The Empire Strikes Back

For all of the talk of Tea Parties and "throwing the bums out" last Tuesday, there was one election where the voters essentially threw the bum in: the Democrat primary for DC mayor saw incumbent mayor Adrian Fenty voted out of office in favor of councilman Vincent Gray, who explicitly ran on a platform promising to get rid of School Chancellor Michelle Rhee and bring an end to the reforms that had shaken the DC public schools.
Their long-awaited meeting is set for next week. But when Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and mayor-apparent Vincent C. Gray do finally sit down, it is increasingly likely that the discussion will focus on the terms of her disengagement from the D.C. school system rather than how she might stay.

Rhee moved her departure closer to certainty Wednesday night with comments to an A-list audience at the Newseum after the red-carpet premiere of "Waiting for 'Superman,'" the documentary that casts her as a tart-tongued heroine of the national education reform movement. At a panel discussion that followed the film, Rhee portrayed Gray's Democratic primary victory over Mayor Adrian M. Fenty on Tuesday as a catastrophe.

"Yesterday's election results were devastating, devastating," Rhee said. "Not for me, because I'll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he'll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C."

Gray campaign spokeswoman Traci Hughes said in a statement Thursday that it was "unfortunate that the children have been thrown into the middle of the political fray."

Ah, yes, the "children." Everyone says they are acting on their behalf, yet DC schools are practically a case study of the destructive pathologies of public schools. DC's schools throw more money than practically anyone else at "the children" yet achieve the worst possible results; something like 44% of DC's residents don't graduate from high school. In fact, the money doesn't even go to the kids, but to the many teachers and administrators who are on the payroll. And, make no mistake. These were the people who gave Gray his margin of victory. The teachers union went all in for Gray, and now they own him. I honestly can't imagine a worst possible result for public school reform. not to mention DC's kids.

Adrian Fenty, it seems, was not a likable guy (altho' he won back in 2006 going door-to-door, and people liked him well enough back then). He was accused of acting in secret and running a top down operation. There was apparently a controversy over his being on vacation when a quadruple murder occurred. Fenty's bi-racial background was apparently a liability for many DC voters. These are the sort of bogus controversies that are used to hound disfavored politicians, those being conservative Republicans and any liberal who dares to stand up to left wing orthodoxies. And, Fenty was doing what a lot of liberals only say they will do: trying to reform the schools and achieve real results, rather than suck up to teachers upset over having to be evaluated for the first time in their lives and (gasp) even risk being fired for incompetence. It's a seeming no-brainer, yet it's also politically impossible to accomplish.

There's been a lot of bold talk lately about reforming or even rolling back Big Government. But, the vote in DC should be a sobering reminder that the people - and there are millions of them - who have been living off of government for the last 40 years will not go quietly into the night. No matter what else, they know how to vote and they know who to vote for. We can only hope that other voters are as determined to take away government jobs as much as government employees are willing to fight for them.

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