Some newspaper stories summarize great truth in a headline. A front page story in the August 23 SF Chronicle says, “Chancellors blame campus woes on GOP.” Shocking isn’t it? That a group of highly placed academic administrators would have the audacity to say that the anti-tax fervor of the Republican Party is hurting public education or anything important. It’s a good thing those guys are in academia, because they’ll never get elected to anything talking like that.
I went to a private, small liberal arts college in the South for undergrad and the University of Michigan for graduate school. When I arrived as a freshman in 1973, Rhodes College had a new president in Rev. James H. Daughdrill. This man didn’t have any particular academic standing or chops, but as a businessman and a preacher, he was suited to the task. In hindsight, Daughdrill must have squirmed every day to see all the happy hippies running around taking their independent study seminars, and filling the college paper with ribald satire. Every class that came in after me was cut more from the same uniform cloth, with less diversity each year.
Under Daughdrill, popular, liberal and progressive professors were denied tenure, in decisions that were usually shocking. By the mid-1980’s Rhodes College was no longer the cradle of diversity it was in the 70’s, and Daughdrill was censured by the Faculty Senate for a variety of offenses. During that time, he placed an op-ed piece in The Memphis Commercial Appeal, complaining about the lack of conservative ideologues in academia, and the need to recruit more conservatives for faculty chairs. I replied with a letter to the editor that never ran because The Commercial Appeal was deeply protective of any and all things “conservative” during the height of the Reagan-Bush Sr. hysteria.
I pointed out that liberals tend to support liberal education concepts, free discourse and the validity of science. (How quaint!) Liberals support fair-minded issues and causes such as universal health care, the U.S. Constitution and validating the need for government services to assure a functioning society. I also pointed out that conservatives have done everything they can to undermine public education as some perverse retaliation for the success of the Civil Rights Movement. Editor David Vincent told me candidly on the phone, “We’re not going to run your tract attacking Daughdrill.” I replied, “I’m not attacking Daughdrill, I’m challenging the comments he made in the oped for which you gave him the space.”
California got a head start on the anti-tax hysteria with Proposition 13 in 1978. I happened to be here during the final months of the campaign, the election and the immediate hangover in the aftermath. The destructiveness of the anti-tax hysteria has finally ripped the fabric of our functioning society, after slowly unraveling at the seams for 33 years. Public education is in crisis nationwide, as are 23 state governments and most municipal governments, as the Grover Norquist ideologues have assumed power and seeded the certain destruction of public education at all levels.
I still believe in Santa Claus and the Ripon Society. That’s what they called the liberal wing of the Republican Party when there was one, and there really was. Look it up in your history books, before they re-write them, or decide there’s not enough in the county budget to publish the entire history. Early in Bush Jr’s 1st term, the Ripon Society’s website proclaimed that they “Seek to be the conscience of the Republican Party.” That was a modest statement, implicitly recognizing their fecklessness to sway the big tent. After I sent them articles I published saying, “How can you be the conscience of a party that has none?” they removed it from their home page. But I can’t take all the credit – I’m sure they elicited a lot of ridicule with that “conscience” thing.
I also believe that if a bold young House or Senate member tried to introduce any of the domestic legislation of the Nixon Administration, he or she would be shunned and blackballed by all of his/her Democratic colleagues. Why? Because no one in the Democratic Party (per se) seems to have the balls or spine to point out that Richard Nixon was far more liberal than any elected Democrat we have today. (EPA, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Expansion of Welfare, Expansion of Civil Rights . . .) That’s because Democrats have been cowering to the Far Far Right ever since Reagan. Bill Clinton was a great president who did some distastefully Republican things. Barak Obama has contended with the most juvenile, selfish and destructive domestic political forces in the history of our government. He was mistaken to ever be conciliatory and now he’s figuring that out.
My man in 2012? Santa! But if he refuses to run if asked or serve if elected, then I’ll settle for Barack Obama. Like Clinton, I expect he’ll be more intent on putting his own stamp on his second term and less willing to indulge the fantasies and phantasmagoria of the Republicans.
Memo to Mitch McConnell: The comment about Obama using “smoke & mirrors” to work a budget deal is badly misapplied. Obama was offering a candid proposal to raise taxes in order to keep our government working. You and Eric Cantor are doing your best to end American Constitutional and Representative government as we know it. Be honest, you guys are really trying to force a government shutdown because that is your ultimate goal, to end government as we know it.
Grover Norquist was never elected to anything! Yet he is considered an icon of American politics only because he’s mean, stupid and selfish enough to continue with Reagan’s populist message which was, “It’s OK to be selfish and greedy at the top, because it’s important to keep all the cheese and marbles for us. It’s OK to argue for policies that take food away from hungry people, deny medical care to those in need, and destroy public education, because none of our people need those things or go to those schools anyway.” All of them missed the memo about the importance of education for a healthy society.
Horace Mann and Edmund Burke are spinning in their graves. As today’s New York Times noted, “Public education was built on the philosophy articulated by Horace Mann, the Massachusetts reformer who pioneered the Common School: a system ‘one and the same for both rich and poor’ with ‘all citizens on the same footing of equality before the law of land.’” Makes me kind of wistful.
Given the draconian, mean-spirited agenda of Republican politicians, they obviously know this and are doing everything they can to undermine the efficacy of government in the name of their Grand Ole Party. Time and again, Republicans have expressed allegiance to an increasingly selfish and self-destructive ideology posited by Grover Norquist at the expense of . . . well . ..CIVILIZATION.
H. Scott Prosterman