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Campaign 2016: Vergara Is Distracting You From NEA's Political Strength

image from www.educationnews.orgFormer New Yotk Times Magazine reporter Matt Bai has a fascinating and highly controversial (5,000-comment) story you might want to read about how the ultra-liberal Democracy Alliance ended up naming NEA executive director John Stocks (pictured) as board chairman (Rich Democrats go from challenging the status quo to embracing it).

"So you're a liberal member of the 1 percent, and you've decided to wrest control of the Democratic agenda from change-averse insiders. You want to free the capital from the grip of powerful interest groups...Where do you turn for leadership and innovation? To the teachers union, of course!"

Originally conceived as a venture fund for progressive think tanks and thinkers (CAP, MMA), the liberal group has funneled $500 million + to liberal groups over the past decade, according to Bai. But it didn't stay innovative very long, in terms of its backers and who got funding. Silicon Valley and Wall Street funders faded away.  Think tanks like the New Democrat Network and Third Way were cut off.

Now Stocks is at the helm, a move that "tells you something about the direction of Democratic politics right now," according to Bai, because of Stocks' role as the power behind the throne at the NEA (top of Bai's list of "political powerhouses that have been intransigent and blindly doctrinaire in the face of change").

To back up the intransigence argument, Bai cites the Vergara decision and the infamous email from Nick Hanauer ("the leadership of our party and most of its elected members are stooges for the teachers union, the ring leaders in all this nonsense").  

What happens to reform efforts now that Stocks is at the helm, asks Bai?

"What liberal group in Washington that relies on alliance funding is going to champion those kinds of reforms now? What Democratic candidate in the 2016 primaries — just humor me for the moment and assume that there will be primaries and multiple candidates running in them — will vow to carry on Obama's legacy if the party's organized millionaires are standing squarely behind the union that opposes it?"

Indeed. Some journalists and reform advocates have been calling the recent Vergara decision a death knell for teachers unions, but others know that may be overly optimistic.  Policy-wise, the unions are certainly taking some hits.  

But politically and financially there's a long way to go. The NEA still has enough money to be the top campaign contributor in many races, vastly outspending StudentsFirst, and is ramping up its organizing efforts.  The AFT's Randi Weingarten continues to mesmerize reporters with her reasonable-sounding rhetoric (like she did at EWA in Nashville).  

Even more important, Democratic Presidential politics are shifting left with the ascendancy of Clinton and the remaining strength of the unions (Union Resources & Organizing Will Dominate 2016 Campaign).

Previous posts: Welfare Queens, Turncoats, & Birthers (Yes!)Three Steps To Understanding Obama-Clinton.


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Hanuer's letter has many factual inaccuracies. He doesn't claim any knowledge about schools. He's just seems good at saying that positions, that he knows nothing about, are absurd.


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