It is fitting that the news of Cory Booker quitting the race was completely overwhelmed by other, pettier news items on Monday. That was the story of his whole campaign after all.

I didn’t think he was going anywhere. “Impossible” is a strong word but a word that applies to someone seeking the Democratic nomination while being a big fan of charter schools and having to wear the label “Betsy DeVos’s favorite Democrat.” Unions aren’t what they used to be as a political force and there are plenty of Rahm Emanuel types among Democrats who are perfectly willing to tell them to fuck off.

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Teachers unions, though, are still a pretty heavy hitter. We’ve seen countless examples over the past 4 years of teachers unions, even in places like WV and OK, throw their weight around.

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That said – and I certainly wasn’t going to vote for him, believe me – I’ve always had the feeling that his views on charter schools made sense in the context of his political career. Imagine spending your life seeing (up close) the state of public schools in places like Camden, Newark, and Trenton. You’d probably be ready to try just about anything to fix them, even “anything” in the form of privatization hucksters with a lot of financial backing and promises they won’t keep but sure sound pretty.
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You might even, at one point, think that it’s a worthwhile improvement to serve 5% of the student population and write off the other 95% if you start to believe that the current write-off rate is closer to 100%.
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His candidacy also shows the ceiling to the “I’m a Nice Dude!” approach to politics. His few supporters are lamenting that he tried to run a “positive campaign” and went nowhere. Being a nice, agreeable, physically attractive, fun Dude will in fact get you very far in life, and as a US Senator it’s hard to argue that he did not indeed go very far. But going all the way to the top is another matter, because eventually you rise high enough that you get to the level at which the most ambitious, the most venal, the most wealthy, and the most driven people are your direct competition. If you’re Nice Dude and the others are bloodless, fake-smiling careerists who would literally cut your throat to get all the way to the top, you are not going to win.

Nobody should shed tears for Cory Booker – or Harris, who’s in a similar position. Both have “Senator for Life” privileges in their home states. They’re going to do just fine in life, and already have. Maybe it’s laudable that they didn’t have the kind of back-stabbing killer instinct that’s needed to succeed at the very top, or maybe it’s not useful to laud people for their inherent personality characteristics. As we are starting to see very, very clearly this week, running for President is not something you can do if your goal, and your default worldview, is to emerge from the process with everyone as friends.

27 thoughts on “NICE GUYS FINISH”

  • I don't know, man. He has this reputation as a centrist whatever, but he has a leftier voting record (according to DW nominate) than Sanders for each session of Congress they've been in together. He voted against DeVos' confirmation, so not sure where "DeVos' favorite Democrat" comes from, sued to get Newark's schools back from state control, which the city won after he was out of office. As mayor he never could do anything about the Newark school system, it was controlled by the state government the whole time. And yeah, he encouraged the state to take private money to help the schools, but like you say, that was literally the only thing he could do at all while they ran them into the ground. Is that enough to sink a national career?

    He's a real justice system reformer, medicare for all supporter, and supports lefty ideas across the board while coming off as a nice guy centrist. We could (and probably will) have a lot worse nominee.

  • Brian Ogilvie says:

    You might even, at one point, think that it’s a worthwhile improvement to serve 5% of the student population and write off the other 95% if you start to believe that the current write-off rate is closer to 100%.

    Back in 2004, my department invited Bob Moses to give a talk as part of a series on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board. Someone asked him what he thought about No Child Left Behind. As I recall, he was surprisingly positive about it, on the grounds that it was at least drawing attention to the execrable state of a lot of inner city public schools, instead of just ignoring them.

  • As a guy who has spent a lot of time working in education, a few sentences resonated with me: "You’d probably be ready to try just about anything to fix them, even 'anything' in the form of privatization hucksters with a lot of financial backing and promises they won’t keep but sure sound pretty."

    It is a knee jerk reaction on the left–and I'm on the left–to hate on charter schools and see all of them as corporate-fueled greed-and-disenfranchisement programs. Some surely are. Maybe many of them. But there are two in my neck of the woods, both led by people I know, that are anything but. They are labors of love, and they provide opportunities that don't exist otherwise. The reasoning is closer to something you mention just after the above: "You might even, at one point, think that it’s a worthwhile improvement to serve 5% of the student population and write off the other 95% if you start to believe that the current write-off rate is closer to 100%."

    To be fair, a lot of the public schools here in Northwest Arkansas are quite good. But there are economic hurdles here for many. And there is the usual red tape of public education. At their best, charter schools allow for innovation. They allow for different tactics and strategies. They can be a proving ground for techniques that public schools can embrace. I get the concerns. But I have trouble with using the big brush to paint all such efforts as evil.

