Back in April, I wrote extensively about how New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lost my vote, not merely in the primary but for any election he intends to run in, ever. The upshot is that his treatment of public in education in New York State has been so harmful and so devious that it is obvious that he has no interest whatsoever in doing anything for schools other than acting at the behest of his donors. Governor Cuomo’s budgets have strangled local school aid, and his tax policies have prevented districts from making up shortfalls. His Common Core implementation has been overly disruptive, and his administration is enthusiastic about using poorly designed examinations to fuel statistically invalid evaluations of teachers. The governor reached a breath-taking low in Eva Moskowitz’s campaign to prevent her charter school chain from having to pay rent in New York City, and the governor, as reported in the New York Times, did not merely stand by her — he actively made her rally in Albany against Mayor De Blasio happen. Thanks to his efforts, the state budget REQUIRES New York City to pay Moskowitz’s rent even though her charter school chain is so flush with cash from hedge fund donors that she can unleash a multi-millon dollar attack campaign on almost no notice whatsoever.
All of this is tied fairly directly to the overlap of donors between Cuomo and the charter school market in New York. Charter school investors have managed to make them work as an investment vehicle for themselves, and they have donated heavily to politicians who they believe will keep ordering more charters to open. If you want to know how Governor Cuomo will decide on an education issue, you can save yourself the trouble and consult the wish list of “Democrats for Education Reform“, the astroturf organization set up by hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson mostly to put political pressure on Democratic politicians to support unfettered expansion of charter schools and to do so by funneling money donated from interests like the Walton Family Foundation through them and to candidates.
Is it any wonder that when the supposedly independent Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption actually dared to do its job that Governor Cuomo abruptly shut it down?
So Governor Cuomo cannot have my vote, but I am happy to say that Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu can, and for positive reasons, not simply as protest votes. The reasons that I am voting for Teachout and Wu:
- Teachout and Wu offer a positive vision of governance. Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu endorse the vision of an “open democracy” that would enhance the values of our society and live up to the towering but often unfulfilled rhetoric of American inclusiveness. America’s greatest stories are those when we have enlarged the franchise to embrace historically marginalized and ignored populations, and the Teachout/Wu ticket endorses this openly.
- Teachout and Wu are not bought. Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University shook up the political and pundit classes with their study that concludes the United States has become an oligarchy. Their conclusion was based upon analysis that found policies were more likely to become law when backed by the small proportion of the population that wields economic power — even when such policies are disliked by super majorities of the voting population. Governor Cuomo, as demonstrated by his public education policies, listens to the donors who can marshal 100s of 1000s of dollars for his campaign coffers even when it comes at the expense of properly funding our schools. Having candidates like Teachout and Wu on the ballot allows voters to endorse representatives who are not bought and paid for by the current campaign finance system and who have pledged to change that system. And despite the depressing conclusions about our current oligarchical trend, I see hope because money may sway policy, but it does not always sway elections. If money always won at the ballot box, then Linda McMahon would be a United States Senator (twice), so voters still hold one power that gets elected officials to sit up and notice: the power to keep them from office via the vote.
- Teachout and Wu have the expertise we need today. Zephyr Teachout is a nationally recognized expert in government corruption. Tim Wu is a fierce advocate of an open Internet and coined the expression “Net Neutrality.” What are two of the most pressing issues for the future of our democracy? Corruption and whether or not our digital infrastructure will remain a place of opportunity and equal access. Unfortunately, our government is not listening to the experts on these issues, falling again for the advocacy of cash. If the government will not listen to expertise, then it is perhaps time to place expertise in the government.
- Teachout and Wu believe the education is a vital part of our national commons. For the past dozen years, our education system has been warped far from its role to provide individual opportunity and to provide our citizenry with the knowledge and skills to fully participate in a democracy. Current education “reforms” make education serve private interests and, preversely, private profit while claiming the mantra of civil rights and educational opportunity — even while they increase segregation and starve fully public schools of funds and resources. Teachout and Wu see through that veil to the fundamental threat to public education and, by extension, to the threat to democracy itself.
- Even if Teachout and Wu lose, we can win something important. Governor Cuomo has ambitions. There is little doubt in my mind that he sees the Oval Office in his future. Given the version of corrupt, oligarchical politics that he represents, it is vital that he not cruise back into office in November. If Teachout and Wu gain even a significant minority in the September 9th primary, Governor Cuomo’s armor will be tarnished on the national stage, and national Democrats will have to acknowledge that they cannot ignore the liberal vote in pursuit of unlimited campaign cash. This is not as impossible a task for national Democrats as it may seem. In poll after poll, the national electorate favors policies that are far more progressive than are politically viable because of the campaign financing system under which we currently suffer. If voters finally refuse to vote for politicians tied to oligarchs instead of to the people, that can begin to change.
- When I disagree with Teachout and Wu, the reasons do not make me angry: Governor Cuomo’s education policies are disastrous, and, worse, he arrived at them by doing the will of campaign donors who are serving their own interests. I do not agree with Teachout and Wu on every single issue, but those positions are the results of their personal convictions and their study. Those are differences with which I can discuss and for which I have respect.
- Teachout and Wu dance while campaigning:
I am happy that I will be voting FOR Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu on September 9th. If you are a Democrat in New York, I urge you to do the same. We need to send a message. We need to vote for values that truly resonate with our own. We need to say that we demand better.