Teachers join the resistance

Apr 4, 2018 at 9:34 am

Teachers from 120 strong school districts marching at the state Capitol validate the belief that a wave is coming to Kentucky and Washington, D.C. this November. It’s easy to attribute the political activism we’re seeing across the country to the pendulum effect — the cycle of American politics, when things go too far one direction, the pendulum swings back hard toward the other.

That’s not this movement.

The recent rise of political activism, and the various organized movements... #MeToo, Enough is Enough, Black Lives Matter... and now the teachers in Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma and elsewhere are evidence of the phenomenon, beyond the normal cycle of politics. The Tea Party of 2010 was a pendulum swing. The Democratic wave in 2006 and the election of Barack Obama were pendulum swings away from the extreme, destructive Bush years.

What’s going on today — The Resistance — is a generational reset.

The various groups we see marching on capitals and in streets will drive the predominant political party of the future.

Individually, these groups have already changed the dialogue in their particular areas of interest and, in some cases, already forced changes.

The Parkland students forced the pro-NRA Florida state legislature and governor to pass gun-control legislation.

Black Lives Matter forced police in cities across the country to use body cams, and it continues to drive the conversation about social injustices.

In West Virginia, teachers went on strike, forcing public schools to close for nine days, and ultimately forcing the legislature to give them a pay raise.

One of the reasons they’ve been so successful — and what makes this emerging era of political activism different than recent political swings — is that most of these groups cross traditional party lines. The thousands of Kentucky teachers rallying in Frankfort were not just a crowd of Democrats.

Last week, in just a matter of hours from when the pension bill was announced (tacked onto a wastewater services bill) teachers were organized in Frankfort, closing schools and school districts around the state and then all 120 school districts the following Monday.

Democrats didn’t organize that.

That wasn’t a Democrat-only, or a Democrat-led, effort.

Republicans and Republican teachers also are repulsed with how Gov. Matt Bevin and GOP leadership privately reworked a pension plan (and budget) that will impact their lives.

Sure, teachers’ unions existed before this, and Kentucky’s teachers were ready to protest. But what about the political power that West Virginia teachers showed just a month ago? What about teacher protests in Oklahoma and Arizona? These teachers are fighting because they are tired of being underpaid, under-resourced and under-appreciated labor.

That is not to say these groups aren’t more aligned with Democrats, but these groups also include Republicans, independents and people who have been apolitical, as well as new voters.

Democrats need to recognize this opportunity and embrace it, rather than hold onto the old, entrenched establishment that has been too afraid to upset the rural, centrist, even conservative Democrats. The future of the Democratic Party is the coalition of these movements. “Democrats need a concise message” — at least that’s become the de facto, brand of the party. Post-Clinton, post-Obama, post-Beashear in Kentucky, the Democratic Party has been ridiculed and questioned by party outsiders and many within the party, asking: “What do you stand for?”

If Democrats don’t outwardly and strongly endorse these groups, represent their interests or, in some instances, get out of the way... they’ll get swept up in the wave, as well.

This generation of political and social activists have the power and organization it takes to reboot American politics — if they coalesce and fight together. That’s what they need to do to maximize their potential (over both Republicans and Democrats) and turn their presence into real, meaningful change.

That’s how The Resistance becomes the righteous.