|A MORE PERFECT UNION|
Dear Fellow Culver City Democrats United Members and Supporters,
Having just celebrated our nation’s Independence Day this past Tuesday, I, ever the cynic, remain disheartened while watching us shift further and further away from making our county the more perfect union that the Preamble to the Constitution called for. Here is the Preamble so that I can save you the Google time:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
We are living in a country where the Republican Party wants to forget that the January 6 insurrection even happened. Equally, if not more troubling, as we have seen just this past week, we live in a time when our current Supreme Court majority desires to undo the advances that that the Supreme Court Justices that came before them made in establishing justice, promoting the general welfare and securing blessings of liberty since Brown v. Board of Education became the law of the land in 1954. As I read this paragraph again, I’m left to wonder: Am I being too cynical and apocalyptic or is our country really in that much trouble right now? (Hint: It’s the latter.) The problem is clear. The vast majority of time that a majority exists in a political body anywhere in the United States, especially when it is a Republican majority, rather than work together with peers and find commonalities, the majority seeks to rule with an iron fist and destroy anything that stands in its way. We see it in the Supreme Court as stated above. We see it in Congress. We see it in our State houses. It’s everywhere.
Here in Culver City, we also see certain elected officials and even worse, the majority of School Board (and Superintendent), engaging in the same autocratic behavior. Things are so backward with our School Board right now that principals of our District schools have been quitting left and right. Our District was also fined $1 million for a blatant scheduling error recently. Notwithstanding the facts before them, and also while ignoring the clear wishes of the union that supports our CCUSD teachers, the School Board just passed a budget that runs afoul of a California law requiring that 55% of a school district’s budget be spent in the classroom. You are not misreading the previous sentence. School Board President Amezola, Vice President Kent, and Clerk Ezidore pushed through a budget that teachers are against and that violates a California law meant to help students. If that wasn’t bad enough, President Amezola and VP Kent, with every bit as much condescension and egotism as Trump exudes in his press conferences, either ignore concerned parents or chastise them for having the gall to take time out of their days to speak up for their children at School Board meetings. They have shown more courtesy and latitude to a private contractor that for whatever reason has the School Board’s blessing than they ever will to the people they are meant to serve.
I could go on about the problems that face us but as Professor Levenson taught me, it’s not enough to identify problems, we must think about solutions. In thinking about the first steps to move us forward toward solutions, I look back to Frederick Douglass’ and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s strategies in trying to advance the causes of civil rights and equality under the law. What did they turn to as their focus? Voting rights. As such, if you ask me, it starts with the most basic of our rights as citizens, the right to vote.
Before we get to my proposed solution, or at least a first step in such a solution, let me be clear, I am not in any way equating the impact of state houses in Republican-run states systematically disenfranchising black people with the impact of our local School Board’s refusal to follow rules or serve the students they were elected to serve. Clearly the former is more significant. What is the same is the way in which the Republican-run state houses and our School Board Members are ruling. Scorched Earth tactics and a refusal to even consider anything that comes from anyone other than the powers that be.
Getting back to the problems facing society today, it does feel as though we are fighting the same fight nationally because the GOP’s positions mirror those that existed pre-Brown v. Board of Education. Sometimes I joke that Fox News is going to have this lede: “Was the Union’s Victory in the Civil War Really a Good Thing for Our Country?” As time goes on, it feels less and less like a joke. Therefore, it makes sense that we employ the strategies of Douglass and Dr. King in fighting back against the hateful ideologies trying to turn back our country’s clock. We must secure the right to vote for all citizens and then we have to get out there and exercise our right to vote.
Securing the right to vote means supporting people like Stacey Abrams in her project to return the right to vote to black people who are being disenfranchised by racist voting laws. We have to continue to go to the courts to block GOP attempts at racially-motivated gerrymandering. Finally, we have to protect the people, literally, from armed intimidators who are trying to scare people off from exercising their Constitutional right to vote.
At the same time, we must get out there and vote. We can’t celebrate when voting percentages go up because they really had nowhere else to go. Voting statistics in non-Presidential elections are embarrassingly low. There are people around the world and people in our own nation’s past who have fought and died for the dream of having the right to vote and exercising that right. We have no excuse to sit out any election, from Presidential, all the way down to our just under 5-square mile city. We see firsthand the impact that such a small number of votes can have. A few thousand votes in northern states in 2016 and we would have had President Hillary Clinton appointing three SCOTUS Justices instead of President Trump. Tens or hundreds of votes in Culver City determine who sits on our City Council and School Board.
To conclude, not only is it our responsibility to vote in elections, but it is also imperative that we do so. Autocracy is rearing its ugly head. Only by electing people who want to represent their constituents rather than help themselves or their close allies is going to cure the problem. The stakes in recent years have been higher than at any other time in my lifetime. It will take work in the aggregate but as individuals, all it takes is researching candidates and propositions and then voting in the people who we think will promote the general Welfare, secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, and be forces for the ideal that they serve to help us form a more perfect union.
Culver City Democrats United President