Peter Dreier

Tulsa: Two racist white mobs -- 1921 and 2020

Historians will look back at Donald Trump’s campaign rally on Saturday as the second major racist white mob in a century to wreak death and havoc in Tulsa.

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With Covid-19 spiking, Trump's MAGA rally could become a second Tulsa Massacre

Historians will look back at Donald Trump’s campaign rally on Saturday as the second major racist white mob in a century to wreak death and havoc in Tulsa.

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Throw out the first pitch at the World Series? Trump doesn't have the guts

In a recent episode of the TV series Madam Secretary, President Elizabeth McCord (played by actress Tia Leoni) has a nightmare about her scheduled appearance at a Mets-Cubs game to throw out the ceremonial first ball.  She dreams that her errant pitch hits the Mr. Met mascot and she's showered with boos from the fans at Citi Field in New York.

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Exclusive: How Nancy Pelosi could lead Democrats to victory on impeachment

Last week, the resistance movement against President Donald Trump and the Trump White House’s continuing obstruction of Congressional oversight finally pushed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call for impeachment hearings against the most corrupt president in U.S. history.

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Can Nancy Pelosi bring the Democrats an impeachment victory?

The resistance movement against Trump—which began with the massive women’s marches around the country the week that the new president took office in January 2017 and led to the huge "blue wave" mid-term election last November that gave Democrats a large majority in the House—finally pushed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday to call for impeachment hearings against the most corrupt president in U.S. history.

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Who Was Marjory Stoneman Douglas?

There’s nothing on the Parkland, Florida, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School website about the woman whose name adorns the school, so its students may not realize that in rising from last week’s tragedy to speak truth to power, they are following in Douglas’s activist footsteps.

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Why Trump Keeps Telling the World 'I’m Smart'

Long before he started running for president, Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that he’s both brainy and well-educated. It is one of his most persistent lies.

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Trump's Bizarre Obsession With His Obviously Questionable Intelligence

Many Americans complain that Donald Trump has a tiny vocabulary. But he disproved his critics Wednesday during an impromptu press conference on the South Lawn of the White House.

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Forget the Confederate Statues for a Second, Where Are All the Monuments to America's Progressive Heroes?

The current controversy over whether to dismantle statues of some prominent Confederate figures is a battle over whom we admire and consider as heroes. It is also a battle over who has power to shape how we view our history.

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Why MLK's Final Fight Inspires Our Labor Day Tradition

Most Americans today know that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, but few know why he was there. King went to Memphis to support African American garbage workers, who were on strike to protest unsafe conditions, abusive white supervisors, and low wages — and to gain recognition for their union. Their picket signs relayed a simple but profound message: “I Am A Man.”

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Remembering the Great Essayist and Activist Clancy Sigal

Writer Clancy Sigal died Monday night at 90.

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Trump's Phony Patriotism Clashes With the Radical Roots of America the Beautiful and the Pledge of Allegiance

“We all salute the same great American flag,” President Donald Trump told an enthusiastic crowd at a rally of evangelical Christians and military veterans at the Kennedy Center on Saturday.

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Joe and Mika Owe America An Apology

Most media reports have portrayed Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski as aggrieved victims of Donald Trump’s Thursday twitter tantrum. It can’t be pleasant to be attacked so personally by the president, but Scarborough and Brzezinski are fighting back. On their MSNBC show “Morning Joe” on Friday and in an op-ed column in the Washington Post titled “President Trump Is Not Well,” they chastised Trump for his vicious and vulgar attacks on her appearance, for referring to her as “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and him as “Psycho Joe.” They denied Trump’s claim that she had plastic surgery and that she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when she and Scarborough visited Trump’s private club at Mar-a-Lago in Florida last year. They also levied a serious charge that Trump tried to blackmail them by threatening a negative story about the couple in the National Enquirerunless they asked Trump (who is close to the tabloid’s publisher) to have the story killed.

America is aghast but hardly surprised by Trump’s latest social media assault. It is totally consistent with his regular attacks on women, his efforts to bully and intimidate his critics, and his narcissistic need to get revenge on anyone who does not swear uncompromising loyalty to him.

Understandably, Brzezinski and Scarborough are attracting lots of sympathy for being the targets of Trump’s vile comments. Democrats have used this episode to remind Americans about the president’s unhinged personality, his disrespect for women, and how he demeans the office and embarrasses the country with his crude and repugnant remarks. Republicans have been relatively tepid in rebuking Trump. They have sought to distance themselves from his comments against the influential MSNBC co-hosts and particularly his sexist remarks about Brzezinski, but not one Republican so far has proposed a motion in Congress to censure the president for this and other outrageous statements.

On air, Brzezinski said that “I am very concerned about what this once again reveals about the president of the United States. It’s strange,” adding “It does worry me about the country.” Scarborough pointed to the “alarming” pattern of Trump’s insults toward women. And in a tweet directed at Trump, Scarborough wrote, “Why do you keep lying about things that are so easily disproven? What is wrong with you?”

But Scarborough and Brzezinski are hardly emblems of journalistic integrity or political courage. Let’s not forget that the “Morning Joe” cohosts, particularly Scarborough (a former Republican Congressman from Florida), are partly responsible for Trump becoming president. They’ve known Trump for over a decade and were once among his biggest fans.

In late 2015 and 2016, when Trump’s campaign was gaining momentum, they defended him against his critics and offered him advice. For example, at an event at the 92nd Street Y in New York in November 2015, Scarborough proudly recounted how he frequently called Trump to offer political guidance. Returning the bromance favor, in January 2016 Trump talked about Scarborough with Boston talk radio host Howie Carr. “He’s a great guy, and he has a great show ... and we have a lot of fun,” Trump said. After Trump won the New Hampshire primary in February 2016, Trump appeared on “Morning Joe” and told the co-hosts: “You guys have been supporters, and I really appreciate it.”

A few days later, CNN reported that MSNBC officials were concerned about “Scarborough’s friendship with Trump and his increasingly favorable coverage of the candidate.” According to CNN, MSNBC insiders called Scarborough’s admiration for Trump “over the top” and “unseemly.” The Washington Post observed that Trump received “a tremendous degree of warmth from the show,” and that his appearances on the show, in person and over the phone, often felt like “a cozy social club.”

That coziness was caught on tape during an MSNBC town hall with Trump in New York that Scarborough and Brzezinski hosted in February 2016. An unaired clip of banter between Brzezinski and Trump in-between segments revealed the two of them colluding about what questions she’d ask him. “Nothing too hard, Mika,” Trump says. “OK,” she responded.

Even after Trump’s most disgusting and troublesome traits were revealed to the entire country throughout the campaign – his abuse of women, his attacks on Latinos, immigrants, Muslims, and people with disabilities, his profound ignorance of basic issues and government policy, and the corruption and scandals surrounding Trump University and the Trump foundation – Scarborough (and to a lesser extent Brzezinski) continued to lend Trump their support.

