lower class folks without the money to make campaign contributions in favor of professional class people who give copiously.

Except there is one organized group of working class Americans that does make political contributions: union members.  And while conservative Republicans have been waging a war on unions for years – most of the untold millions behind Great Schools Massachusetts of New York is Republican – it’s an irony that the historical backbone of the Democratic Party now is under assault from moneyed Democrats.

DFER has been willing to spend extravagantly to defeat pro-labor Democrats with free market Democrats (though replacing free market Republicans with Democrats, not so much).   This is the sort of thing that ambitious Democratic office seekers notice.

Democratic Wall Street whales may be progressive on social issues but they are less enthused with income inequality. That’s the old Democratic Party. So when Professor Sarah Reckhow writes of wealthy charter school backers as “Boardroom Progressives” she makes a point that Shribman would understand.

It’s just another deviation in the dark money story, where the roads are always crooked and are rarely made straight.

Louis D. Brandeis: "We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."

[Full disclosure: as an educator in the UMass system, I am a union member. I write about dark money, and not charter schools. I've never written about charter schools, nor taken a position on them. I have taken a position against plutocracy and in favor of democracy, and thus against dark money.]

Democrats for Education Reform, dark money

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