    I hate Betsy DeVos more than most, and I've been consistently vocal about it. Her goal is to bankrupt public education. I've no illusions about that. And I'm both a huge fan of and a product of public education. But that isn't the goal of every charter school. And I tire of that narrative.

    Take this with a grain of salt. I'm a huge fan of your work.

  • As a lifelong NJ resident, I have mixed feelings about Booker. He's definitely corporate-centrist on a lot of issues–in addition to the education privatization discussed here, he also has taken a lot of pharma money and voted against some very reasonable measures to reel in drug costs. In a country full of disappointingly spineless Democrats, there's a lot to be disappointed with.

    That said, he was the only Dem in the race this year who was really serious about criminal justice reform. It's huge issue that could be a real winner for the Dems, who desperately need to drum up some enthusiasm among minority voters. It might even be a way to steal some of those poor rust belt communities who have seen the opiod crisis tear through their communities, while the Republicans they consistently vote for offer no other solution than to throw them in jail. But the Dems seem determined to totally ignoring the issue, just because Joe Biden has such an atrocious record and they apparently have PTSD from HW Bush calling them soft on crime.

    Also, as an NJ resident, I have to appreciate that Booker is by far my best Senator. But that's really only because Bob Menendez is an unrepentant crook.

  • I see my friends and family fighting very hard to garner spots in these "good" charter schools. In my area, these are good schools run by good people with, I think, noble intentions. But I can't help but feel like this is The Hunger Games for education and it's fucking gross.

  • For some strange reason I keep channeling The Peasants' Revolt.

    Maybe because Ima peasant.

    Thanks for this tasty snack, btw. Working through We've Got People, and I can only take maybe a chapter a day. Re-living disappointment, disgust, rage, and despair isn't fun. The cigarettes book, on the other hand, is a page-turner, just as you said.

  • scott (the other one) says:

    What Jonas said.
    Booker wasn't one of my top two or three choices, but I thought having him in the race was a good thing, and that he was far more liberal than his centrist reputation would indicate.
    Also, it's really messed up that there are now more billionaires in the race than people of color.

  • As someone working on the very fringe of the constellation of regulatory agencies that deal with schools. I'm at a loss when I hear people talk about "good" charter schools. By the most basic metrics they're objectively inferior to public schools in my experience.
    -Meals are prepared in less professional, less sanitary conditions.
    -The buildings they use are rarely as sturdy or accessible as public school buildings.
    -They make a habit of having the absolute bare minimum in sanitary facilities for students.
    -Playground facilities are usually of the type found in people's back yards instead of the sturdier equipment found in parks or public school yards.

    I'm sure their French immersion program or P.E. based on circus skills or "holistic teaching philosophies" are great, but, like, what about food poisoning? what about getting trapped in a burning building? what about schools run by assholes who think little kids having to use chemical toilets on a daily basis is totally fine?

    Maybe it's just the charter schools out here. But if I had a dollar for every time one of these grifters came in to my office and wanted to open up a "cutting edge educational center" or whatever and then proposed converting some ancient, derelict shopping center or whatever into a primary school without any plans to address issues like adequate hand washing facilities or making sure exit doors open the right way, I'd be able to do enough drinking to be less mad about it.

  • This means that biden ( ex senator from Mastercard) won the mutual funds primary.
    Once booker lsot his big money friends it was all over.
    Remember how cory gave the newark educational system away to his wealthy patrons so they could milk the funds from the state while ignoring the community and the goal of education, profit took priority.
    Also don't forget how he cooperated with christy to schedule his special election outside of regular schedule so as to ensure christy would run up big numbers with the cooperation of jersey thuglican lite d leaders thus helping torpedo any chance of the female D candinate might have had.
    Or all his work in the senate to protect the profits of mutual funds managers and, in cooperation with schumer, ensured that they would suffer no harm for their actions no matter how vile or criminal.
    So no sympathy, on economics and justice, he is on the same end of the political scale scale as alan west and clarence thomas.

  • Whoever they wind up giving the nod to, I will vote for. I needn't worry about holding my nose to do so.

    Trumpligulamygdala has blown out my olfactory bulb.

    @ Wheat:


  • Amy—

    It’s not that the specific deficiencies you specify should be tolerated when and where exposed, but it’s rather telling that your bullet-point list could just as easily bespeak objective inferiorities in K-12 daycare centers as in public schools.

    The salient deficiencies, compared with other First World nations, are in our pedagogy, especially where math, science, and language are concerned. Money and time for feelgood social consciousness-raising and handholding is wasted.

  • Amy:

    Inky is a lying sack of shit who can't be bothered to back up accusations he casually makes about Ed being a stealth moozie apologist.

    So, just in case you thought he was being serious, you just need to know that he's a shitstirring troll and a liar.