Trump and Scarborough’s relationship was a bromance of convenience. Trump got sympathetic coverage. Scarborough got inside information and frequent interviews that boosted “Morning Joe”’s ratings. But inevitably the two big egos clashed, with Brzezinski (slightly more liberal but less outspoken than her partner) collateral damage.

During the spring and summer, however, the relationship waxed hot and cold. In June, for example, Scarborough blasted Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders for endorsing Trump despite his “racist statements.” He warned Republicans that if they don’t “back away from those endorsements” they will “lose your standing as a national party.” That month Scarborough also said that Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric “sounds a lot like Nazi Germany” and that Trump’s suggestion that Barack Obama was complicit in the shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub was “beyond breathtaking.”

In July, however, Scarborough parroted Trump’s criticism of FBI director James Comey for not recommending criminal charges against Clinton. After Trump gave a speech in Ohio that month, Brzezinski said that the candidate “got his groove back,” while Scarborough claimed that Trump looked “re-energized” and asked, “Is this guy really 70 years old?” On July 27, a week after Trump won the GOP nomination, however, Scarborough slammed Trump’s views on Russia. “He’s been an apologist for Vladimir Putin for a very long time,” he remarked, adding that Trump’s raise of Putin was “disqualifying.” By the end of July, Scarborough was calling on Republican leaders to “cut [Trump] loose.” But in August, reversing course, Scarborough backed Trump’s false claim that he had opposed the Iraq war.

In September, the couple met with the GOP nominee at Trump Tower to “rekindle” their relationship, according to CNN. After that meeting, they fawned over Trump for the next six months. They defended Trump’s call for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s Secret Service detail to disarm, his ugly comments on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and reports that he misused his charitable foundation to support his private businesses. After polls revealed the Trump lost his first two debates with Clinton, they defended his performance and questioned the polling results. Scarborough even argued that Trump’s shouldn’t be judged by normal debate standards. He even declared that debate moderators don’t need to fact-check statements made by the candidates – clearly a defense of Trump’s long-distance relationship with the truth.

At a September press event, Trump falsely claimed that Clinton had “started the birther controversy” (about Obama’s birthplace) but that he (Trump) had “finished it.” On their September 19 show, Brzezinski called on Trump to apologize for his long “birther” crusade but Scarborough quickly dismissed her comment. (This was not the first time that he publicly treated her with disdain and disrespect. He once told her, on air, that her political analysis “means nothing” because she is a Democrat).

In October, after the New York Times reported that Trump may have avoided paying federal income taxes for almost 20 years, Brzezinski came to his defense, claiming that he was “brilliant” for bragging how he had exploited the tax code to his advantage. Scarborough lashed out at journalists who criticized Trump for refusing to say if would accept the election results if he lost.

After Trump won the election, the duo continued to defend him, while Scarborough continued to give him advice during the transition. When Trump picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scarborough insisted that “I just know” that Trump “has to believe” in climate science. After Kellyanne Conway got a top White House job, she thanked Brzezinski for her “counsel and friendship.”

The MSNBC couple attended Trump’s New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago. Once Trump took office, he solidified his relationship with them. Scarborough bragged how he and Brzezinski have “known and have been friends with Donald Trump for a decade,” praising him as “the master of many things.”

By April, however, the duo stopped their love affair with the new president. While hardly joining the ranks of the “resistance” movement, their comments became more and more negative. As Trump became increasingly mired in scandal, Scarborough criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris environmental accords, which, he said, risked alienating China, India, and the U.S. business community. In May, Brzezinski bluntly stated, “This presidency is failing day by day by day through lies.” They began questioning Trump’s mental health.

In early June, while discussing Trump’s tweet rampages, including his attack on London’s mayor following a terrorist attack in that city, Scarborough observed, “There is not a sane rational human being who would have tweeted what he tweeted.”

Trump clearly took this about-face as a personal betrayal. Not unexpectedly, he overreacted and began attacking them via twitter, even while falsely claiming that he rarely watched their show. Thursday’s twitter tantrum was the latest, most personal, and most vulgar of his rants, but it was hardly out of character.

On Friday, the day after Trump’s attack, Scarborough said, “The guy that’s in the White House now is not the guy we knew two years ago.” Brzezinski agreed: “Not even close.”

That’s a lie.

People who have followed Trump’s career for years have remarked about his megalomania, vanity, need for flattery, hunger for adulation, nasty temper, thirst for revenge, instinct for humiliating his critics, sexist attitudes and abuse of women, racism, insistence on total fidelity, willingness to toss overboard anyone who fails his test of loyalty, and ignorance of history and current events. Scarborough and Brzezinski, who’ve known Trump for over a decade, had to be willfully oblivious to avoid seeing the true Trump.

All of Trump’s traits that they now find so objectionable were clearly on display last year when they embraced him and his campaign. They chose to ignore the obvious. Whether they wanted to get closer to power, out of personal loyalty, or (in Scarborough’s case) partisan allegiance, they helped normalize Trump even while he was violating every standard of decency expected of a presidential candidate and a president, while putting the nation at risk with his chaotic and impulsive behavior and unsteady leadership.

It is good that Scarborough and Brzezinski have finally recognized, or at least publicly admitted, that Trump is unfit to be president. If their recent critiques of Trump are the result of buyer’s remorse, a mea culpa for their previous fealty, or simply jumping off a sinking ship – well, better late than never.

But we shouldn’t forget or forgive them for helping this vile man become our nation’s president. We are reaping the consequences of their poor judgement and their unwillingness to speak truth to power. They should apologize to the American people.

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Why Did Democrats Ossoff and Parnell Lose Their Congressional Races in Georgia and South Carolina?

Democrats around the country were hopeful that they could win two special elections Tuesday in what had long been “safe” Republican districts in Georgia and South Carolina. Instead, both Democratic candidates — Jon Ossoff and Archie Parnell — narrowly lost. Why did they lose? Pundits and politics will be debating this question for a long while, but one factor made a huge difference: Low turnout among African Americans. If this sounds familiar, it should. It explains why Hillary Clinton lost Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to Donald Trump last November by a total of 77,000 votes. Had she won those three states, she would have won the Electoral College and would be occupying the White House today.

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Fifty Years Ago, the Supreme Court Knocked Down Bans on Interracial Marriage - How Have Things Changed Since Then?

Should we allow states to decide whether black Americans may marry white Americans? Today, such an idea seems absurd. Most Americans believe that states shouldn't be permitted to trample on the basic right of interracial couples to marry. It would be unfair and a clear violation of civil rights. But until 50 years ago (June 12, 1967), when the Supreme Court knocked down state laws banning interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia, 16 states still had such laws on the books. At the time, 72% of Americans opposed marriage between blacks and whites.

