Today is Election Day. And I am not hopeful for America.
I am fearful for our democracy and our unraveling social fabric. America’s dark underbelly is exposed this election year. Fear, bigotry, and lack of empathy are rampant — and constitute the entirety of some candidates’ platforms and rationales for running for public office.
I think we should be represented by the best among our ranks, not the worst. I think we should look to leaders willing to offer solutions, not just cast aspersions and look for scapegoats … whether the President who inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression, immigrants who are trying to do the best they can for the families, or those of Muslim faith who all are branded with the terrorist label.
Sadly, this will not be the outcome or result of this election. Some true leaders, statesmen and free thinkers such as Wisconsin U.S. Senator Russ Feingold will likely fall to defeat … to a plastics manufacturer whose main platform appears to be that the details of policy don’t matter. (In its endorsement of Feingold, the right-leaning Madison paper, the Wisconsin State Journal, said “Though likeable and impressive on business issues, Johnson was sketchy on most everything else.”) Apparently, obfuscation and distraction will win the day — and then obstruction can prevail for another two years at which point the right will be aiming for full control of the reins of government by ousting President Obama.
There has been little discussion and no serious consideration of critical issues such as historic levels of income inequality or honest assessments of the expansion of access to and improved consumer protections achieved through the health care legislation. And many of the bomb throwers and Tea Partiers who will be elected don’t know and don’t care about any of these issues.
What does this election mean for education? At the federal level — possibly no significant policy action at all in the upcoming Congress; unsuccessful calls for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education; almost no new money at all, including a third round of Race to the Top (unless it can be pushed through during the upcoming lame duck session), increases in Pell Grants, and other need-based and competitive programs. In the states — more attacks on teachers and unions; the most thoughtless kind of performance pay proposals disconnected from instruction and teacher development; school vouchers as a wedge issue; growing religiosity in public schools; and more bowing to the altar of local control without an evidential basis and regardless of its effect on outcomes.
There will be a few political bright lights this Election Day, likely in governors races in states such as California, Massachusetts and Vermont. And the most comical, dangerous, embarassing and idiotic candidates for US Senate in states such as Delaware (Christine O’Donnell who isn’t a witch don’t ya know?) and Nevada (Sharron Angle who is apparently opposed to maternity leave, wants to eliminate the “unconstitutional” US Education Department, but is possibly in favor of “taking Harry Reid out” through an invocation of Second Amendment rights) will likely, hopefully fall short. But pay attention to races in bellwether states such as Colorado, Florida, Illinois and Ohio for signs of what is really going on. It’s unlikely to be pretty. Optimistic? Nope. Not me. Not today.