Friday, March 28, 2008

Are vouchers the litmus test for “good” Republicans? Are teachers liberal? Is Craig Frank trying to eliminate teachers from precinct positions?

I didn’t get to pasting in the comments from a fellow teacher that I discussed in my last post. Here they are and it looks like I made a minor error in my previous summarization. Dan Early interrupted the delegate nominee who was responding to a question from the teacher, not the teacher herself.

Last night, at our Republican caucus meeting, when I asked for clarification about the platform, I had a disturbing experience. I was asking about this specific clause of the Utah Republican platform, " Parents have the primary right and responsibility to educate their children, and we support their right to choose public, private, or home education. We support incentives to promote competitive excellence."

I wanted to know if Parents' Choice = vouchers. I support the ideals of parents choosing the best educational experience for their children. I don't think vouchers would be as fiscally sound nor the best way to bring that about. I just don't agree with the means (vouchers) and wanted to be assured that our delegates would continuously be open to other ways to accomplish the end. There was a wonderful delegate that politely and considerately stated her stance and was very accepting of my questions.

However, in the middle of her explanation, another man, who had just walked into our meeting, raised his hand. He introduced himself as a Mr. Early and informed us that he had helped write the voucher bill. Then he proceeded to tell me that I was to agree with vouchers because they embody "Parents' Choice for Education," (the ideals of which I support, just not the voucher means). If I don't agree with vouchers, I should just support delegates that do, for the good of the party. If I won't, then I'm just as bad as a liberal Democrat and should register as one. This came from the mouth of an "observer" of our precinct caucus, not even a resident. He's not even supposed to say a word at our meeting.

When I attempted to speak up to clarify my thinking, he interrupted me (a true member of the precinct) and continued to rant about how the Republicans are the last hold out for vouchers. The ACLU and the teachers' unions are trying to destroy Parents' Choice. Unfortunately, the precinct chair saw it was getting heated and tried to move forward. I was cut off, interrupted, and told off by a person who wasn't even a precinct member! That is unacceptable!

I think that debate and dialogue are healthy and necessary to be an educated and informed citizen. Instead of questioning being perceived as an enemy tactic, it should be possible to disagree with aspects of the platform and still maintain good standing in the party.

Among all of the silly things that happened, the last statement is what I want to focus on. This goes along with the last paragraph of my previous post. Does disagreement with a plank of the party platform equate to treason, heresy, or being a “liberal Democrat?” The faction of the Republican party—and yes, it is a faction—that calls Governor Huntsman a liberal is the most active and dominates the leadership much more than their proportional demographics within the party. As I said, much of that is the reward for showing up and being willing to serve, like what happened in my precinct. Political participation is good and that disconnect is something that needs to be remedied by more of the silent, moderate majority stepping up. But it seems like this over-represented right wing of the party is trying to impose their views as the “doctrinal purity” of the party. Those who disagree, from Senator McCain to Governor Huntsman to delegates who dare speak against vouchers, are being labeled “liberals” or RINO’s (Republicans in name only) and told they shouldn’t be members of the party. Why does the Eagle Forum get to decide what a “true Republican” really is? The party is a willing association of individuals who broadly agree on some or many principles, not a clone factory or a church. And the committees that devised the official county platform are certainly not prophets. If a large percentage of people who self-identify with the Republican Party have more moderate views than you, than why would they or delegates who represent them be RINO’s? I believe that moderate voters who generally vote Republican outnumber the right wing.