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The Fascinating Story of Major League Baseball's Players Union Stimulated by the Death of Jim Bunning

Jim Bunning, the former major league baseball star and U.S. Senator who died on Friday at age 85, was a union leader before he entered politics. In the 1960s, when team owners controlled almost every aspect of players’ lives, Bunning was a fighter for baseball players’ rights and a driving force in challenging management’s prerogatives. From almost the start of his major league career, Bunning was active with the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), serving as the American League player pension representative and as a member of the union’s executive board for many years.   He helped transform MLBPA from a weak organization into what is now the most powerful labor union in the country.

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I Don't Care Who Killed JFK

Next week, as Americans celebrate the 100th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s birth (May 29, 1917), much of the public conversation will be about his death. The controversy over who killed JFK in 1963 has now raged for over half a century. It is a diversion and a waste of time.

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Billionaires Backing K-12 Privatization Win Majority on Los Angeles School Board, Setting Stage for Sweeping District Takeover

Once Nick Melvoin joins the Los Angeles Unified School District board, he’s going to require all high school civics teachers to add a new lesson plan to their curriculum: “How To Buy An Election.”

That’s what happened on Tuesday. Melvoin and his billionaire backers dramatically outspent school board president Steve Zimmer’s campaign, making the District 4 race the most expensive in LAUSD history.

Political pundits will spend the next few days and weeks analyzing the Los Angeles school board election, examining exit polls, spilling lots of ink over how different demographic groups — income, race, religious, union membership, gender, party affiliation, and others — voted on Tuesday.

But the real winner in the race was not Nick Melvoin, but Big Money. And the real loser was not Steve Zimmer, but democracy – and LA’s children.

Melvoin’s backers — particularly billionaires and multi-millionaires who donated directly to his campaign and to several front groups, especially the California Charter School Association (CCSA) — outspent Zimmer’s campaign by $6.6 million to $2.7 million. Melvoin got 30, 696 votes to Zimmer’s 22,766. In other words, Melvoin spent 71% of the money to get 57% of the vote.

Here’s another way of looking at the election results: Melvoin spent $215 for each vote he received, while Zimmer spent only $121 per vote.

There’s no doubt that if the Zimmer campaign had the same war-chest that Melvoin had, he would have been able to mount an even more formidable grassroots get-out-the-vote campaign and put more money into the TV and radio air war. Under those circumstances, it is likely that Zimmer would have prevailed.

Billionaires, many of whom live far from Los Angeles, bought this election for Melvoin. Their money paid for non-stop TV and radio ads, as well as phone calls, mailers and newspaper ads (including a huge wrap-around ad on the front of Sunday’s LA Times). Melvoin’s billionaire backers paid for 44 mailers and at least $1 million on negative TV ads against Zimmer.

The so-called “Independent” campaign for Melvoin was funded by big oil, big tobacco, Enron and Walmart, and other out-of-town corporations and billionaires. They paid for Melvoin’s ugly, deceptive, and false attack ads against Zimmer, a former teacher and current school board president. Melvoin is so devoted to the corporate agenda for our schools that during the campaign he said that the school district needed a “hostile takeover.”

Among the big donors behind Melvoin and the CCSA were members of the Walton family (Alice Walton, Jim Walton, and Carrie Walton Penner) ― heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune from Arkansas, who’ve donated over $2 million to CCSA. Alice Walton (net worth: $36.9 billion), who lives in Texas, was one of the biggest funders behind Melvoin’s campaign. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflicks (net worth: $1.9 billion), who lives in Santa Cruz, donated close to $5 million since last September to the CCSA’s political action committee, including $1 million a week before the election.

Other moguls behind Melvoin and the CCSA include Doris Fisher (net worth: $2.7 billion), co-founder of The Gap, who lives in San Francisco: Texas resident John Arnold (net worth: $2.9 billion), who made a fortune at Enron before the company collapsed, leaving its employees and stockholders in the lurch, then made another fortune as a hedge fund manager; Jeff Yass, who lives in the Philadelphia suburbs, and runs the Susquahanna group, a hedge fund; Frank Baxter, former CEO of the global investment bank Jefferies and Company that specialized in “junk” bonds; and Michael Bloomberg (net worth: $48.5 billion), the former New York City mayor and charter champion. Eli Broad (net worth: $7.7 billion), who hatched a plan to put half of all LAUSD students in charter schools by 2023 — an idea that Zimmer fought — donated $400,000 to CCSA last Friday, on top of $50,000 he gave in November. He made his money in real estate and life insurance.

Not surprisingly, most of these billionaires are big backers of conservative Republican candidates and right-wing causes. Several are on the boards of charter school chains.

What do the corporate moguls and billionaires want? And what did Steve Zimmer do to make them so upset?

They want to turn public schools into educational Wal-marts run on the same corporate model. They want to expand charter schools that compete with each other and with public schools in an educational “market place.” (LA already has more charter schools than any other district in the country). They want to evaluate teachers and students like they evaluate new products — in this case, using the bottom-line of standardized test scores. Most teachers will tell you that over-emphasis on standardized testing turns the classroom into an assembly line, where teachers are pressured to “teach to the test,” and students are taught, robot-like, to define success as answering multiple-choice tests.

Not surprisingly, the billionaires want school employees — teachers — to do what they’re told, without having much of a voice in how their workplace functions or what is taught in the classroom. Rather than treat teachers like professionals, they view them as the out-sourced hired help.

The corporate big-wigs are part of an effort that they and the media misleadingly call “school reform.” What they’re really after is not “reform” (improving our schools for the sake of students) but “privatization” (business control of public education). They think public schools should be run like corporations, with teachers as compliant workers, students as products, and the school budget as a source of profitable contracts and subsidies for textbook companies, consultants, and others engaged in the big business of education.

Like most reasonable educators and education analysts, Zimmer has questioned the efficacy of charter schools as a panacea. When the billionaires unveiled their secret plan to put half of LAUSD students into charter schools within eight years, Zimmer led the opposition. In contrast, Melvoin is a big backer of charter schools and a big critic of the teachers union.

Now the billionaires and their charter school operators will have a majority on the school board. LA will become the epicenter of a major experiment in expanding charter schools – with the school children as the guinea pigs.

Pundits will have a field day pontificating about the LAUSD election, but in the end it’s about how Big Money hijacked democracy in LA.

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Who Are the Out-Of-Town Billionaires Wading into a City School Board Race?

Some of America’s most powerful corporate plutocrats want to take over the Los Angeles school system but Steve Zimmer, a former teacher and feisty school board member, is in their way. So they’ve hired Nick Melvoin to get rid of him. No, he’s not a hired assassin like the kind on “The Sopranos.” He’s a lawyer who the billionaires picked to defeat Zimmer.

