February 5, 2015
President Obama’s State of the Union address last month was the moment many Democrats were waiting for: a full- throated endorsement of liberal, Democratic ideas. The President showed where our country has made great strides in strengthening the economy, shrinking the deficit, boosting scientific research, and ending the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But he also showed where we still have room for improvement. And of course, everyone was buzzing about Mr. Obama’s off-the-cuff jab at a group of heckling lawmakers: “I have no more campaigns to run...I know, because I won both of them.”
Following the rout from the 2014 midterm Congressional elections, Mr. Obama could have lurched to the right in order to pander to the smaller, more conservative electorate that showed up in November. Instead, he doubled down on progressive values with a new list of priorities he wants to work with the Congress to deliver on: free community college, tax credits for child care, paid sick leave, a free and open Internet, tax fairness, fighting climate change. With bold moves such as protecting immigrant children from deportation and taking the first step toward normalizing relations with Cuba, Mr. Obama is demonstrating that he will be no “lame duck.”
Still, though the President proclaimed that the “state of the union is strong,” it may not feel that way to many Americans. Since the beginning of Mr. Obama’s administration, the United States has regained the amount of jobs lost in the Great Recession. According to the White House, 11.2 million jobs have been created in the past five years. Yet, there are still millions more people looking for work, and for the majority of those who are working, wages remain stagnant. The Affordable Care Act has significantly reduced the number of uninsured Americans nationwide, and has halved the number of uninsured in California. But, experts say, 30 million Americans will remain uninsured, even after the ACA is fully implemented. And finally, as the recent protests against police brutality and the aftermath of the high-profile murders of two NYPD officers showed, America’s racial chasm still runs wide and deep.
As with any society, America remains an experiment, in constant need of update and repair. And, what is the state of the Culver City Democratic Club? That is what we will discuss at our February general meeting, as well as your thoughts about President Obama’s address. Let’s share ideas on what we can do to improve the Club. What topics would you like to see featured at future meetings? Should the Club take a more active role in grassroots activism? What ideas do you have to boost membership and/or fundraising? Are there any particular activities you’d like to see the Club do that hasn’t been done before or recently? Should the Club do some things differently? Come with your suggestions, and we’ll take notes. In addition, we will be voting on the positions of CCDC First Vice President and Correspondence Secretary for the 2015 Executive Board. The new Board will be installed at our annual luncheon on Feb. 22, which will also feature our special guest speaker, grassroots activist and women’s rights champion, Sandra Fluke. We will be presenting Ms. Fluke with the Democratic Activist of the Year Award, and former CCDC President Bill Wynn with the Trudy Cherness Democrat of the Year Award. We hope to see you there!
I encourage you to come to our next General Meeting on Jan. 14, which will feature a candidates forum and endorsement vote for the Community College Board of Trustees, Seats 1, 3, 5 and 7. All registered Democrats for each seat’s race have been invited to participate, so please spread the word and come with your questions for the candidates. Also at January’s meeting, the membership will vote for our club’s 2015 Executive Board: President, First Vice President, Second Vice President, Treasurer, Membership, Corresponding Secretary and Recording Secretary. You can see bios of the Executive Board candidates and the Community College Board candidates in this newsletter.
Now, a few words about education, since that is this month’s theme. I am the product of a public school education (except for a two-year stint at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication). I am very proud of that. I owe my ability to read, write, calculate and think critically to the teachers that imparted their knowledge and wisdom so that I could thrive as a well-rounded citizen. Many of us owe our success, in part, to our school teachers, and to that great, enlightened idea of universal, public education.
So it is with great alarm and sadness that I see public education, in general, and teachers, in particular, be disrespected and disparaged by certain elements in this country who see children as cogs to be exploited for profit, rather than as people to be molded into well-rounded citizens. America cannot thrive, innovate or compete adequately on the world stage without a well-educated citizenry, who can think - not just consume. Teachers should be given the same amount of esteem as doctors, lawyers and business people, and should be paid accordingly. Our public primary and secondary schools must be supported, and uplifted. Children from low- income families deserve a world-class education just as much as those from affluent families. Our public community colleges and universities should be funded well to the point where tuition is either free or inexpensive. And finally, America should not be afraid - or too arrogant - to consider educational methodologies from other countries (for e.g., I recommend reading the book, Finnish Lessons by Dr. Pasi Sahlberg). Let’s start truly treating a quality public education as a right for everyone.
The holiday season is always celebrated as a time to reflect on what we are thankful for, spend quality time with our families, and eat copious amounts of food. The holidays are also when many volunteer their time and/or money to help the less fortunate. However, the poor seem to get the most attention during the holidays, but indifference (or hostility) the rest of the year.
One reason for this disconnect is that most Americans consider themselves middle class, whether they’re too rich or poor to technically be in the category. In America, to be middle class is really a state of mind. We have an image of ourselves as a nation of strivers, constantly aspiring to financial success - the American Dream. According to academics, many Americans believe that poor people are in that situation because of bad choices, or that they simply didn’t work hard enough. However, outside of America, most believe that people become poor from back luck or outside forces. This cultural difference partly explains why poverty is stigmatized in the United States and why the social safety net in the is so paltry compared with other western industrialized countries. Poverty is seen as an individual - not a societal - failure. The poor are marginalized and invisible. The downwardly mobile - the long- term unemployed - suffer in silence and shame, but still cling to the “middle class” identity. Even our Democratic Party puts poverty issues in the background in favor of focusing on the struggles of the middle class.
Many of our Democratic leaders speak a lot about the plight of middle class families, who have been squeezed from 40 years of failed “trickle-down” economics and the Great Recession. Democrats like to talk about strengthening the middle class. We support unions and raising the minimum wage. We defend the Affordable Care Act. We want to help homeowners who are struggling with underwater mortgages. We want to make college more affordable. We support strengthening Social Security and other programs to help retirees. And we support clean energy to combat global warming. These are all worthy goals. But what about the concerns of people who can’t even get to the middle class? Rarely do our political leaders mention the poor, or talk about issues that directly affect them, other than the minimum wage and Medicaid. That should change. We need to focus on and organize around the following issues as well:
Unfortunately, many poor people don’t vote, and are too busy trying to survive than engage in civic culture. Therefore, their concerns are given less importance. So we must support efforts to politically empower the poor. That would be a great holiday gift.