Archive for the ‘Working Class’ Category
America, land of opportunity, where hard work and merit determines who gets ahead. A nation where a good education, the gateway to success, is available to all.
Not so fast, I’m afraid. America is actually losing ground in providing access to college. And disparities in income are responsible. How bad is the situation? It seems that, “bright and focused kids from poor families are going to college at the same rate as unfocused or low-scoring kids from families much better off.” This quotation is from a recent piece by Andrew Delbanco, “The Universities in Trouble,” in The New York Review of Books. It’s worth a read. Here is an excerpt.
But the public–private partnership that did much to democratize American higher education has been coming apart. In 1976, federal Pell grants for low-income students covered 72 percent of the average cost of attending a four-year state institution; by 2003, Pell grants covered only 38 percent of the cost. Meanwhile, financial aid administered by the states is being allocated more and more on the basis of “merit” rather than need—meaning that scholarships are going increasingly to high-achieving students from high-income families, leaving deserving students from low-income families without the means to pay for college.
In 2002, a federal advisory committee issued a report, aptly entitled “Empty Promises,” which estimated that “more than 400,000 students nationally from families with incomes below $50,000″ met the standards of college admission “and yet were unable to enroll in a four-year college because of financial barriers. More than 160,000 of these students did not attend any college because of these barriers, not even a two-year institution.” Two years later one leading authority pointed out that “the college-going rates of the highest-socioeconomic-status students with the lowest achievement levels is the same level as the poorest students with the highest achievement levels.” In short, bright and focused kids from poor families are going to college at the same rate as unfocused or low-scoring kids from families much better off.
1. Donald E. Heller quoted in Paul Attewell and Davd E. Lavin, Does Higher Education for the Disadvantaged Pay Off Across the Generations? (Russell Sage Foundation, 2007), p. 199; Donald E. Heller, “A Bold Proposal: Increasing College Access Without Spending More Money,” Crosstalk, Fall 2004; and Brian K. Fitzgerald and Jennifer A. Delaney, “Educational Opportunity in America,” Condition of Access: Higher Education for Lower Income Students, edited by Donald E. Heller (ACE/Praeger, 2002).
Here are a dozen reasons, a baker’s dozen, for why Barack Obama will win in November.
1. The Change Factor: Yes, you have heard it before, but it is for real. People are hungry for it, especially after the worst presidency in living memory. A key point here is that Obama has been on message about change from DAY ONE. He is the Change candidate.
2. The Organization Factor: Obama has built a remarkable organization, in part through using the Internet. Nothing quite like it has been seen before in its capacity to raise money, generate enthusiasm, and get out the vote. For more on the uniqueness of Obama’s organization, see Joshua Green’s piece, “The Amazing Money Machine” http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/obama-finance and Marc Ambinder’s “His Space” in The Atlantic
3.The Charisma Factor: Hard to explain. Hard to quantify. But you know it when you see it. (Obama’s recent Portland crowd, 75,000 in a primary election, was no accident.)
4. The Republican Factor: They are in disarray and have money problems. This will have an impact on the Presidential race. How much? Good question. But no doubt it will have some.
5. The Money Factor: A corollary to the Organization Factor. Obama will have lots of it and will be able to raise more and more of it. To those who say that money can’t buy love or office, agreed, at least in terms of the former. But money can certainly help win office. It is especially helpful if you have a good candidate, a good brand as they say, to sell. Obama is such a brand.
6. The Even Keel Factor: In this case, the younger man, Obama, seems to have a more even temperament than the older candidate. This undermines a potential advantage for McCain and also defies expectations, namely, that age should bring a more even temper. (McCain’s anger problem is for real.) Americans believe that we need a steady hand on the rudder in these difficult times.
7. The Intellectual and Expert Factor: There are those who have claimed that Obama is an elitist, a pointy head, etc., and that too many in his campaign fit this bill. But the bottom line is that candidates who can comfortably make use of experts and genuine intellectuals–not faux intellectuals, for example, the neo-conservative ideologues–are in stronger position than those who cannot. Knowledge may not be power, but it sure can help keep power from making foolish mistakes, like Iraq. It can also help win elections. (It was the “nerds,” after all, who really understood how the delegate process worked in the Democratic race. And guess who had them on staff and who listened to them.)
