The Teachers of the Year Open Letter Is Partly Right but Mostly Wrong

Nine state and national Teachers of the Year, two of whom I know personally, have published an open letter endorsing Hillary Clinton and arguing that they cannot remain neutral this election year. Putting aside for now the subject of how neutral a teacher is obliged to be regarding controversial issues (they mostly do, too), I’m going to both agree with and push back on how they characterize Trump and Clinton.

The authors devote some ten paragraphs to an accurate account of Donald Trump’s behavior. They concentrate on his abuse of pretty much every race, ethnicity, and gender other than his own and reach the conclusion, obvious to most, that he would make a horrendous president. I agree with everything they say in those paragraphs. If anything, by leaving out comments of his business practices and ignorance of civics they didn’t go far enough. Knowing his public and private ways, I despise Donald Trump, will never vote for him, and will encourage everyone I know not to vote for him.

But knowing her public and private ways, I also despise Hillary Clinton, will never vote for her, and will encourage everyone I know not to vote for her, either.

And that’s where I cross swords with the Teachers of the Year. In a concluding paragraph they write, “She isn’t perfect, but we believe Clinton has the temperament and requisite skills to do the job.”

Well, I’m not perfect either, nor is the person I admire most, nor are the authors who wrote that meaningless criticism. But our imperfections don’t include the lying, criminal, duplicitous, throw-them-under-the bus mechanisms Hillary Clinton has employed throughout her quarter century rise to power. Anyone, even the Teachers of the Year, if they were of a mind, could easily write ten paragraphs accurately describing why she would also make a horrendous president.

Hillary Clinton does not have the temperament to do the job. She rewarded, rather than disavowed, the disgraced Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Clinton’s “longtime friend”) for betraying the trust of Democrat voters in the primaries. She revealed to her high-paying friends in the financial sector that she has public and private positions, thus promoting hypocrisy as a tool rather than as something to be ashamed of. And who knows how many times she sold out her country’s national interests as Secretary of State?

Nor does she have the requisite skills to do the job; otherwise, she could name parts of the world that in her role as Secretary of State she helped make safer, more tolerant, more diplomatic, and friendlier toward the United States. Instead, all we hear is how many miles she flew. (No, she’s not solely to blame for the condition of the world, but who can argue that she’s played no role in creating it?)

The Teachers of the Year say, “Most importantly, we believe she will uphold the American values of civility, equality and dignity for all.” No she won’t. Leaked communications reveal the borderline anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism of her team, thus diluting the efficacy of her supporters’ attacks on Trump’s many -isms and torpedoing any claim to her civility. (And before you comment that that was her surrogates, not her, in those communications, remember that Clinton’s the one fond of the Spanish saying, “Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are.”)

Equality? Sure, I’ve no doubt that she provides all the Clinton Foundation’s donors with access and favors proportional to their giving. Wait, would that be equality or equity? Regardless, a Venn diagram with circles for Clinton and Equality would have no overlap.

Dignity? Reread the last 343 words.

To repeat, I’ll never vote for Trump or Clinton. The differences between their characters, dispositions, and skills are paper-thin, amounting to an adjective here, an adverb there, and maybe a noun or two sprinkled about. Any sincerely held belief that either candidate will restore hope to young people is naiveté; any claim thereof, propaganda.

So what to do? Personally, I start by reflecting on Thomas Sowell’s comment that we don’t vote for people or outcomes, we vote for systems. Accordingly, to vote for either Clinton or Trump rewards the Democratic and Republican systems that produced them and will encourage future candidates of their ilk to behave in their manner.

To prevent that, we should do what it takes to make sure that the winner can claim no mandate and knows that her or his power hangs by a thread and only tenuously represents the consent of the governed. That means assuring that he or she wins by the smallest of margins and ideally with much less than 50% of the vote. And that means we should write in candidates, vote third party, or not vote at all.

Next, and arguably more important than voting, we must practice our other civic duties with a new commitment. We must first work to limit the particular abuses and excesses of whoever wins. Then we must work to rebuild our institutions, or create new ones, so that they uncompromisingly represent our ideological values and reflect our own civility, equality, and dignity.

Only then, as the Teachers of the Year long for, we will be able to say that we, “Give hope to each new generation, including the youngest citizens who walk through our classroom doors each day.”

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