Why I am Still A Democrat: Despite Being Let Down By The Democratic Leaders in New Jersey, I’m Not Changing Trains

I attend our town’s bimonthly school board meetings regularly. Sometimes I go as a education journalist to observe and keep the pulse of what’s happening at the local level. Sometimes I go as a parent to speak up for kids who aren’t on the fast track to Harvard. Sometimes I go as person who flirts with the idea of becoming more directly involved in politics. Last Monday, I was there with my journalist/observer hat to hear the stories of the parents who assembled en masse to rant about the situation in the classroom of the littlest kids.

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17 thoughts on “Why I am Still A Democrat: Despite Being Let Down By The Democratic Leaders in New Jersey, I’m Not Changing Trains

  1. I was really nervous about posting this and then getting canceled by the mob. Hope I don’t get canceled, when I’m away and don’t realize what’s going on.

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  2. Warning – all comments coming from outside the US political sphere – so forgive any nuances I get wrong!

    I think there are 2 kinds of political loyalty – that are often confused.

    There’s ‘tribal’ loyalty. I’m a Democrat (or Republican) and I follow/vote for my party – regardless of what they may do. These are the people who will excuse or gloss over political scandals, hold their nose, and vote for an individually corrupt candidate, or deliberately follow only positive media stories. Often they’re politically naive or uninformed. It’s a form of emotional loyalty.

    Then there’s philosophical loyalty. Where the person is looking at the bigger picture (big government/small government; high tax / low tax; guns / no guns [this one may be a bridge too far for US audiences ;-)]; business friendly / government regulation, etc.) – and picking a party based on the number of ticks as opposed to crosses in their policy platform. These are the people who may be extremely critical of individual behaviour, and may even strategically vote in local elections *against* their ‘party line’ to get rid of a problem candidate, etc.

    The problem for political parties, is that the 2nd group of people are the ones with vote mobility. And their priority list of policies is *individual* and may change depending on what is going on in society. As the Democrat governors discovered – closing schools for Covid started off as a positive, and quickly switched to being a negative, for a significant sector of the voting population.

    From what I’m reading here, Laura has faith that Democrats will eventually come to grips with funding the education and long-term care (if needed) for her son. But, what if Democrats still show no signs of actually delivering? Would she, perhaps, decide to switch her vote to a party who doesn’t promise care, but promises tax cuts – so the families can fund the care?

    My concern – remotely – since I’m not in your country – is that (based on the reporting above) the school system is completely overwhelmed with problems, and doesn’t seem to have a grip on how to solve any of them. If my kid were in that overwhelmed new-entrant class, I’d be pulling them out and sending them to a private school. Kids don’t have years for teachers and/or school administrators to sort out problems. If it can’t be fixed in a few months, the fix isn’t going to benefit the kids who’ve already been harmed.

    My fix? I’d be streaming out the Grade 1 kids with behaviour problems into a repeat kindergarten year. Any that got up to speed quickly, can be re-integrated into the mainstream class. The rest can just repeat Grade 1 next year (when they’re actually ready to learn).
    I’ve got more tough love strategies for older kids….

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    1. The state Republican Party, the bulk of its elected officials, tried to replace the results of a popular vote for the presidential election after losing that election with a vote of the state legislature. It was a flat out coup, it still continues. I’m supporting the Democratic Party because to have been raised in a democracy and bequeath an oligarchy to my son is not something I am willing to tolerate.

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  3. Laura said: “Because it is very clear that I cannot replicate an education and social services on my own.”

    I’m sure, preaching to the choir, here….

    This is what I’m seeing from friends choosing to homeschool because of neurodivergent kids – mostly considerably further on the spectrum than Ian is.

    They are investing in 3rd party education products (curricula), and grouping together to hire spaces and educators to foster development of social skills (and allowing the Mums to have a break and/or actually work, themselves) and doing a lot of EOTC [I happened to be at the zoo recently at the same time as a group of spectrum homeschooling kids – where I knew a couple – the trip involved everything from drawing, to obsession over every fact possible on meerkats, to counting (pad with a chart of count boxes for dozens of different areas), to charting the water flow through the different enclosures – it was fascinating to see how the (experienced, older, privately employed, teacher), kept all of the balls in the air – I sure couldn’t do it!]
    Older kids – who are much more self-governing, tend to have tutors for specific subjects – and parents are picking tutors who also engage socially and give behavioural feedback e.g. ‘No, it’s not OK, for you to correct my grammar’ 😉 – here’s how formal speaking and conversational speaking are different.