The so-called “Independent” campaign for Melvoin — funded by big oil, big tobacco, Walmart, Enron, and other out-of-town corporations and billionaires — has included astonishingly ugly, deceptive, and false attack ads against Zimmer.

This morning (Friday) the Los Angeles Times reported that “Outside spending for Melvoin (and against Zimmer) has surpassed $4.65 million.” Why? Because he doesn’t agree with the corporatization of our public schools. Some of their donations have gone directly to Melvoin’s campaign, but much of it has been funneled through a corporate front group called the California Charter School Association.

To try to hoodwink voters, the billionaires invented another front group with the same initials as the well-respected Parent Teacher Association, but they are very different organizations. They called it the “Parent Teacher Alliance.” Pretty clever, huh? But this is notthe real PTA, which does not get involved with elections. In fact, the real PTA has demanded that this special interest PAC change their name and called the billionaires’ campaign Zimmer “misleading,” “deceptive practices,” and “false advertising.”

These out-of-town billionaire-funded groups can pay for everything from phone-banks, to mailers, to television ads. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez described the billionaires’ campaign to defeat Zimmer, which includes sending mails filled with outrageous lies about Zimmer, as “gutter politics.”

As a result, the race for the District 4 seat — which stretches from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley — is ground zero in the battle over the corporate take-over of public education. The outcome of next Tuesday’s (May 16) election has national implications in terms of the billionaires’ battle to reconstruct public education in the corporate mold.

The contest between Melvoin and Zimmer is simple. Who should run our schools? Who knows what’s best for students? Out-of-town billionaires or parents, teachers, and community residents?

Before examining just who these corporate carpetbaggers are, let’s look at who Steve Zimmer is, what he’s accomplished, and what he stands for.

Zimmer grew up in a working class community and attended public schools. His father was a printer and his mother was a school teacher. After college, he became a teacher, beginning with Teach for America in 1992. 

He spent 17 years as a teacher and counselor at Marshall High School. When he taught English as a second language, he used an experiential approach that related to his students’ daily lives. He created Marshall’s Public Service Program to make public service intrinsic to the student experience. He founded Marshall’s Multilingual Teacher Career Academy, which was an early model for LAUSD’s Career Ladder Teacher Academy. 

To help address the concerns of at-risk youth, he founded the Comprehensive Student Support Center to provide health care services for students and their families. He helped create the Elysian Valley Community Services Center, a community owned-and-operated agency that provides after-school, recreational and enrichment programs, a library, and free Internet access.

He was elected to the school board in 2009 and re-elected in 2013 despite the onslaught of billionaire bucks against him. 

What are some of Zimmer’s most important accomplishments on the school board?

• Improving student success. Zimmer’s leadership helped increase local graduation rates into their highest level ever. LAUSD schools achieved across-the-board improvements in state testing and all measurable forms of student achievement.

• Balanced budgets. As school board president, Zimmer helped bring LAUSD’s budget into balance while simultaneously increasing funding to the classrooms. Zimmer helped lead the fight to get Congress to pass the Education Jobs Bill passed, which provided LAUSD with $300 million. He has fought for increased federal Special Education funding. He championed Proposition 30 and its extension, Proposition 55, which added more school funding for LAUSD. His stewardship has paid off. LAUSD has been awarded the highest credit rating of AAA.

• More schools, more opportunities. As a result of Zimmer’s leadership and in response to parent interest, LAUSD has added many more magnet schools, STEM programs and dual immersion language programs.

 Restoring arts education. Zimmer worked to restore arts programs not just in some schools but in all schools. He believes access to arts education needs to be a right for all students in every community. It is an essential component to a well-rounded education. Since he’s been in office, arts funding has increased by $18 million dollars and the Arts Equity Index that he championed, now ensures resources where they are needed the most.

 Protecting vulnerable students. As a school board member, Zimmer has been the leading advocate for vulnerable students. He authored the school board resolution in support of the Dream Act, federal legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students who do well in school and attend college. He authored the resolution ensuring schools are safe zones where students and families faced immigration enforcement actions can find safety and seek assistance and information. He helped create Student Recovery Day, a twice-yearly event that takes scores of district staff into students’ homes to support students who have dropped out. Hundreds of students have returned to class after being sought out and connected with the support services they need. He has ensured that the school district supports the needs of students living in poverty, students facing trauma, special education students, undocumented students, LGBT students, English Learners, standard English learners and foster children.

• Healthy food. Zimmer’s commitment to making sure students eat healthy meals is unparalleled. His Good Food Purchasing resolution has been a model around the country for making sure student lunches have met the highest nutritional, environmental and animal welfare standards.

As a member of the Board, and his last two years as President, Zimmer led the school district through difficult times, weathering a recession, dealing with tragedies, and transitions in leadership. He used his skills to resolve challenges by working collaboratively.

Zimmer has received numerous awards for his work with children and families, including the LA’s Commission of Children, Youth and their Families “Angel Over Los Angeles” award, El Centro Del Pueblo’s “Carino” award and the LACER Foundation’s “Jackie Goldberg Public Service Award.”

Nick Melvoin is the candidate completely sponsored by the 1 percent. His extreme lack of experience clearly doesn’t bother them. Melvoin is so devoted to the corporate agenda for our schools that he claims a “hostile takeover” is needed. 

Who are some of the billionaires and corporate lobby groups that want to defeat Steve Zimmer and elect Nick Melvoin?

• Members of the Walton family (Alice Walton, Jim Walton, and Carrie Walton Penner) — heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune from Arkansas — have contributed $2.2 million to the PAC attacking Zimmer in the last two years. Alice Walton (net worth: $36.9 billion) lives in Texas and is one of the biggest funders behind Melvoin’s campaign. She and other members of her family also donated to the Super PAC that worked to elect Donald Trump, donated to Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, and to the Alliance for School Choice, an organization that Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos helped to lead. 

• Oil and Enron executives from Texas and Oklahoma have contributed more than $1 million to the same committee.

• JOBSPAC — a PAC “largely funded by oil and tobacco companies,” according to the Los Angeles Times – contributed $35,000 to the same committee funding the attacks on Zimmer. 

• Doris Fisher, co-founder of The Gap who has a net worth of $2.7 billion, has given $4.1 million to the California Charter School Association’s political action committee in 2015 and 2016. She lives in San Francisco.

• John Arnold made a fortune at Enron before the company collapsed, leaving its employees and stockholders in the lurch. Then he made another fortune as a hedge fund manager. His net worth is $2.9 billion. He and his wife Laura donated $1 million last year to CCSA’s political committee and $4400 directly to Melvoin. They live in Houston, Texas.

• Jeff Yass, who lives in the Philadelphia suburbs, has given the maximum allowed contribution to Melvoin. He runs the Susquahanna group, a hedge fund. He has close ties to Betsy DeVos’ efforts to privatize public school. Yass donated $2.3 million to a Super PAC supporting Rand Paul’s presidential candidacy.

