Welcome to Nuts & Bolts, a guide to Democratic campaigns. I’ve helped write this series for years, using information from campaign managers, finance directors, field directors, trainers, and staff, responding to questions from Daily Kos members, and addressing issues that are sent to me via kosmail through Daily Kos.
When I first started doing Democratic campaign work, talking about education was one of the only issues that Democratic campaigns felt safe discussing. Everyone wanted their child to go to a good, safe school and they wanted their school to be a high-quality performer that would send their child to a great university or community college prepared to succeed. As time has worn on, what Democratic campaigns have discovered is that Republican voters have become more and more hostile to even the concept of public education. We’ve gone from a period where Democratic campaigns needed to broaden their message to campaigns where talking about education can be testy, and school boards themselves are at stake. So, let’s talk about education!
Did you know that in most areas of the country, school boards have broad influence over not just the school, but the community? They can determine mil levies, which impact property taxes. They can assign funds for specific uses within the school and handle the hiring and firing of staff. Some of the policies will directly impact the educational opportunities children have going forward.
You will hear a lot in these races about masks, critical race theory, book lists being available, and more. It is all nonsense. In the end, the biggest reminder is that parents see the books that come home, and they can go through them with their student. The complaints come, by and large, from people who do not actually have students in school. We’ve seen school board meetings where someone comes in and launches big complaints against books being taught, or opposition to any school policy.
In truth, talk show conservatives have whipped up their most avid followers to care about nonpartisan races in a way they haven’t before, and it has caught nonpartisan Democratic candidates a bit flatfooted, unsure of how to handle the pressure. How do we respond?
The most important answer is that there must be a response. Attacks cannot be allowed to sit unaddressed. This is the message of the conservative right: The only reason we don’t respond, they contend, is because there is no response. So now, we need to talk about responses. The good news is that the responses work not just for school boards but for other races as well.
Be prepared to respond
Do you have a response about critical race theory? The books being taught in your school? Do you plan a response about school expenses or masks?
First, familiarize yourself with the content. Know the names of teachers, books being taught, results. Talk in specifics about student success. Let people know that your students perform well, that your teachers work hard. Talk about accomplishments and goals met. Talk, also, about difficult subjects they don’t want to address at all, like special education, arts, vocational education, and even sports. Yes, bring up sports because at every level people have some love for their student in sports, arts, or something that allows them to display talent.
When we talk in concrete information, it cuts off a lot of the content conservatives want to advance. The goal of the conservative narrative is to turn everything about education into one or two specific topics instead of looking at education as a holistic start to a young person’s life. They aren’t just experiencing one class, they are experiencing several classes, new students and their experiences, trying on new ideas, debating ideas, joining teams, and being part of things bigger than themselves.
The more you humanize the issue, the easier it is for voters to relate to you, and the harder it is for those who are wanting to throw out strawman arguments against education to succeed.
Powered by WPeMatico