    Many Mums start off doing it all themselves. A big part of this is that they recognise that their kids’ self-perception as learners has been damaged by the school system, and want to rebuild this from a trusted place. But, most then transition to purchasing support (tutors, educators, spaces – either individually or as a group). Some Mums remain as full-time hands-on homeschool educators. Though mostly it’s because they like teaching, or they’re coming from a religious or ethical reason for homeschooling.

    The homeschooling mums I know are very bitter about the fact that their taxes are being used to pay for an education system from which their children don’t benefit. And are a big proponent of education vouchers.
    Most would *love* for there to be a school system which works for their kids. But they’re realistic enough to know that it doesn’t exist right now, and probably won’t in the future.

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  4. “Laura said: “Because it is very clear that I cannot replicate an education and social services on my own.”

    Yes, this is the alternative to the bigger government/higher taxes/more rules form of services offer by the Democrats (Democrats don’t always admit it, for example, saying they’ll offer more services without higher taxes, but, my implementation (as both an identity democrat & an ideology democrat & an operations democrat) would include higher taxes, more services/safety net, and more rules. I can see the ideological and operations opposition to the implementation of government I prefer and am willing to debate it if we have common goals.

    I’m willing to treat Laura’s statement as an empirical one (which system would work better for me) and I feel the same way, even though we did replace public school with private when the kids were young, we counted on the pubic school to be available when we wanted it, and did want it in HS, where it served us well (even during the pandemic). If I had had to provide all the services for my child, I think we could have, temporarily, but I wouldn’t have wanted to. I wouldn’t have wanted to search out individual tutors and hired them and managed a team.

    Someone I know planned on doing that just before the start of the pandemic (after displeasure with her son’s private school). I would really love to know how the plan (which involved hiring a team of University students to tutor her son in her office at the U) panned out (but don’t know, because she stopped posting updates).

    The personal health care assistance works the way you describe for assisted home schooling and the concept of hiring multiple caregivers fatigues me tremendously, though some consider it a matter of money alone

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  5. Number One Son had a friend in first-second grade, lived with his divorced mom, she said ‘We are Jewish’ and then she said, ‘Well, we don’t believe, but we are culturally Jewish’. The concept of being culturally Democrat can be useful here. I mean, I am in Northern Virginia, we vote seventy per cent plus for Dems, or at least against Reeps. Neither Joe Biden nor Terry Mac was a candidate for whom I heard much enthusiasm among my friends, but there was very high negative enthusiasm for Trump and Youngkin.
    Our schools stayed virtual for much too long, and there is a lot of anger about that from parents whose kids stayed behind. Teachers generally thought virtual was swell, given the circumstances. This is kind of a first crack in the parent teacher alliance. The system here (extremely low turnout nomination caucus run by the Dems which anoints a candidate who wins the general) is far more conducive to finding out what the teachers’ association wants than to finding out what the parents/citizens want. I think things are likely stable, steady as she goes – but there is more grumpiness under the surface than in years past.
    And in the exurbs, where Youngkin did double digits better than Biden had, the grumpiness has been over the surface, cops called to School Board meetings, very high level of anger from Asian parents that the examination system for admission to magnet high school has been replaced by ‘holistic’ and many of them have been rethinking their loyalty to the Dems. Turbulent times.
    It will tell us a lot to see how the Dem vs Reep races for Congress go, later in the year.

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  6. I’m among those who are sad at the outcomes for school children, but I also have a next door neighbor who is a cardiologst at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. This is a huge, wealthy, fully-resourced hospital — few could be better situated to handle the work load that the pandemic inflicted on hospitals and health care workers like her., Their system came close to collapse, many times. They had to defer needed treatments to non-covid patients, and are still catching up. Another neighbor is a travel nurse; he is still flying here and there to fill in for the many nurses who couldn’t keep up the pace, or who got sick themselves. It’s not something we saw every day, like kids at home and cancelled church services, but the threat to our entire health care system was extreme.

    Sweden’s approach (basically, let ‘er rip) neither got them to herd immunity as they hoped, but also resulted in refusal of ICU care to the elderly and those with underlying conditions. Sweden’s death rate from COPVID was much higher than its similar neighabors, Denmark, Norway, and Finland.

    So I guess I come down on both sides. I never want children to be confined to home again, so I hope our public health establishment figures out how to stop future pandemics MUCH sooner.

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    1. “so I hope our public health establishment figures out how to stop future pandemics MUCH sooner.”

      Oddly, I’m a bad pessimist about technological solutions. I remember thinking that we were never going to treat AIDS and that everyone who was infected would just die. And, I didn’t think we’d have the kind of vaccines that we do as quickly as we did for COVID. So, I think we might find technological solutions that allow us to stop future pandemics more quickly (detection, for example, treatment, even faster vaccines).