• Frank Baxter and his wife Kathrine donated $100,000 to CCSA’s political committee in the past two years and $3,300 directly to Melvoin. Frank Baxter is former CEO of the global investment bank Jefferies and Company that specialized in “junk” bonds. He is a major Republican fundraiser and was appointed ambassador to Uruguay by George W. Bush. He is one of at least five donors to Melvoin’s campaign who sit on the board of charter schools. He is also a big financial backer of Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Cong. Devin Nunes of California, and Cong. Steve King of Iowa (a Tea Party favorite).

What do these corporate moguls and billionaires want and what has Zimmer done to make them so upset?

They want to turn public schools into educational Wal-marts run on the same corporate model. They want to expand charter schools that compete with each other and with public schools in an educational “market place.” (LA already has more charter schools than any other district in the country). They want to evaluate teachers and students like they evaluate new products — in this case, using the bottom-line of standardized test scores. Most teachers will tell you that over-emphasis on standardized testing turns the classroom into an assembly line, where teachers are pressured to “teach to the test,” and students are taught, robot-like, to define success as answering multiple-choice tests.

Not surprisingly, the billionaires want school employees — teachers — to do what they’re told, without having much of a voice in how their workplace functions or what is taught in the classroom. Rather than treat teachers like professionals, they view them as the out-sourced hired help.

The corporate big-wigs are part of an effort that they and the media misleadingly call “school reform.” What they’re really after is not “reform” (improving our schools for the sake of students) but “privatization” (business control of public education). They think public schools should be run like corporations, with teachers as compliant workers, students as products, and the school budget as a source of profitable contracts and subsidies for textbook companies, consultants, and others engaged in the big business of education.

Like most reasonable educators and education analysts, Zimmer has questioned the efficacy of charter schools as a panacea. When the billionaires unveiled their secret plan to put half of LAUSD students into charter schools within eight years, Zimmer led the opposition. Zimmer isn’t against all charter schools but he doesn’t want the board to rubber-stamp every charter proposal. He wants LAUSD to carefully review each charter proposal to see if its backers have a track record of success and inclusion. And he wants LAUSD to hold charters accountable. This kind of reasonable approach doesn’t sit well with the billionaires behind their front group, the California Charter School Association. 

Zimmer has also questioned the over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing as the primary tool for assessing student and teacher performance. Testing has its place but it can also become an excuse to avoid more useful and holistic ways to evaluate students and teachers — and to avoid the “teach to the test” obsession that hampers learning and creative teaching. Zimmer has called for — and helped negotiate the deal for — some portion of teacher evaluations to include test scores. But that’s not what the billionaires want.

As a former LAUSD teacher with 17 years in the classroom, Zimmer respects teachers as professionals. He understands the jobs and frustrations of teaching. He wants LAUSD to create schools that are truly partnerships between teachers, parents, students and the district. He is often allied with United Teachers Los Angeles, but he is nobody’s lapdog. He has always been an independent voice and has disagreed with UTLA on some significant matters.

In fact, four years ago, Times’ columnist Lopez wrote that Zimmer “... has tried to bridge differences among the warring parties, winning supporters and making enemies on both sides in the process.”

But the billionaires don’t want a bridge-builder. They want a compliant rubber stamp, and that’s what they’ve found in Nick Melvoin, the advocate for a “hostile takeover.”

Zimmer is endorsed by many LAUSD parents and community activists as well as Mayor Eric Garcetti, Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressmembers Karen Bass, Judy Chu and Maxine Waters, City Attorney Mike Feuer and the Councilmembers serving the neighborhoods in his 4th School Board District. At the state level, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, State Controller Betty Yee, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon have all endorsed Zimmer. At the County level, he’s backed by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl along with former Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

In his endorsement of Zimmer, Mayor Garcetti said: “The campaign against Steve has turned vicious, and I feel compelled to reach out on behalf of a champion for all our kids. I’ve worked closely with Steve Zimmer for more than 15 years. I’ve watched him make change in the lives of kids and in the fabric of our communities. Under Steve’s leadership, Los Angeles Unified schools have shown impressive progress. Steve’s collaborative, ‘all kids, all families’ approach is what we need on the School Board.” 

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school system in the country with over 700,000 students. So gaining control of its board — and its budget — is a good “investment” for the billionaires who want to reshape education in this country.

Melvoin’s campaign and backers have outspent Zimmer by a huge margin. Their battle has turned into a remarkable David vs. Goliath contest. But let’s recall who won that Biblical battle. Goliath had the big weapons but the feisty David had the slingshot. That’s how Zimmer beat another hand-picked billionaire-backed candidate four years ago, with a grassroots campaign that relied on parents, teachers, and neighborhood residents, and he’s hoping to do it again next Tuesday.

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The Feisty Group That Exposed Wells Fargo’s Wrongdoing

Front-page stories in Tuesday’s New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times revealed that Wells Fargo’s board would be slashing $75 million in compensation from two former top executives whom it blamed for the bank’s scandal over fraudulent accounts. But missing from these three papers’ stories—and from similar stories in other major print and broadcast news outlets—was the feisty group of bank employees that initially exposed the wrongdoing: the Committee for Better Banks.

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Saturday’s Celebration of Jackie Robinson Should Remind Us of the Importance of Political Protest

This Saturday, while every Major League Baseball team will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s achievement of breaking baseball’s color line, hundreds of thousands of Americans will be protesting in the streets as part of Tax Day.

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Taunting Trump: How the Campaign to 'Not Normalize' Donald Is Driving Him Crazy

“Resistance” comes in many forms. In discussions about how to deal with the fear and alarm ignited by Donald Trump, no word has been used more frequently than “normalize.” Democrats and progressives engage in almost daily protest rallies to defy Trump’s agenda. But perhaps the most successful component of the anti-Trump movement has been its willingness to challenge his legitimacy. The popular slogan and hashtag “#Not My President” doesn’t mean that people think the November election results were rigged, but that Trump’s Electoral Vote majority doesn’t translate into a popular mandate and that his views and policies don’t reflect the popular will. The anti-Trump movement refuses to “normalize” a president whom they view as an authoritarian, even a neo-fascist, who violates that basic norms of democracy and the rule of law. By poking fun at Trump and exposing his narcissism, conflicts-of-interest, and pathological lies, his opponents are undermining his credibility and destabilizing his presidency as much as any marches and demonstrations.

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What Dr. Seuss Can Teach Us About Donald Trump

Asked to explain his political views, Theodor Geisel — better known as Dr. Seuss — once said that he was “against people who push other people around.” Were he alive today, he would surely be using his sharp pen to make fun of Donald Trump.