8. The African-American Vote. Obama will draw the greatest number of African-American voters in American history. It will make a difference. As Poblano’s analysis shows, just a 10% to 20% increase can make a significant difference in who wins in the fall. (Poblano suggests 13 electoral votes for each 10%.) See Josh Kalven’s “Obama Over the Top: How New Voters Could Redraw the Electoral Map” http://progressillinois.com/2008/05/11/features/obama-over-the-top
9. The Youth Vote and Support: Typically the youth vote is viewed as an unreliable voting block. But Obama has shown that he can increase the youth vote. In addition, youth represents ‘boots on the ground.’ They do much of the door to door and office work that campaigns require. On how the youth vote could assist Obama, once again, see Josh Kalven’s “Obama Over the Top: How New Voters Could Redraw the Electoral Map” http://progressillinois.com/2008/05/11/features/obama-over-the-top
10. A Motivated Democratic Party: Yes, there is the issue of whether all of Hillary’s supporters will come around. And there are unknowns in terms of whether Obama will be able to bring more working class folks into his corner. But the Democrats are hungry and they have resources. There will be some synergy between Presidential, Congressional, and local races.
11. The Oratory Factor. We know what the man can do. He is pretty much in a class by himself. Speeches matter. Words delivered well matter. McCain, on the other hand, is not a strong public speaker. (The “My friends” thing just isn’t going to cut it.) In addition, Obama will best him in the debates.
12. The Bush factor: Obama is the anti-Bush. He listens to those outside an inner circle. He is anti-Iraq war, exceptionally intelligent, reasonably hip, etc. McCain, on the other hand, appears to be running for Bush’s third term. The McBush notion will stick with a significant number of voters.
13. Michelle Obama: Michelle has made some gaffes. Some view her as coming on too strong. But her story will get out: poor kid from the South Side of Chicago, who through her own hard work and intelligence made it to Princeton and Harvard. She is now the mother of two young daughters, juggling family and career. Women, many of Hillary’s supporters, will relate. Further, Michelle is a powerful speaker. The Republicans would be foolish to underestimate her.
It is time that feminists who have supported Clinton for the right reasons step up to the plate and criticize her for unacceptable remarks and practices. The women’s movement has been deeply divided over the Clinton candidacy. Yet what started out as a legitimate disagreement about the merits of the candidates and their agendas has turned into a test of one’s feminist credentials. But the test is perverse. It is not a test of feminist principles and values. It has become a test of loyalty to Clinton, in spite of the fact that she is undermining basic feminist values.
But perhaps one shouldn’t speak of the “women’s movement.” After all, aren’t there almost as many feminisms as there are feminists? However, it is safe to assume that feminists of different stripes share at least two basic principles: 1) one’s dignity and sense of self-worth should not depend on one’s gender, and 2) opportunities for achievement should not favor one gender over another. Almost all feminists have been willing to substitute “race” and “ethnicity” for “gender” in these two statements. Almost all feminists would argue that to set the oppressed against each other is reprehensible and undermines these principles. We rise or fall together. Isn’t this what feminists have believed? Further, means are inextricably linked with ends. You can’t promote human dignity by undermining it in your practices.
Clinton’s recent comments and strategy have wrenched means from ends. In her quest for the presidency, and now perhaps the vice presidency (or who knows what else), she has behaved as if she is willing to see divisions widen between races and classes. Here is Hillary’s recent comment in USA Today on the topic of white workers.
“There was just an AP article posted that found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how the, you know, whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”
This was not an accidental throwaway comment. (And Clinton can’t hide behind the fact that she is “citing” an AP story. One is responsible for the news stories that one cites.) Numerous times during this race the Clinton campaign has attempted to make Obama the Black Candidate. What is so extraordinary about this recent statement is just how matter of fact it is. But suppose the positions were reversed. Suppose Obama was losing. Suppose Obama decided that he had to devise a “black strategy” in order to deny Clinton the nomination or gain leverage. Suppose Obama had said,
“There was just an AP article posted that found how Senator Clinton’s support among working, hardworking Americans, black Americans, is weakening again, and how the, you know, blacks in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”
Think of the implications. Obama would surely be viewed as playing the race card or perhaps the race deck. At minimum Hillary supporters would view Obama’s version of the statement as fostering a divide between white women and blacks, for patently selfish ends. Further, it would be viewed as creating rifts in the Democratic Party that make winning in November more difficult, thereby undermining feminism, because the Republicans will not be good for women’s issues.
Why aren’t Hillary’s feminist supporters taking her to task for these comments? We have heard some criticisms by Clinton supporters. But they are often softened with, “Well, she really didn’t mean it.” Nonsense on stilts. She meant it. Her campaign now depends on a strategy that the statement promotes. She wants to rack up a large white vote in West Virginia and Kentucky. She wants to be able to say that she is the candidate of white workers, especially white male workers. Anyone who doesn’t call this for what it is, is an apologist. And one reason for being an apologist is the fear of failing the Hillary loyalty/feminist test. But this is wrong. It is putting Hillary above feminism(s).
Feminists who have supported Clinton need to speak out NOW, and speak out with vigor. Feminism(s), and what it stands for, is more important than Hillary Clinton.