      I hold out less hope for stopping pandemics by limiting their spread through behavior and every virus is going to have unique factors (a feature of the early 20th century flu was its impact on 18-45 year olds and the interaction with a World War). The spread of the covid virus + it’s asymptomatic spread + its significant but not inevitable morbidity & mortality all interact to provide very specific challenges.

      I can’t say that we will never have to send children home form schools again, but I think that to do so politically the children themselves might have to be more at risk and that we should have plans in place for mitigating the harm taken by the public health actions (i.e. compensatory education & payments). And, we have to plan more flexibly based on short term data.

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      1. Very good point about school closings being tied to the risk for children. Polio, before the vaccine, killed or disabled far, far fewer people than COVID, but because children were the predominant victims, schools were closed down during outbreaks. I have several friends who had polio (but without permanent damage) and a few who did become disabled from polio, Interestingly, polio did not respreseent a threat to the health care system overall, because it was far less communicable than COVID.

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      2. Yes, polio is an example of different viruses requiring different responses. Less communicable (people were exposed but didn’t develop the disease). But, it was obvious when people became paralyzed, often children were affected and the consequences were dire. With coronavirus, many people experience sniffles and aches and tiredness but feel fine soon enough (we’ll see the repercussions of long covid and potential post-covid syndromes eventually, but they can’t guide decision making now).

        It’s fascinating to read the history of communicable diseases and their effects on society before vaccines became widely available, with polio being one disease that was treated as a public health problem before it’s near elimination in the US through vaccination: (Smithonian’s version of the shitory: https://amhistory.si.edu/polio/americanepi/communities.htm)

        I feel like outbreaks and epidemics were a feature of regular life through the mid century and even into the 70’s (I remember a mumps outbreak at my junior high school that felled me, before widespread vaccination against mumps) and I have a small pox scar. Now, until this pandemic, I feel like we didn’t think about outbreaks/epidemics/pandemics as a public health problem that could affect everyone. Effects were always local and limited

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    2. One of the issues I see is that we won’t get to fight this pandemic the next time, just as we didn’t get to fight the polio outbreaks this time (for example, handwashing might have been useful for polio). And, even for polio, I think the public health conclusion on whether school closures were an effective mitigation are unsure (and, they could have significant consequences on children, especially poor children).

      This pandemic, we introduced the idea that we could have school without school buildings with remote learning and that it could replace school and the ability to detect infections, even asymptomatic infections (or minor symptomatic infections) and a much much more connected world (both physically and with information) and a highly transmittable, mutable virus.

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  7. Fortunately, school closings were fewer than they might have been during polio outbreaks (some were actually called epidemics) because the danger season was high summer. On another issue: my mother, a public health nurse, was pretty relaxed about many health-related issues. She wasn’t manic about dirt or about food safety, but she tensed up every time we were near a feverish-looking person, especially one who was coughing. TB was not very treatable until the ’60’s (unless you count going away for months to a TB sanitorium). That was a disease that you REALLY didn’t want to get, and many who had it and could spread it didn’t know they had it.

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    1. Have a friend who’s a public health nurse – and we’ve talked about the fact that TB is still a significant risk – with the increase in antibiotic resistant strains.
      She deals with soooooo many people who stop taking the antibiotics because they ‘feel fine’ – and are off to work, to sports, to crowded events – happily spreading their, now antibiotic resistant, TB strain far and wide.

      Here in NZ, it’s a disease of overcrowded and immigrant populations – with a high resistance to government intervention and documentation, and low scientific understanding and poor English.
      She says it’s a powder keg waiting to explode…..

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  8. Thought this was an interesting article on the fragmentation of society (using America as an example, but parallels elsewhere in the West)

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/05/social-media-democracy-trust-babel/629369/

    Interesting take aways:
    * Most political commentary, social media activism, etc. is from either the far right or the far left (and the FL are significantly more activist) – middle of the road doesn’t really get a look in.
    * Demographically, the groups are surprisingly similar (rich, white, middle-aged) – and not particularly reflective of the majority of society.
    * Both FL & FR show surprising levels of internal consistency in their messaging (suspect that deviancy from the party line is ‘rewarded’ by a dogpile of negative commentary)
    * Punishing internal dissent, has the consequent result of dumbing down policy (not thoroughly tested internally before implementation) and debate (the effect on Universities – supposedly the basion of free speech is nothing less than chilling)
    * The trolls have always been there, but social media has rewarded and enabled them. So the same number of jerks are enabled to attack greater numbers of people. Unsurprisingly, this turns off most moderate people from political commentary.

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