Today (March 2), tens of millions of children and their parents will be reading Dr. Seuss books as part of Read Across America Day, sponsored by the National Educational Association (NEA) in partnership with local school districts and some businesses. The NEA, which started the program 20 years ago to encourage reading, was smart to tie the program to Dr. Seuss, who remains — 26 years after his death — the world’s most popular writer of modern children’s books.

As kids and as parents, most Americans know all about The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Green Eggs and Ham, and many others of Seuss’s colorful characters and stories. What some may not know is that despite his popular image as a kindly cartoonist for kids, Geisel was also a political progressive whose views permeate his children’s tales. Many of his books use ridicule, satire, wordplay, nonsense words and wild drawings to take aim at bullies, hypocrites and demagogues. Trump would have been an easy target for Geisel’s artistic outrage and moralistic mockery.

His popular children’s books included parables about racism, anti-Semitism, the arms race, corporate greed and the environment. But, equally important, he used his pen to encourage youngsters to challenge bullies and injustice. Many Dr. Seuss books are about the misuse of power — by despots, kings and other rulers, including the sometimes arbitrary authority of parents.

In a university lecture in 1947 — a decade before the civil rights movement — Geisel urged would-be writers to avoid the racist stereotypes common in children’s books. America “preaches equality but doesn’t always practice it,” he noted. Generations of progressive activists may not trace their political views to their early exposure to Dr. Seuss, but without doubt this shy, brilliant genius played a role in sensitizing them to abuses of power.

In several early books — including The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (1938), The King’s Stilts (1939) and Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949) — Geisel made fun of the pretentions, foolishness and arbitrary power of kings.

In 1941, Geisel became an editorial cartoonist for the left-wing New York City daily newspaper PM. Fervently pro-New Deal, PM included sections devoted to unions, women’s issues, and civil rights. Geisel sharpened his political views as well as his artistry and his gift for humor at PM, where he drew over 400 cartoons.

Before many Americans were aware of the calamity confronting Europe’s Jews, Geisel — a Lutheran who grew up in a tight-knit German American community in Springfield, Massachusetts — drew editorial cartoons for PM that warned readers about Hitler and anti-Semitism and attacked the “America First” isolationists who turned a blind eye to the rise of fascism and the Holocaust. Trump adopted “America First” as one of his campaign themes.

His PM cartoons viciously but humorously attacked Hitler and Mussolini. He bluntly criticized isolationists who opposed American entry into the war, especially the famed aviator (and Hitler booster) Charles Lindbergh, right-wing radio priest Father Charles Coughlin, and Senator Gerald Nye of North Dakota. Trump has rekindled anti-Semitism, nativism and isolationism with his bombastic and hateful rhetoric.

Through his PM drawings, Geisel was one of the few editorial voices to decry the U.S. military’s racial segregation policies. He used his cartoons to challenge racism at home against Jews and blacks, union-busting and corporate greed, which he thought divided the country and hurt the war effort. Geisel would have used his pen to remind his audience about the vicious anti-union campaign that Trump waged at his Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas and his campaign comments about lowering America’s minimum wage in order to compete with China and other foreign countries.

After World War II, Geisel occasionally submitted cartoons to publications, such as a 1947 drawing, published in the New Republic, depicting Uncle Sam looking in horror at Americans accusing each other of being communists and disloyal Americans, a clear statement of Geisel’s anger at the nation’s right-wing Red Scare hysteria, which soon spiraled into McCarthyism. Geisel would surely have dipped into his inkwell to lambast Trump’s outrageous “birther” accusations questioning President Obama’s loyalty and American citizenship, which fueled Trump’s campaign for president.

Geisel devoted almost his entire post-war career to writing children’s books and quickly became a well-known and commercially successful author — thanks in part to the post-war baby boom. He was popular with parents, kids and critics alike.

His 1954 book, Horton Hears a Who!, was written during the McCarthy era. It features Horton the Elephant, who befriends tiny creatures (the “Whos”) whom he can’t see, but whom he can hear, thanks to his large ears. Horton rallies his neighbors to protect the endangered Who community. Horton agrees to protect the Whos, observing, in one of Geisel’s most famous lines, “even though you can’t see or hear them at all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.” The other animals ridicule Horton for believing in something that they can’t see or hear, but he remains loyal to the Whos. Horton urges the Whos to join together to make a big enough sound so that the jungle animals can hear them. That can happen, however, only if Jo-Jo, the “smallest of all” the Whos, speaks out. He has a responsibility to add his voice to save the entire community. Eventually he does so, and the Whos survive.

The book is a parable about protecting the rights of minorities, urging “big” people to resist bigotry and indifference toward “small” people, and the importance of individuals (particularly “small” ones) speaking out against injustice. A reviewer for the Des Moines Register hailed it as a “rhymed lesson in protection of minorities and their rights.” It isn’t difficult to imagine that Geisel would have a lot to say, and draw, about Trump’s track record of discriminating against African Americans in his apartment buildings (a practice that led to a lawsuit filed against Trump by the U.S. Department of Justice for violating the federal Fair Housing Act) or his ongoing attacks on immigrants and Muslims.

Geisel’s finest rendition of his progressive views is found in Yertle the Turtle (1958). Yertle, king of the pond, stands atop his subjects in order to reach higher than the moon, indifferent to the suffering of those beneath him. In order to be “ruler of all that I see,” Yertle stacks up his subjects so he can reach higher and higher. Mack, the turtle at the very bottom of the pile, says:

Your Majesty, please / I don’t like to complain

But down here below / We are feeling great pain

I know up on top / You are seeing great sights

But down at the bottom / We, too, should have rights.

Yertle just tells Mack to shut up. Frustrated and angry, Mack burps, shaking the carefully piled turtles, and Yertle falls into the mud. His rule ends and the turtles celebrate their freedom.

The story is clearly about Hitler’s thirst for power. But Geisel is also saying that ordinary people can overthrow unjust rulers if they understand their own power. The story’s final line reflects Geisel’s democratic and anti-authoritarian political outlook:

And turtles, of course ... all the turtles are free

As turtles, and maybe, all creatures should be.

Geisel would no doubt make fun of Trump’s lust for fame and power and his climb to the top of his real estate empire on the backs of his employees — waiters, dishwashers and plumbers, among others — and contractors whom he stiffed by failing to pay them for services they rendered. Geisel would also find much to criticize regarding Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and his outrageous megalomania.

The Sneetches (1961), inspired by the Protestant Geisel’s opposition to anti-Semitism, exposes the absurdity of racial and religious bigotry. Sneetches are yellow bird-like creatures. Some Sneetches have a green star on their belly. They are the “in” crowd and they look down on Sneetches who lack a green star, who are the outcasts. One day a “fix-it-up” chap named McBean appears with some strange machines. He offers the star-less Sneetches an opportunity to get a star by going through his “star on” machine, for three dollars each. This angers the star-bellied Sneetches, who no longer have a way to display their superiority. But McBean tells them that for ten dollars, they can use his “star off” machine, ridding themselves of their stars and thus, once again, differentiating themselves from the outcast group.