  • Ambition isn't always evil, but without empathy, seems to be a reasonable approximation of it. Why, as a society, are we so comfortable around evil? FWIW, any of the Democratic candidates would be an improvement over The SCROTUS, even Bloomberg, who would be a Republican, if that party wasn't suffering from a cerebral-rectal inversion.

  • As I mentioned in a previous (or maybe several previous) comment/s, I live in New York City, a stone's throw (albeit a long one) from Cory Booker's Newark crib.

    The poster child for charter schools in New York City is Eva Moskowitz. You'd be hard pressed to find a higher priced kurvah.

    I have almost next to nothing nice to say about my current mayor, Warren Wilhelm (oh, look it up). But since Eva hates him, he can't be all bad.

  • I need to correct myself. There is a higher priced kurvah than Eva. Mark Tiexeira.

    He let the cancer on baseball that is Scott Boras pimp him out for his fat Reichstag contract, and then fired him. Give that Tiexeira made a lot more money than Eva does, he is a higher priced kurvah.

    His comments on Carlos Beltran are uncalled for. Even though I do think the Mets should ditch Beltran and start anew.

  • Chuck—

    It’s the biggest baseball scandal since Shoeless Joe. Worse than “Ball Four” and worse than Pete Rose’s gambling.

  • Dear Mr. (or Ms.) Inkberrow (I can't assume, for when you assume it means you've watched too many Odd Couple reruns),

    I think your point is debatable at best.

    Ironically, I had an appointment today with an ENT named Rothstein. I could not resist asking him if he was a baseball fan. Indeed he is, and he happened to make a very spirited defense of Joe Jackson. We agreed that the true villain of 1919 was Charles Comiskey, and that Jackson belongs in the HOF and Comiskey should be thrown out.

    While what the Astros did was objectionable, it did keep the Reichstag out of the World Series, and for a leftist New Yorker, that is by no means an injustice.

    I'm struggling with the semantic difference between the words "scandal" and "injustice." Jim Bouton's book was neither. Half a century later, it's downright quaint.

    Pete Rose had a bullseye on his own foot. The only injustice in that affair was that Bart Giammati dropped dead shortly thereafter.

    The biggest scandal, or injustice, in MLB history, in my opinion, is Jerry Reinsdorf's attempt to utilize MLB's antitrust exemption to try to break the MLBPA. Which was followed by the owners looking the other way while players juiced up to bring back consumer interest.

    I have to cop to trying to tweak Ed. If MLB were ever to contract any franchises, the first two to go should be the Reichstag and the Southsiders.

  • @ democommie:

    Thanks for the tip. And I'll take "logic" as a compliment. I concur that "pearls" they are not.

    For what it may ever be worth, I posted nearly the exact same thing about Teixiera (there, I spelled his name right) in a comment on another blog, and it wasn't published. I don't know if if was for the term "Reichstag," "kurvah," or both. It may be idealistic to believe that Ed is a staunch defender of the First Amendment.

  • I think I meant "optimistic." My suspicion is that Ed, consistent with his recent declaration of paying attention to the blog, doesn't monitor the comments as closely.

  • Michael Allen says:

    I hadn't seen the word "kurvah" before. From the internet:

    noun. prostitute, bitch. From many Southern Slavic Languages. Exists in Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, Serbian, Slovak, and Slovene.

    But it's apparently also the name of some "musician" who specializes in the most disgusting vile kind of lyrics. I didn't follow any links but just the titles or first lines were appalling. Don't just google just the word itself. Yech.

  • @ chuck:

    If Ed curated comments for the fucking cursing, I'd be fucking fucked.

    Threats almost always result in some sort of action but beyond that the liars can lie and those who know that their liars are free to despise them out loud. That one you were talking to is a troll.

  • "and those who know that their liars are free to despise them out loud."

    We are not, otoh, free to edit for spelling after hitting send.

    shoulda been "they're liars…".

  • A bit of a sidelight is that I think, in part because of structure of caucuses, that Warren will do much better in Iowa than is being suggested.
    In the Iowa caucuses, at least in first rounds if not more, if any candidate gets below, I believe but open to correction, 5% that candidates voters then move to their 2nd choice, not necessarly en bloc. In several polls I have seen it shows Warren as big leader as 2nd choice from just about all other candidates.
    One poll framed the question as if your choice does not get the nomination who would you be happiest (satisfied/content) to get the nomination?
    The other poll straight up asked who were peoples 2nd choice?
    If those polls are to believed and Sen Warren stays within close enough on first ballot her percentage of 2nd choice voters could give her decisive push that could give her a clear victory or would at least keep things tight enough to help prevent anyone building any real momentum against Her.
    And if it comes out as Warren, Sanders ( Sanders, Warren) as top two race could it put paid to some of the "moderates" corporate D candinates chancesd.

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