Democrats won Nov. 7 for two reasons Republicans would rather not talk about: education and media.
Conservative pundits and pollsters imagined that because the Democratic Party didn’t have a consistent message, or because the class-warfare theme was wearing thin, the left couldn’t win an election. While the rants of Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., Al Gore and Michael Moore became increasingly wacky, of far more significance was the fact that the old formulas conservative strategists once relied on to win no longer apply. The dynamics of the electorate has changed.
Forty years of failure in education policy and media strategy have come back to bite us.
While Republicans were busy padding the coffers of GOP political action committees, the left spent 40 years infiltrating schools, beefing up publishing outlets and stripping God even from our houses of worship. They consolidated gains, established state and local agents through second and third parties and edged out smaller competitors. The National Education Association instituted mandatory memberships on three levels; left-leaning media powerhouses like the New York Times bought hundreds of once-independent publishing outlets. The Big Three networks snapped up cable channels. Religious oversight bodies like the liberal Episcopal Church USA gave local denominations their marching orders. And so, by default, closet Marxists won the war of sound bites among burgeoning waves of barely educated voters without the verbal and logic skills to defend critical principles of the republic.
Unsurprisingly, we are no longer a populace that rationally grapples with philosophical dilemmas. A common store of values no longer serves as a backdrop for earnest discussion. Instead, we’re mired in catchphrases, oversimplifications and personality contests – in large part thanks to an education system awash in sports, rewritten history, lax discipline and faddish methodologies.
Conservatives failed to secure our schools and media from well-organized, leftist provocateurs from the 1950s on, and now it’s payback time.
Had we rejected educational psychobabble; had we revamped teacher training in the universities based on what researchers actually know about learning; had we crafted real diagnostics for entering schoolchildren, American schooling today would be the best in the world instead of fourth from the bottom. Had we bought up media outlets when they were cheap and available, we would have today a credible soapbox.
Instead, we ignored the electoral consequences of a politicized curriculum and a psychologized learning environment. We launched misleading legislation like the No Child Left Behind Act (a sop to Democrat Sen. Ted Kennedy) and, more recently, initiated universal mental health screening (under the Marxist-like moniker “New Freedom Initiative for Mental Health”), knowing full well that both concepts were flawed, or bogus, or both.
Even “conservative” think tanks have treated basic reading and math as if these were rocket science. Only nine things can possibly go awry in learning – spatial and abstract reasoning, visual identification, visual and auditory memory, perceptual speed, mental stamina, hand-eye coordination and thought-expression synchronization. All we ever had to fix was teacher preparation, then pair pupils with instructors trained to handle every child’s weakest competence on the list. No stigma. No “dummy tracks.”
On the media front, conservative publications and writers abound. Yet, we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot by hailing as “conservative” our book clubs, talk shows and publications, even publicizing lists of “right-wing” columnists, when it is more correct to say our views are conventional. No wonder the left increasingly marginalizes us with every election cycle!
As Texas-based author and educational researcher Donna Garner has pointed out, only some 40 percent of registered voters participated in the November 2006 election, and no one knows how many Americans are not registered – probably millions who have simply tuned out. She says Democrats brag that they have a mandate from the American people to implement leftist policies, but no such mandate exists – except by default. Garner correctly notes that we are fighting a war on two fronts: one in the Middle East and one right here.
Arguably, the real “quagmire” is at home!
Conservative magazines and think tanks complain loudly that their literature is absent from school libraries and magazine stands, and that conservatives always get short shrift in television interviews, etc. Well, duh! What did we expect when we leave it to other countries to launch what few conservative newspapers exist (e.g., the Washington Times) and turn our education system into a political football?
Local newspapers in smaller towns are revealing for where they get their stories. Almost invariably a byline on a major report will read something like “L.A. Times-Washington Post Syndicate” or “Associated Press-New York Times” – i.e., a left-leaning spin. Add National Public Radio, liberal television interviewers and leftist propagandizing sitcoms, and soon the counterculture becomes the culture.
On top of all that, we try to appease our opponents. For example, Maryland’s former Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich, fired a guy last summer for equating homosexuality to “sexual deviancy.” The man didn’t say “sinful,” or even “unhealthy.” Yet, Gov. Ehrlich immediately installed an open homosexual in a prominent post – and of course lost the election anyway.
Now, why would a Republican try to appease leftist Democrats? Because we believe a liberal-sounding Republican is the only kind – white, black or polka dot – who’s going to survive politically.
Oh, we still see muddled remnants of traditional American ideals on the Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. But the precepts behind the flags and fireworks are in disrepute, kaput!
The last Republican standing in 2008 will be the one with inexhaustible charisma. Competence would be nice, too, but by 2008 that will be entirely secondary.
Beverly K. Eakman, a former teacher-turned-speechwriter and occasional columnist, is the author of thee books on education and privacy issues, including the internationally acclaimed “Cloning of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality Through Education.”