The competition escalates as McBean persuades each Sneetch group to run from one machine to the other, “until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew / Whether this one was that one or that one was this one / Or which one was what one or what one was who.” Eventually both groups of Sneetches run out of money. After McBean leaves, all the Sneetches realize that neither the plain-belly nor the star-belly Sneetch is superior. The story is an obvious allegory about racism and discrimination, clearly inspired by the yellow stars that the Nazis required Jews to wear on their clothing to identify them as Jewish.

Were he alive now, Geisel would surely object to the similar ideas emanating from Trump during his campaign— including his anti-Semitic tweet depicting a Jewish star surrounded by dollar bills and his inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims, Mexicans, and people with physical disabilities. Nor is it difficult to imagine that Geisel would have a lot to say, and draw, about Trump’s failure to mention Jews when he issued a proclamation about Holocaust Remembrance Day, and his unwillingness to condemn recent hate crimes targeted at Jewish cemeteries, community centers and day schools until he was pressured to do so.

Geisel’s book, The Lorax (1971) appeared as the environmental movement was just emerging, less than a year after the first Earth Day. Geisel later called it “straight propaganda”—a polemic against pollution — but it also contains some of Geisel’s most creative made-up words, like “cruffulous croak” and “smogulous smoke.” The book opens with a small boy listening to the Once-ler tell the story of how the area was once full of Truffula trees and Bar-ba-loots and was home to the Lorax. But the greedy Once-ler — clearly a symbol of business — cuts down all the trees to make thneeds, which “everyone, everyone, everyone needs.” The lakes and the air become polluted, there is no food for the animals, and it becomes an unlivable place. The fuzzy yellow Lorax (who speaks for the trees, “for the trees have no tongues”) warns the Once-ler about the devastation he’s causing, but his words are ignored.

The Once-ler cares only about making more things and more money. “Businesss is business! / And business must grow,” he says. At the end, surveying the devastation he has caused, the Once-ler shows some remorse, telling the boy: “Unless someone like you / cares a whole awful lot / nothing is going to get better / It’s not.”

The Lorax is an attack on corporate greed — a trait that Geisel would certainly recognize in Donald Trump, along with his denials of global warming, his pledge to expand the use of coal to generate electricity, his attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency, and his pledge (during his speech to Congress this week) to weaken environmental regulations.

In 1984, Geisel produced The Butter Battle Book, another strong statement about a pending catastrophe, in this case the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, fueled by President Reagan’s Cold War rhetoric. “I’m not anti-military,” Geisel told a friend at the time, “I’m just anti-crazy.” It is a parable about the dangers of the political strategy of “mutually assured destruction” brought on by the escalation of nuclear weapons.

In this book, Geisel’s satirical gifts are on full display. The cause of the senseless war is a trivial conflict over toast. The battle is between the Yooks and the Zooks, who don’t realize that they are more alike than different, because they live on opposite sides of a long wall. The Yooks eat their bread with the butter-side up, while the Zooks eat their bread with the butter-side down. They compete to make bigger and better weapons until both sides invent a destructive bomb (the “Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo”) that, if used, will kill both sides. Like The Lorax, there is no happy ending or resolution. As the story ends, the generals on both sides of the wall are poised to drop their bombs. It is hard for even the youngest reader to miss Geisel’s point.

Geisel would surely poke fun at Trump’s cavalier and bombastic attitude toward nuclear weapons as well as his proposal, announced at his speech to Congress this week, to increase the Defense Department budget by $54 billion.

Geisel wrote and illustrated 44 children’s books characterized by memorable rhymes, whimsical characters, and exuberant drawings that encouraged generations of children to love reading and expand their vocabularies. His books have been translated into more than fifteen languages and sold over 200 million copies.

His books consistently reveal his sympathy with the weak and the powerless and his fury against bullies and despots. His books teach children to think about how to deal with an unfair world. Rather than instruct them, Geisel invited his young readers to consider what they should do when faced with injustice. Geisel believed children could understand these moral questions, but only rarely did he portray them in overtly political terms. Instead, he wrote, “when we have a moral, we try to tell it sideways.”

Although Trump has been subject to much criticism and satire by columnists, editorial writers, TV pundits and comedians, as well as Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live, no cartoonist has been able to scrutinize and ridicule his bullying and buffoonery the way Geisel dissected the despots and blowhards of his era. We could surely use Geisel’s voice — and his pen — since Trump took office.

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Will Trump’s Tax Records Be the Next Pentagon Papers?

Democrats, liberals, activist groups, and the media are scrambling to figure out how to respond to the dizzying array of crises triggered by the Trump administration. People concerned about immigrants, refugees, reproductive rights, the environment, mass incarceration and police racism, workers’ rights, and other issues are taking to the streets, lobbying, mobilizing new local groups, and other actions. But there is one piece of information that, if revealed, could single-handedly undermine Trump’s presidency before he is able to gain momentum: his federal tax returns.

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Republicans Confirm Fox to Guard Chicken Coop: Wall Street Titan Steve Mnuchin Gets Top Treasury Post

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Dear So-Called President Trump: Where’s My Protest Paycheck?

Dear So-Called President Trump:

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How Four College Students Launched a New Wave of Historic Civil Rights Protests

Late in the afternoon of February 1, 1960, four young black men—Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain, and Joseph McNeil, all students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro—visited the local Woolworth's five-and-dime store. They purchased school supplies and toothpaste, and then they sat down at the store’s lunch counter and ordered coffee.

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Another Trump Lie: 'I’m Smart'

The only two words Donald Trump has uttered more frequently than “you’re fired” are “I’m smart.”

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Donald Trump Poses a Never-Before-Seen Threat in American History

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For Anti-Trump Protesters: Lessons from the First White House Protests for Women’s Suffrage, 100 Years Ago

Many Americans will traveling to Washington, D.C., next week to protest against Donald Trump on his Inauguration Day. Many will continue to demonstrate outside the White House after he takes office.

Today’s activists can learn valuable lessons from the first protest outside the White House that took place 100 years ago, on Jan. 10, 1917. The activists were part of the National Woman’s Party, a group that was fighting for women’s suffrage. It took three more years before women won the right to vote, but the ongoing protests at the White House played a crucial role in that victory.

The NWP suffragists, who to Washington from all over the country, called their protest “silent sentinels.” Woodrow Wilson, who had won his second term as president in November 1916, was not an advocate of women’s suffrage. The NWP activists carried purple, white, and gold banners with the words, “Mr. President what will you do for woman suffrage?” and “Mr. President how long must women wait for liberty?” When Wilson traveled to other cities, he was often greeted by NWP members carrying banners with the same message.

