Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
As a Democrat through and through (in the progressive camp of Club Donkey), I’m starting to get worried about the midterms looming in November. The latest sign that there’s going to be big trouble comes from the liberal bastion of San Francisco.
Voters there, you might have heard, just recalled three school board members largely for not reopening schools fast enough during the pandemic. An anti-mandate vibe hung over the election, though other issues complicated the outcome, such as a ham-handed program to rename a lot of schools that honored such perceived presidential racists as Washington, Jefferson, Garfield, and McKinley. As many as forty-four schools were on the proposed list.
School boards are famously used as landing pads for activists of any stripe, but my memory is full of cases where arch conservatives take over a school district. They ban books like Maus and To Kill a Mockingbird and try to subtly introduce prayer in public schools. I haven’t heard of too many places where über-libs take over, but obviously San Fran is one such place. Something like 70% of SF voters decided they went too far.
The problem for Democrats nationwide is that the GOP is going to use education and parents’ rights as the key polarizing issue in November. You can just tell, and we’ve already had a peek at it in the Virginia governor’s race that ushered Glenn Youngkin into office. He dove right into the mask-mandate controversy and is spouting nonsense about critical race theory that’s purely designed to make moderate, mainly white, parents skew away from Democrats. It’s disingenuous but it’s going to be effective.
Parents’ rights fold nicely into pandemic rights, so the synergy will consolidate a large group of voters who are sick and tired of the mandates and sick and tired of being told what to do where their kids are concerned. Rhetoric like the kind Bari Weiss used on Bill Maher’s show recently (“covid mandates will be seen as a moral catastrophe in the future”) is spreading, with parents imagining that kids are being irreparably harmed by having to wear masks.
This is the kind of thing that becomes political wildfire that winds up burning perfectly reasonable, commonsense Democrats who just want to talk about kitchen-table issues and protecting democracy from Republican authoritarians.
Maybe things will ease up in the months before the elections, but I’m getting that queasy feeling that usually pans out as expected. I still have nightmares about 1994 (the Gingrich revolution).
As many commentators have pointed out, both parties have split into factions, but it seems like the deck is stacked in the GOP’s favor this year. It doesn’t bode well for the future, I’m afraid. For the integrity of our system, for social stability, for justice … for democracy.