We have been subject to much hand wringing and pontification on what the GOP needs to do to combat the apparent demographical chasm that separates us from ever winning a national election. For the most part, the consensus has been to dump conservatism, adopt Democrat principles and roll with it because hey, we’re all progressives now!
My request of the GOP establishment is that, just for the hell of it, let conservatives try their strategy this time – you know, like we did in 2010 – and see if we do better in 2014 than you did this time. I mean, what do we have to loose that we haven’t lost already?
So with that, let’s begin winning the demography:
One conservative issue that wasn’t promoted strong enough during this last election season was school choice. Our public education system is corrupt and failing. Almost every economic and social question should include school choice in the answer. Sure, Romney et al did talk about education and about how we need to improve it and even mentioned the D.C. school choice system that Obama shut down, but it was scant talk about an issue that easily breaks the demographic barrier. His message was muddled by the talk about ending the Education Department. I’m not for the Education Department, but the focus of education reform should start and end with school choice and a voucher system because, once that plan is in place, a national Education Department will be moot anyway.
School choice is the answer to the demographic problem. A recent Education Next PEPG survey showed that black Americans favor school choice by 53% to 23% and Hispanics favor it 60% to 15% (question 5a). All the GOP needs is a couple of percentage points from these demographics to win. The GOP should be involved and active in school districts around the country, especially poor ones, promoting the concept and teaching people about the outstanding results where this has been tried. The focus should be on a voucher system and not simply charter schools. Charter schools are fine, but the voucher system is best at providing full choice to children and parents.
There are educators out there that support school choice. The organization Students First, was started by Michelle Rhee, the former D.C. school chancellor made famous (infamous to the left) by the documentary Waiting for Superman. Her organization brings parents and educators together to fight for public education system change. One of the remedies they support is school choice. This is the perfect organization for the GOP to tap into. We need good educators to partner with us to combat the inevitable teacher’s union pushback that will come in a campaign for school choice. Organizations like Students First can provide leverage against the unions.
The visuals possible for use in a campaign are stark and readily available. All we need are the pictures of the failing schools set against those of the kind of schools that school choice would provide the opportunity for children to attend. Parents in some of the poorest districts are ready for this opportunity. A recent poll in Detroit showed wide support for school choice. Out of the 500 polled (margin of error +/- 3.5), 79% of parents would not choose Detroit public schools (DPS) if they had the option. Those who have been fortunate enough to get their children enrolled in charter schools have seen a huge difference:
Last year, the Detroit mother sent her 6-year-old daughter to the neighborhood DPS elementary school. There, the first-grader shared books with other students, spent every morning waiting for a school bus on a dangerous block and sat in a classroom where the teacher had to buy nearly all of her own class supplies.
Turner didn’t wait another year to see if conditions in the state’s largest school district would improve. She enrolled her daughter in a Detroit charter school this fall. So far, she’s happy with the results, including the added security in and around the school.
“Every test came home has an A. She gets individual attention. I like the hands-on element,” Turner said. “I think charter schools are the best option. My sister also put her kids in charter school. They are better hands-on; they don’t have to share. The kids come home and are saying they love school.”
Turner is not alone in her displeasure with DPS. Confidence in the city’s public school district has dropped so low that only one in five Detroiters believes DPS is the best educational option for their children, according to a comprehensive poll of residents’ attitudes about the city’s educational landscape and its leadership.
In Washington D.C., the school choice pilot program started by Republicans won minority support:
Amie is one of about 1,700 low-income, mostly minority students in Washington who at taxpayer expense are attending 58 private and parochial schools through the nation’s first federal voucher program, now in its second year.
Last year, parents appeared lukewarm toward the program, which was put in place by Congressional Republicans as a five-year pilot program, but this year, it is attracting more participation, illustrating how school-choice programs are winning over minority parents, traditionally a Democratic constituency.
There are some stirrings of this winning strategy. On Tuesday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal focused on this issue during a speech at the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center for Education. As a likely 2016 Presidential contender, Gov. Jindal is paving inroads to the demographics and showing the way for mid-term contenders:
“[W]e need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American Dream, which is to be in the middle class, which is to be able to give their children an opportunity to be able to get a great education,” Jindal said at the time.
His speech on Tuesday hit a similar note.
“To oppose school choice is to oppose equal opportunity for poor and disadvantaged children in America,” Jindal told the audience.
“I believe we’ve got an economic and a moral imperative to provide school choice and a quality education to every child, every student in America. In that case, many lives will be transformed, many futures will be realized, and the results for all our country will be real and lasting.”
Many good things would come out of reforming the school sytem. Number one is that we could beat back some of the indoctrination, thereby reducing the assembly line of leftists, Marxists, and progressives. So again I ask the GOP establishment – may we be allowed to see which strategy works better, capitulation or conservatism?