Monday, January 23, 2006

Payback is a b****

I am intrigued by the falderol over whether the Sykes-Holt "stand in the school house door" spot on school choice, now being run on stations other than TMJ by school choice advocates, illegitimately plays the race card. Driving down to class this afternoon, I heard that view from some (but not all) of Eric Von's callers and the same claim is made by liberal bloggers Jay Bullock and Bill Christofferson and, I suspect, a few others.

I suppose the argument goes like this: School choice advocates are proposing a policy that they claim will benefit African American school children. Jim Doyle opposes that policy, but it is unfair to suggest, by invoking racially charged images, that he does so because he "doesn't care" about black kids. To do so, the argument might continue, is racially inflammatory and, quite frankly, stings. In our society, being wrongfully accused of racial animus or indifference hurts. Can't we, the spot's critics might conclude, just rationally and calmly debate a policy difference?

I don't know that is a fair characterization of the spot. It certainly argues that Doyle is blocking opportunity for black kids (choice advocates believe that he is), but I'm not sure that it implies improper motive on his part. In fact, I have never heard choice proponents claim that Doyle is biased against African-Americans. Rather, they say he is in WEAC's pocket. He is not racist, he is kept. But let's put that aside. I see a bigger development here.

Rather than bicker, I want to congratulate my liberal friends on their new found civility. In 2000, the NAACP ran one of the most despicable campaign ads in history, invoking the brutal lynching of a black man in Texas and suggesting that when then Governor George W. Bush opposed hate crime legislation that had absolutely nothing to do with the crime in question, it was as if the lynching had "happened again." In 2004, a 527 group called Media Watch ran an ad on black radio stations (including, if I remember correctly, stations in Milwaukee) telling black audiences that "you are not part of" President Bush's America and that the President was sending blacks off to die in Iraq for oil. (I guess I missed the military"s "black only" recruiting policy). Don't even get me started on the shameful exploitation of Hurricane Katrina.

I am so glad that the left has grown a conscience and we won't have to put up with that kind of race baiting next time around. It is so good to know that conservatives who suggest market and culturally based solutions to problems of poverty and urban crime won't be called racist and be accused of "blaming the victim." It is gratifying to know that blacks who opt out of a politics based on grievance (for more, see here ) will no longer be called Uncle Toms or be told they are not "black enough."

That is what this means, isn't it?


Jay Bullock said...

You're missing the point, Rick. The problem is that the ads do two things: One, they explicitly connect Jim Doyle to Orville Faubus and George Wallace, to people Doyle could not be more unlike; I don't see how you can fail to make the connection to race. Your compadres on the right certainly have--including photoshopping Doyle's head on Wallace as he blocks black students' entry to a school, flanked by armed guards. It literally is the equivalent of the asterisk. Which, yeah, some of the idiots on the Left enjoyed, but I am not those idiots. Nor am I one of the idiots who plays or supports the race card as you suggest "the left" does at the end of your post. My archives are there for everyone to see. I have a long history of callin' 'em as I see 'em, including criticizing my own side when they screw up.

Secondly, the ads mischaracterize Doyle's actual position on the matter. Long before the ads were cut, Doyle made clear that he was willing to raise the cap. He even proposed his own plan to do so months ago. By saying that Doyle is the sole cause of the crisis, the ads deny that there's a second player, Republicans and their pro-voucher backers (for every WEAC dollar you can find, I can find pro-voucher dollars on the other side) who are unwilling to negotiate on a compromise with Gov. Doyle.

So your second paragraph there completely glosses over all the things I actually object to, creating an argument you "suppose," a conveniently tame straw man.

Finally, the title of your piece and some of what you dance around at the end seems to suggest that the Sykes-Holt ad is okay--even deserved--because the other side did it. That's real big of you. Eye for an eye, much?

Rick Esenberg said...

Here's the thing. I am really sick and tired of anyone who suggests something other than the standard liberal nostrums on issues pertaining to race and poverty being called subconsciously or consciously racist. While I'll accept that Jay (who seems smart and thoughtful, if woefully misguided :))doesn't do it, but it is a constant trope of the mainstream Dems. Hillary, Al Gore, you name "em and odds are that they have done it or looked the other way. In light of that, no, I don't have a lot of sympathy for Doyle.

Does the ad accuse Doyle of racism? As an objective matter, I doubt that too many people would draw that conclusion. What it does do is suggest a parallel between the effect of his policy and the effect policies that were racially biases and are now thoroughly discredited. If you think that's a stretch, consider the argument that choice is bad because it allows kids with social supports to "escape" the system and leaves MPS with a "more challenging" student body. In other words, these poor kids ought to be made to stay and take one for the team.

Perhaps you think that you could characterize some of the Dem's race-based ads in the same way. I disagree, but, at the very least, let's have a rule of civility that is equally sensitive on both sides.

An eye for an eye? I don't endorse that, but don't be surprised, if you throw out the Marquis of Queensbury rules, that the fight gets nasty. Your opponents are human beings, not saints.

As far as the claim that the ad mischaracterizes his position, that is too cute by half. He'll raise the caps - a little - if the state will effectively assume all (or maybe more than all) of the cost of the choice program. He knows darn well that out of state legislators aren't going to do that and why should they? Why should Milwaukee taxpayers get a completely free pass on paying for the education of Milwaukee kids in choice schools? In fact, if choice is supposed to spur MPS to improve, the loss of kids should sting.

Jay Bullock said...

But Rick, even under the proposed formula, MPS is still losing money to the program. Milwaukee taxpayers would still be required to pay some statutory costs of the program, and the 45% chargeback from the state is larger than the .45 FTE student, growing faster than the new money as the program gets larger.

Why should out-state legislators stick Milwaukee with an expensive and unaccountable system of vouchers? Line up the Milwaukee delegation and it would be 2-1 against, at least.

Christopher Robin said...

For that matter why should out of state tax payers send more money to MPS and it's utter failure to perform.

Rick Esenberg said...

Jay, why would the 45% chargeback exceed the .45 FTE? This stuff is complicated, but the cost paid per kid under the MPCP is the lesser of the actual cost of education or the amount paid per pupil for equalization aid in the prior year plus the percentage change to the current year. That would seem to bind these numbers together. For Doyle, "hold harmless" means that Milwaukee taxpayers are compleely relieved of the obligation of paying a local share for the education of choice kids. Barrett's proposal seems closer to making choice revenue neutral and I guess I'd like to see this LRB analysis before I'm even certain about that.