Why Do We Keep Endorsing Democrats?
By Ed Hershey, Delegate Lindblom High
|The CTU endorsed state rep Cynthia Soto and others.|
The Political Department presented a resolution to endorse six state representatives early for next fall's elections. This writer thinks working people need their own political organization, their own party. I think CTU ultimately should not be endorsing Democrats – because the Democratic Party in Chicago and in Illinois is fundamentally a party of the ruling class.
What has the Democratic Party done in Illinois and Chicago lately? For starters, Madigan and company passed the PERA law, which implemented our hated REACH system; then they did Emanuel a favor and passed SB7, which allowed him to lengthen the school day without any extra funding, and put the ridiculous legal limits on our right to strike. Pat Quinn spent his last term attacking public worker pensions, and capped off his term by picking hated former schools CEO PAUL VALLAS as his running mate. That record is as responsible for Rauner’s victory as anything Rauner ever did. And then Barack Obama promoted Arne Duncan, and took Renaissance 2010 national, with its closings, charter schools, test-test-test and Common Core. That’s the education policy of the Democrats.
That’s why endorsing and voting for Democrats is a dead-end that we need to break out of.
At House of Delegates, we got a six page document in our packet asking us to vote to endorse seven Illinois Assembly candidates. Does anyone else think it’s a problem that we’re expected to vote things like this, without having time to read – much less come to any kind of considered decision?
In any case, at House of Delegates, there was some debate on these endorsements. In particular, Jim Vail, delegate at Hammond, took issue with endorsement of Cynthia Soto (IL District 4). Soto is presented as an ally of the union. Cynthia Soto did push a law in winter of 2009 to put a moratorium on school closings, turnarounds and other school actions. Of course, the moratorium was nixed. The sop the Democrats were willing to throw to the opponents of school closings came that fall, when the Illinois House voted to pass the Chicago Facilities Bill, which established the Educational Facilities Committee, and required the Board to follow a timeline and to hold a set of public hearings for any school action. Progress perhaps, but it certainly has done little to stop the tidal wave of school closings and turnarounds.
Soto is not a consistent defender of public education. In summer of 2012, Soto voted for the “charter full funding bill,” which would have given more funding to charter schools. The union pointed out to her at the time that her vote was contrary to the spirit of her earlier work, as charter school proliferation is one of the forces driving school closings.
Vail pointed out, from the floor of the House, that when Emanuel wanted a waiver to push back the schedule of hearings for school closings, after the strike in fall of 2012, Soto did not speak up against it. When he and others tried to get her on the phone, to ask why, she made herself scarce. The political director said this was a "mischaracterization", but she spoke to the fact that Soto supported the union during the school closings fight -- in spring 2013. That’s exactly the point: Soto could make a symbolic show of support, in spring, when it did not matter. But she did not take a stand a few months earlier, when it might have thrown a speed-bump in front of Emanuel’s school-closing bulldozer.
And there you have it – a case-in-point of why endorsing Democrats is a dead end. Emanuel and Quinn are clearly enemies. The union’s best “friends” like Soto occasionally get a law through for something like the CEFTF. It’s window dressing – it did not do anything to seriously impede school closings. And as soon as those minor restrictions threatened to inconvenience the mayor’s plan to pull off the largest school closing in history, no one was around to make the law stick.
Democratic politicians like Soto are allowed a small margin of maneuver. They can get a bill passed to pose as “our friend”, but they need to operate within the Democratic Party, which means they cannot fundamentally oppose its policy. The problem being, the Party represents the ruling class, and the ruling class’s policy right now is to take apart public education in Chicago (and elsewhere). We make a mistake to endorse them, or to think of them as “friends” – they cannot and will not consistently represent the interests of working people, while at the same time maintaining any hope for a future within their party. This is why I voted “no” on those endorsements, though the vote was overwhelming to endorse. And this is a big part of why I ran as a candidate for alderman – to raise that we need our own organization and our own party, independent of the Democrats.
Details of Soto’s history of working with CTU and CORE can be found in Back issues of Substance, for example:
Initial “Soto Bill”