Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Unifying Themes

Clarifying for my students what distinguishes the two political parties from one another but what also serves as a unifying theme for each has been a challenge. Many of my students know that at one point in time conservative points of view were affiliated with Democrats and more liberal with Republicans, which is at odds to what one often sees today.

In the past few years, I've tried to share with them what I think is the core political value of each party. Democrats tend to believe government should reflect the will of the majority. Republicans tend to believe government should protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. Neither of these standpoints are necessarily objectionable, though I do think the one I offer for the Republicans is more abstract than what most high school students want to hear. But, conveniently, it is a common thread that goes back to the Whigs and Federalists, forerunners of the Republicans.

Recently I was listening to the most recent installment of the very good podcast series on the presidents offered by the Washington Post. In that episode on William McKinley, Karl Rove was interviewed at length. He discussed how the 1896 election offered a clear mandate on a very old debate in American politics, about whether wealth is best created at the top (to then trickle down) or at the bottom, where it can rise up. That might be the enduring economic difference between the two parties.

Now if I could only find a coherent foreign policy thread for either party. Seems doubtful.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Unorthodox Unindependent

The problem with being someone who isn't necessarily partisan but who lives in a state that has closed primaries is that one has to either be an independent without a voice or affiliated asynchronously with a party and its policy positions. I was an unorthodox Republican, and as such held the following views while with that party (and still, by and large, hold them today):

  • Education funding should be more robust.
  • There's nothing inherently evil about public-sector unions. 
  • We should be welcoming to immigrants. 
  • I'm very ambivalent on capital punishment*
  • I believe it's unconstitutional to prevent same-sex couples from marrying* 
  • We may just benefit by nationalizing medical care*

Now that I'm a Democrat, though, I may as well confess to my heresies as part of this new party.

  • I don't think President Bush made the wrong decision invading Iraq in 2003
  • We should be meaningfully reforming Social Security and Medicare, in particular adopting the CPI-U-C to determine COLA adjustments 
  • Sugary drink taxes are for the birds 
  • The Supreme Court was right in its Citizens United decision 
  • The ACA unnecessarily over-reaches on social issues, in particular its policies regarding birth control prescriptions 
  • I question the propriety of funding Planned Parenthood with taxpayer dollars  

At some point I'll get kicked out of this party, too. But in the meanwhile, maybe I can stir up some moderate change. Oh boy, doesn't that sound exciting.

*Relatively recent policy changes

Monday, June 13, 2016

Retreating into Summer

Another school year ends. This one ends on a quiet, humble note. I struggled to balance elements of my work this spring. And though I'm proud of how I made myself more available as a father and supportive colleague, I've done a poorer job at managing the behind-the-scenes elements of teaching. I feel like I've had a hard time, also, managing the balance between preparing my students for big assessments vs. convincing them of the "so what" merits of the discipline I teach. I also struggled, more than I wish, with balancing the need to be approachable vs. being an authority figure. 

Simultaneously, I've seen my political feelings and affiliations change a lot over the last year. 

So though much has happened in my life that makes me happy (family, friends, faith, in short) I find that I've had fewer days where the impulse to write was there. Perhaps the summer will see the return of that impulse. Surely it will on my other blog, where I muse about my time as a dad in the summers.