Skip to main content

Getting to the "Party of the Future"

Walter Russell Mead

Apparently, under the California constitution, the right of a bad teacher to lifetime employment is more important than the right of a poor child to an education. The WSJ has the story:

Teacher unions won a big victory Monday after the California Supreme Court let stand a ruling that provides greater job protections to teachers based on tenure.

Nine students who attend California public schools had sued the state, alleging that current statutes make it hard to get rid of “grossly ineffective teachers.” They argued the rules caused “significant educational harm” and widening achievement gaps for minority students.

In April, an appeals court reversed a lower-court decision that found the state’s teacher-tenure laws were unconstitutional and kept students from getting a good education. The state Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ petition for a review. The court, siding with the unions, had contended that the job protections are constitutional.

Many Democrats will join the California Board of Education in regretting this decision, but the political establishment that runs the Democratic Party will stand solidly with bad teachers and against innocent children—because that’s where the money and the power are. For now.

The reason is that the producers of government services—people like teachers, cops, and city hall bureaucrats—tend to be organized, either in unions or in lobbies or both. But the consumers of government services—the kids who depend on public schools and the parents who love them, the clients of dysfunctional welfare bureaucracies, the inhabitants of poorly run public housing projects, the victims of a criminal justice system that routinely puts the convenience of judges and lawyers and the protection of brutal police and prison guards—are not.

The Republican Party, for its part, hasn’t been willing or able to organize the unorganized in American cities and communities, largely because so many Republicans represent those who neither depend on nor produce government services, but rather those who want to pay as little as possible for them.

As a result, with neither party helping, we’ve seen the longterm subjugation of a disorganized majority in many urban areas by an organized minority.

Groups like Black Lives Matter, for all their flaws, at least represent the interests of the people who are badly served by dysfunctional Democratic urban governance. However, these groups generally lack the political ability to do more than protest specific grievances, and the hegemony of regressive socialism leads them to support economic ideas that would only make the cities worse off.

Advocates of charter schools have been the most successful foes of the entrenched urban machines because they have offered better services to people who desperately want them. Though teacher unions have organized to crush this pesky competition, they are meeting tough resistance.

If America is going to have a “Party of the Future” again, a political movement that seeks to overhaul American institutions and politics so that we can benefit from, rather than be frustrated by, the information revolution, is in order. Part of the way forward involves the creation of a political movement that can compete for power in cities and poorer suburbs. This party can’t compete on a “starve the beast” agenda. Yes, reducing the costs of governance is important if our currently blue cities are to become places where the poorer people can join the middle class and the middle class can prosper. But it is equally vital that the services in those cities improve: that the criminal justice system keeps law-abiding citizens safe without routine abuse, that free schools offer good education to kids, and that welfare and unemployment programs help and empower people rather than trapping them in cycles of dependence.

Until that happens, the system will continue to privilege the interests of producers of government services over those who depend on them. That is not OK, and it’s no way to prepare this country for the challenges of a new century.

Related Articles

Making a Killing | Ep. 32: China’s Serial Censorship

Paul Massaro & Nate Sibley

Paul Massaro talks to Dr. Andreas Fulda about how the CCP leverages its market to silence academics and other critics. The two discuss the case study ...

Continue Reading

Counterbalance | Ep. 28: The Dream Palace of American Foreign Policy

Michael Doran & Marshall Kosloff

Mike & Marshall return from their fall break to reflect on how group-think within academia today has created a dangerous culture of consensus of analy...

Continue Reading

How a Lady Editor Turned Teaching into a Majority-Female Profession

Melanie Kirkpatrick

If the female teachers of America had a patron saint, her name would be Sarah Josepha Hale. The celebrated 19th-century editor of Godey’s Lady’s...

Continue Reading