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Progressives II

April 15, 2015

A prominent person in the progressive community wrote to us to complain about our last post. See the second entry in the comments section under Progressives.

We respect the individual who wrote to us. He’s someone who has devoted himself to helping others. We’re in awe of that. There’s nothing more honorable.

And yet, we think this person has a problem. He lacks the ability to step outside himself and see the bigger picture. He can’t see how others, including the majority of ordinary New Yorkers, view him and his movement.

This inability keeps him from being more effective at what he does. We don’t say that in a snarky way. Not at all. We actually want to help him and his cause. But in order to do that, we need be blunt.

As you’ll see from his note, our progressive friend believes that the Occupy Wall Street movement is responsible for making income equality “the defining issue of our day.” He believes that attention grabbing tactics like sit-ins in public parks and now the opt-out tactic are part of a progressive tide that is changing society for the better.

Faith in one’s cause is a beautiful thing. We admire it. It’s just that we admire a realistic reading of demographics a bit more.

In this regard, here’s a fact: Today in New York, significantly more people identify themselves as conservatives than liberals. Another fact: The liberal base is shrinking, not growing.  (So is the conservative base, but not quite as fast.)

What is growing is the moderate middle. Most people today are moderate, but leaning conservative, especially on fiscal issues.

Yes, liberals can still get themselves elected in urban areas – although they can only do so by calling themselves progressives instead of liberals. But they don’t do well outside urban areas.

Think of what happened in the last election. The Senate Republicans thumped the Dems. They did so by running against liberal causes. Cece Tkaczyk?  She was easily defeated as a result of an ad that highlighted her support of the Dream Act.

Progressives are pretending that didn’t happen. They are acting like they didn’t get their ass kicked in the last election. They are acting like most people don’t think Bill DeBlasio is a buffoon.

They think Occupy was a noble cause when, in the real world, the lasting image of it is of people pissing in the park.

They think opt-out is a noble cause, too. We think it’s going to backfire, and that’s our warning to them. If it doesn’t first get hijacked by Rob Astorino, it’s going to be viewed, in the long run, as tainted and irresponsible.

We see that happening already. Last night on the Liz Benjamin show, a brilliant guy, Bob Bellefiore, knocked it out of the park. He said that the teachers unions, not progressives, are behind the opt-out campaign. He said they are doing it for less than altruistic reasons. It’s because they want to weaken the drive toward teacher testing. (That’s the tainted part. The irresponsible part is what we wrote about in our previous post – opt-out undermines confidence in the education system.)

Yes, playing to parents’ anxiety about student testing might be work in the short run. It might stir things up, but it won’t alter much.

Bellefiore, again: “Anxiety over testing has been around for 15 years, but it’s life. You don’t get to opt-out of a driver’s test. You don’t get to opt out-of a job evaluation. You don’t get to opt-out of any number of things today that are based on tests. There’s no going back on that.”

When we disenthrall ourselves and really think it through, we know that what Bellefiore is saying is right and that those pushing opt-out will be on the wrong side of history, politics or pedagogy.

That’s why we urge the good and decent person who wrote to us to think carefully about his strategy moving forward. He needs to focus not on what resonates with his own people and teachers unions, but with the moderate middle over the long run.

One last point: Our progressive friends really need to come off the Cuomo bashing. More than anything else, this is what blinds them to political realities. In the last paragraph of his note, person who wrote to us claims that with the exception of gay marriage and the SAFE Act, Cuomo has done nothing progressive. This is what the leaders of the progressive community say to each other, but there’s stunning disconnect in it. A lot of other affirmative things have happened – like an expansion of Pre-K, an increase in the minimum wage, a revision of tax code and the largest school aid increase in a decade. These things are all part of Cuomo’s record. Progressives have convinced themselves that they were responsible for these efforts, not the governor. But it just doesn’t work that way. If it happens on Cuomo’s watch, he gets the credit – nobody else.

Let us conclude with another fact: Cuomo, bogeyman to progressive leaders, still polls between 70 and 80 percent support among self-identified liberals.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen Scharff permalink
    April 15, 2015 10:28 PM

    You folks are letting Bob Bellefiore’s charm and mastery of spin confuse you. I suggest you read this blog post today (link below) about NYS’ 2013 Principal of the Year and her decision to retire rather than participate in this evaluation system. Or look at the opt out numbers from this week, especially in moderate suburban districts (or look at the results of any recent poll on the Cuomo education agenda). Once you do, you’ll need to re-assess your view of what the ‘moderate middle’ thinks of the Governor’s education policy. They are leading the opt out movement, not the teachers and not ‘progressives,’ although we have now joined them. And while you’re re-assessing, you might want to rethink your assertions about whether this movement will alter anything, and who is on the ‘wrong side of history.’

  2. Anonymous permalink
    April 16, 2015 11:25 AM

    Don’t get squishy on it. Opt out is wrong. The feds will dock funding.

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