Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bad teachers: The Republican politics of vilification

Republicans like to call themselves patriots, but they're the party of discord and division, among other things vilifying entire regions, entire states, entire cities. (E pluribus unum is their anti-motto.)

In '88, it was Massachusetts, whence hailed Michael Dukakis and, worse, liberalism. In '08, it was the coasts, home to Sarah Palin's detested elites, in contrast to the all-American heartland of her fantasies.

This year, it's Chicago, Obama's degraded hometown, and Romney-surrogate Republicans are going all-out trying to connect the president to its supposed political and union thuggery.

You know, to political bosses like Rahm Emanuel, his ex-chief of staff, and to public-school teachers behaving like the Khmer Rouge.

Except, of course, that they're not. The Chicago Teachers Union went on strike not because it's made up of a bunch of thugs, or a bunch of layabouts being manipulated by a bunch of thugs, but because it wants fair pay, reasonable working conditions, and the best educational environment for students -- all perfectly reasonable demands that are being blocked by the city, led by Emanuel.

I'll let others debate the details, but here's where Republicans are contradicting themselves:

They vilify Chicago because of people like Emanuel, but here they're siding with Emanuel, even if they won't admit it, against the teachers. So what is it? Do they like Big Bad Chicago or not?

It hardly matters. Consistency is not their aim, just cheap political points. Besides, it's not Chicago they loathe, it's "Chicago," the nightmare they concoct in their propaganda.

And now, of course, they're trying desperately to connect Obama to the teachers, led by Mitt himself:

Obama has not taken sides in the standoff between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the president's former chief of staff, and the city’s teachers union.

But Romney, who routinely slams teachers unions as an obstacle to education reform, is trying to break that silence by accusing Obama of cozying up too close to labor in general.

"President Obama has chosen his side in this fight, sending his vice president last year to assure the nation's largest teachers union that 'you should have no doubt about my affection for you and the president’s commitment to you,'" Romney said in a statement. "I choose to side with the parents and students depending on public schools to give them the skills to succeed, and my plan for education reform will do exactly that."

Again, Romney lies. Obama may have affection for teachers -- who doesn't? oh, right, Romney and the Republicans -- but that doesn't mean he necessarily supports this strike action.

Furthermore, he and his party do not support public education in any meaningful way. Rather, they support bleeding the public-school system to benefit private education that itself benefits the select few, and mostly the rich, leaving everyone else behind, American public schools in ruins, teachers underpaid, infrastructure collapsing, education next to impossible.

This is not to say the strike isn't bad news for Obama and that Romney won't be able to, and make every effort to, take advantage of it.

But here again there is that contradiction. The president's own education policies suggest that he is indeed in line with Emanuel. And so once again Romney is trying to have it both ways, vilifying both Chicago and the teachers union and then both Obama and the teachers union. Obviously, he's hoping something sticks, but it's the usual nonsense of someone who prefers the politics of vilification to the politics of principle, and whose entire campaign is based on contradiction and dishonesty.

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