Except for the 2004 Republican National Convention, I have never seen a national political convention where there was such unity of purpose, so much excitement, and such validation from media insiders as in this Democratic Convention. The left side of the aisle has been fully stomped on, getting crushed in nearly every significant electoral contest of 2011. While Elizabeth Warren made her big appearance last night, he’s down by 5 points in the polls in Massachusetts, failing to carry the Democratic establishment of the state (including the Mayor of Boston, Tom Menino, who has not endorsed her). The hulking labor bureaucracies, after their demolition in Wisconsin, are not in Charlotte in full force, having refused to fund the convention. And the embrace of the party for the education privatizers is on full force, with the film “Won’t Back Down” pretty much endorsed by the party.
Teachers are the heart and soul of the Democratic volunteering apparatus. Public education is a massive institution funded by taxes to deliver caregiving services. The transition of that revenue stream, roughly $500 billion a year, to private hands is well on its way, and it carries a bonus of destroying the power of a liberal faction in the Democratic Party and the electoral system. A variety of mechanisms are used to justify this shift, from school choice to parent triggers to the best line, “our failing public schools”. “Don’t Back Down”, which tells the story of a poor single mother who takes on an entrenched union bureaucracy and reclaims her kid’s school with the help of a dynamic teacher, is the latest narrative to justify the shift. What makes the playing of this film at the convention interesting, though, is that the teacher’s unions are not particularly upset. In fact, the President of the National Education Association, said he enjoyed the film.
Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association (NEA), said that he has seen the film and wasn’t offended by it.
“They wrote a script. One of the villains is a union. But it didn’t offend me because that’s not my union. I have never seen any union like that. It’s a make-believe union that doesn’t care. My members care. We care. We are doing everything we can to turn around schools, to lead a profession, to make it a real profession,” Van Roekel said.
The union leader even said that he liked the movie.
“I didn’t really think I would like it but I did,” Van Roekel said. “It’s a great movie. It made me cry three times.”
Nothing illustrates the captured state of our politics better than a supposed union leader praising a film dedicated to destroying the power of working men and women. Now, of course, there are certainly problems with teachers unions, as there are with any set of large bureaucratic institutions. But eliminating the one opposition vehicle to the transfer of a half a trillion dollars of tax revenue each year to privatize educational corporations is simply about graft.
Going into the election, the Democratic Party is more unified than I’ve ever seen. Unity happened, though, not because the various factions in the party decided to put aside their differences and cooperate. It happened because there was an internal war in the party, and the neo-liberals did a clean sweep. They smashed everyone opposed to them, and cowed or coopted everyone else. The Republicans, who are the repository of a purer form of plutocracy, are just not necessary this electoral season. They aren’t really trying to win. After all, if your supposed opponents will implement your program, why not just let them?