Besides the comments to others at the caucus meetings, a commenter here yesterday automatically labeled my blog as “liberal.” Why? A discussion of education issues is a “liberal” thing if it doesn’t advocate vouchers? Support of public education DOES NOT equate to support of the “homosexual agenda,” anti-family values, the U.N., universal healthcare, or any other “liberal” cause. That assumption is offensive to a lot of good people beyond just teachers. Teachers are generally representative of the area they live in. In Salt Lake, you will have a higher percentage of teachers with more liberal views as reflected in the general population. In Alpine District, teachers voted for Romney in the same huge percentages as the rest of the valley and they will probably support McCain and Huntsman in November just like the majority of the people in the valley. About 30% probably vote Democratic, as most elections featuring a Republican and a Democrat in the valley end with a Republican victory 60 something % to 30 something %. The difference I see is that teachers are generally not a confrontational bunch. That’s saying nothing of individuals, but in direct contrast to the common portrayal of the evil UEA, most teachers in my experience don’t like to argue and feel a little uncomfortable in political squabbles. Another teacher I spoke with on Wednesday, from the opposite end of the valley in Nebo District, went home from her caucus nearly in tears after she was attacked and told to join the Democratic Party in response to her opinions on vouchers.

In Pleasant Grove, Rep. Craig Frank stopped by the various precincts to shake hands and leave campaign material for distribution. The materials consisted of a stapled packet with a little card about his record on education (basically voting for increased funding in years of surplus--no mention of vouchers), a copy of the Utah County Party Platform with two sentences highlighted, and a sheet of questions to ask candidates for precinct office. The two highlighted sections in the platform were: On the first page, "To promote excellence, consumer choice in education should be encouraged," and at the end of the second page, "All Republican elected officials, candidates and party officers are expected to endorse these principles and agree to be held accountable to the people and the party."

His questionnaire for candidates included a few basic questions such as asking your position on various issues and who you support for State Representative, Congressional Representative, and Governor. But the first few questions, in the context of being stapled to Rep. Frank’s "Record on Education" and a party platform with highlighted sections emphasizing loyalty to vouchers really bother me, especially coming after the refusal to deal with any ethics reform or conflicts of interest in the past legislative session.

Have you ever been affiliated with another Political Party? If yes, which one and how long ago did you become a Republican?

Do you support the Utah County Party Platform? When is the last time you read the Utah County Party Platform? Are there planks of the Platform you don’t support? Which planks?

What is your occupation? Do you believe your occupation is in any way a conflict of interest to your running for Precinct Leadership or as a County or State Delegate?
What or who do you think is on Rep. Frank’s mind? He claims on his blog that the questions are meant to eliminate "one-issue" candidates and ironically that "The caucus system is designed to “flush out” factionists." Hmmmm... Most would argue that the caucus system enables well-organized factions.

Is he really worried about lawyers or municipal garbagemen or Intel employees becoming delegates? (Although the garbagemen may not appreciate his attempted HB 76…) What if someone supports the plank on the first page that says local governments are most aware of the needs of the people, and therefore opposes his push to privatize municipal garbage service and rec. centers approved by local government and voters? Are they “unclean” too? What jobs would represent a “conflict of interest” and which others would be acceptable to Rep. Frank? I think a realtor or property developer as a politician or delegate can do a lot more to directly benefit themselves than any educator trying to influence education policy. I submit that a teacher who has previously remained unaffiliated like myself, or even recently switched over from the “liberal Democrats,” and opposes vouchers is just as representative of the population as Craig Frank or any other Utah County politician.

What do you think? Do the actions of Rep. Frank look like good government and respect for the will of the people? Or do they more closely resemble cheap jury stacking tactics used by an unethical lawyer in order to avoid legitimate, but uncomfortable questions? Are teachers allowed in the Republican Party?

2 comments:

CraigJ said...

Totally predictable behavior. The hard-right has no clue how to handle opinions other than their own. Dan pursues privatization with religious fervor. I remember him saying to a supporter after a voucher debate to "just keep praying." They really believe this is some sort of divine mission - think Sutherland...

I know Dan and he's a smart guy. It's just disappointing to see this behavior.

Thanks...Craig.

Jesse Harris said...

I also know Dan and I'm not all too surprised with his reaction. He's incredibly bright, but Craig hits it on the money that he pursues his political convictions with a kind of intensity that's off-putting for anyone but the choir.