The NWP was persistent. Its members protested at the White House six days a week, every week, until June 4, 1919, when Congress finally passed the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. During this two-and-a-half year long campaign, many of the activists were harassed and arrested, and mistreated while in prison. But their persistence and civil disobedience paid off.

Alice Paul was the leader of the NWP and the silent sentinels. After graduating from Swarthmore, Paul earned a master’s degree in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1907 she moved to England to practice social work among the poor at a Quaker-run settlement house in Birmingham. One day she heard a speech by Christabel Pankhurst, the daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the radical wing of England’s feminist movement. Paul was intrigued by the Pankhursts’ motto, “Deeds not words,” which they translated into direct action, including heckling, rock throwing and window smashing, to draw attention to the cause of women’s rights. Not surprisingly, the women were often arrested for such protests, which led to newspaper photos of activists being carried away in handcuffs by the police.

Hesitant at first to join their militant crusade, Paul eventually overcame her fears and was arrested and jailed several times. In prison, she and other suffragettes protested their confinement with hunger strikes. Their jailers force-fed them. Paul took solace in a motto that one of her fellow activists carved into the prison wall: “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.”

When Paul returned to the United States in 1910, she was determined to inject the radical ideas she had learned in England into the women’s rights movement. While earning her Ph.D. in economics at the University of Pennsylvania (her dissertation examined women’s legal status), she joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association. At the suggestion of reformer Jane Addams, founder of Chicago’s Hull House and the settlement house movement, Paul was soon appointed head of the committee responsible for working for a federal women’s suffrage amendment.

In 1912 she moved to Washington, D.C., and joined forces with Lucy Burns, another American, whom she had met when they were both arrested in a London suffrage protest. The duo began planning an elaborate parade on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration, scheduled for March 4, 1913. About 8,000 college, professional, middle- and working-class women marched with banners and floats down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. The crowd watching the march was estimated at half a million people; many harassed the marchers while the police stood by. Troops were called to restore order and to help the suffragists get to their destination—six hours after the parade started. The melee generated headlines, making the issue of women’s suffrage a topic of conversation around the country.

Although Wilson showed some interest in the women’s cause, he said the time was not yet right. Paul never believed Wilson was the least bit sympathetic to women’s suffrage. He would only support them, she thought, if public opinion compelled him to.

In this and other respects, Paul disagreed with NAWSA leaders. They endorsed Wilson, despite his opposition to women’s suffrage, hoping they could eventually convince him. They worried that Paul’s tactics could trigger a backlash. They also disagreed with Paul’s emphasis on winning a federal amendment. NAWSA’s main focus was on winning women the vote one state at a time, hoping to build momentum that could later lead to a federal constitutional change. By 1912, however, only nine states had granted women the vote.

In reality, the two strategies complemented each other: even if the amendment was passed by Congress, it would have to be ratified in the states, where NAWSA was building its base.

But the broader disagreements led to a split. Paul and her followers first formed the Congressional Union in 1914, which became the NWP, which recruited women prepared to engage in direct action. The NWP published a weekly paper and staged demonstrations, parades, mass meetings, picketing, hunger strikes, and lobbying vigils. Suffragists released from prison, wearing prison uniforms, rode a “Prison Special” train, speaking throughout the country.

During the 29 months of the “silent sentinels” outside the White House, more than 1,000 women picketed, including Alice Paul, every day except Sunday.

President Wilson initially patronized the protesters, tipping his hat to them when he passed by. But when the United States entered World War I, the president and others became irate over the idea of women picketing outside the White House while the nation was at war. Between June and November 1917, police arrested 218 protesters on the trumped-up charge of “obstructing traffic.” Most of these women were imprisoned in the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia.

Usually, the women were released after three days in prison. But they returned to the White House to continue picketing. The battle between the police and the protesters escalated. Inside the prison, the women faced harsh living conditions, rancid food and the denial of medical care when they were ill. They were denied visitors. Their jailers beat them and confined them to cold, unsanitary cells. Some were placed in solitary confinement and subjected to force-feeding.

On November 13, 1917, an angry crowd began attacking the White House picketers. Some stole and tore the women’s banners. Rather than restrain the hostile mob, the police arrested the peaceful protesters and sent them to jail in paddy wagons.

When they arrived at the prison, they met some of their NWP comrades who were already in jail. Alice Paul had been there since October 22, serving sentences totaling seven months. Paul and her colleagues adopted the tactics she had learned in England. They demanded to be treated as political prisoners. On November 5, she began a hunger strike. She was force-fed three times a day.

On the night of November 14, 33 NWP prisoners were brutally tortured and beaten by the workhouse guards and the superintendent, W.H. Whittaker. Whittaker ordered the nearly 40 guards to brutalize the suffragists. They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head, and left her there for the night. They threw Dora Lewis into a dark cell and smashed her head against an iron bed, knocking her unconscious. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, who believed Lewis to be dead, suffered a heart attack. The guards beat, choked, pinched, and kicked the other women.

The press reported on the suffragists’ terrible experiences in prison, and politicians and activist groups demanded their release. On November 27 and 28, all the protesters were released. The following March, the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals declared that 218 suffragists had been illegally arrested, illegally convicted and illegally imprisoned. The women could have filed suits for damages, false arrest and imprisonment, but they chose not to.

The public outcry played a role in Wilson’s decision in 1917 to reverse his stance and announce his support for a suffrage amendment. He explained it was a “war measure”—to stop the controversy over women’s rights from dividing the country during wartime.

But it was not until the war was over, in 1919, that both the House and the Senate passed the Nineteenth Amendment. Because the suffrage movement had invested heavily in state-level campaigns, its leaders were confident they could garner the three-fourths of the states needed to ratify the amendment.

By the summer of 1920, they needed just one more state to vote in favor; the Tennessee legislature met in August 1920 to vote on the issue. The deciding vote was cast by Harry Burn, at 24 the youngest member of the Tennessee assembly. He initially intended to vote no, but changed his vote after receiving a telegram from his mother asking him to support women’s suffrage. Women had finally gained the right to vote—72 years after the first women’s suffrage meeting took place in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. The persistent and militant protests at the White House 100 years ago were a turning point in the struggle for women’s rights.

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Preparing for President Trump: A 10-Point Action Plan

Many Americans would not be surprised if on Jan. 20 Vladimir Putin administers the oath of office to Donald Trump, the Ku Klux Klan youth choir regales the inaugural crowd with a stirring rendition of “Dixie,” the Chamber of Commerce orchestra performs “Hail to the Chief” and the inaugural party is catered by Carl’s Jr. (whose CEO, billionaire Andrew Puzder, a foe of the minimum wage, is Trump’s nominee for secretary of labor). ExxonMobil (whose CEO, Rex Tillerson, is secretary of state-designate) and Goldman Sachs (whose president, Gary Cohn, will be director of Trump’s National Economic Council) could pay for the whole thing.

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