Throughout the Obama presidency, one of the most vocal and demanding factions in the Democratic Party base has been activists for gay and lesbian equality. They repeatedly protested at Obama events and even at the White House, complained loudly about Obama’s broken promises, and even threatened to boycott Obama’s re-election campaign by withholding donations. In light of that ongoing confrontationalism, as well as the importance of gay voters (and especially gay donors) to the Democratic Party, it’s no surprise that their agenda has been repeatedly attended to by Obama, as he engineered the successful repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, ordered his DOJ to stop defending the constitutionality of DOMA, and then finally “evolved” to an Election-Year endorsement of same-sex marriage.
Latino activists have been as confrontational and unwilling to fall into line as good, compliant partisan soldiers. They publicly protested Obama’s record number of deportation, complained about his immigration policies, loudly accused him of “betrayal,” and expressed subsstantial disapproval for him in polls.
Like gay voters (and donors), Latinos are vital to the President’s re-election bid. Had they simply stayed quiet and cheered blindly for Obama and the Democrats, they would have had no leverage: politicians, rationally, will reflexively ignore those who pledge unconditional fealty to them. Because their devotion to the Obama re-election campaign was not unconditional — it was very much conditioned on having their political priorities attended to rather than ignored — they have now received a valuable and important (and plainly just) policy change.
Meanwhile the unions endorse the teacher-bashing, Fire to the Bottom President Obama two years before the election, roll over and defend many of his teacher-bashing initiatives (Sure Race to the Top sucks as a program, but at least he's funding education!), and play the loyal co-dependent to the abusive Obama, who clearly never met a teacher he doesn't despise (except for the charter teachers, of course!)
I have seen some teacher bloggers on the Internets play the same game with Obama - complain about the president, complain about the policies, complain about Arne Duncan and and call for Duncan to be fired - as if Arne Duncan is the architect of Obama's education policies. And yet, they still say, in the end, they will vote for Obama no matter what because the alternative is untenable.
Oh, yeah - that'll get you the policy changes you want.
I've said this before, I will say this again:
Arne Duncan serves at the pleasure of the president and Obama doesn't keep him around simply because he's his basketball buddy. He keeps him around because Duncan agrees with Obama on the substance of education policy - more testing, more charters, more privatization of public schools, teacher evaluations based upon test scores, and teacher bashing.
Obama IS the problem, not Duncan.
If you have a problem with the education policies the Obama administration pursues, take it up with the big guy, just the way the LGBT and Latino activists have done.
Put pressure on Obama to stop the teacher bashing, stop the testing mania, stop the selling out to the privatization interests.
Clearly the White House is feeling desperate as the economy goes into the toilet once again, with unemployment rising, GDP falling and the Eurozone looking like it could drive the world into another recession.
They NEED their "loyal" constituencies to come out for them, to raise money for them, to get out the vote for them, and they're willing to horsetrade to get that.
There's a reason Obama came out in public supporting gay marriage and changed the deportation policy in an election year - he's desperate for LGBT and Latino votes, money and support.
And yet, the teachers unions refuse to use the leverage they have to get concessions from him - instead we have UFT President Mulgrew declaring we have to work extra hard to GOTV for Obama in swing states to ensure Romney is not elected president.
The hell we do.
As I wrote in a comment at ICEUFTblog:
Toil in swing states to help re-elect the architect of Race to the Top, the president who put into place the policies that encouraged the firing of teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island and then cheered publicly when that happened, the man who thanked charter school teachers on Teacher Appreciation Day but forgot about unionized teachers, the man most responsible for the testing/VAM mania now sweeping most states?And that's part of what the teachers unions should be telling Obama.
Not bloody likely.
Here's the rest of what the unions should be telling him:
The only way we vote for Obama is if we get concrete pre-election changes to federal education policy that end the testing mania Obama has promoted via Race to the Top, as well as many of the other damaging policies, like teacher evaluations tied to VAM's.
And he has to stop the teacher bashing - now.
No concrete pre-election concessions from Obama, no votes, no money, no GOTV effort, no support from teachers and teachers unions.
That's the deal.
And you know what would happen if the unions told the Obama people this?
They'd get concessions. They'd get what they want - just the way LGBT and Latino activists did.
Obama likes to swagger like Bush when he deals with teachers and unions in general, but he's not dealing from strength anymore, he's dealing from weakness.
There's nothing behind that swagger.
He's hanging by a thread and he knows it.
The AFT, the NEA and teacher activists and bloggers should be telling this administration the deal - give us what we want or we help send you to Carter and Bush 41 one term territory.
Have fun enjoying your early retirement back in Chicago, Barack.