Presidential race

Trump just gave us a Texas reason to vote against him


We really don’t need any more reasons to vote against Donald Trump. Our cup already runneth over. But here’s another one anyway. Trump announced today that, if elected president, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett will be on his short list for potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees. Yikes!

Willett is the justice who wrote last week’s Texas Supreme Court decision that Texas’ bad school finance system was constitutional, taking the legislative majority off the hook to do the right thing for Texas school children. It was a lot of political hand-washing that will leave Texas schools under-funded.

Imagine what kind of damage Willett could do on the big Supreme Court. Maybe not as much damage as Trump would inflict on the country from the White House, but I think you get the idea.


Breaking classroom rules with Donald Trump


As we already know, Donald Trump has rewritten the rules of presidential politics, at least for this season, although maybe not forever. An educator in California, meanwhile, is trying to make sure that Trump doesn’t end up rewriting the rules of how you are supposed to teach American government and civics to fifth-graders. But she is having to break one of her own rules to do that.

Like other government teachers, Kyle Redford, as she explains in the Education Week blog post linked below, has always worked very hard to keep her own political opinions out of her lessons, even to the point of removing a bumper sticker from her car. She wants her students to develop their own critical thinking skills as she guides them through discussions of our political system, how it is supposed to work and the differences between the two major political parties.

Then along came Donald Trump, the frontrunner (so far) for a major party’s presidential nomination, who started breaking the rules, not only the rules of political engagement but also the rules that fifth-graders are supposed to obey in the classroom. Rules like no racist remarks, no threats against people who disagree with you, no name-calling and no bullying.

So, this teacher has started calling out Trump’s ill-behavior in class.

“Simply put, I broke my rule because Trump’s behavior transcends party politics,” Redford writes. “His hateful words have distinguished him as a topic for class discussion because our discussions are not about who should win the presidency, but how presidential candidates should comport themselves on the campaign trail.”

In short, I would add, Trump is an example of detestable behavior — for a White House candidate and for school kids.

Were Trump merely the playground bully that he so closely resembles, he would soon move on. Instead, he is one big “Oops” away from being president of the United States.



Politics and education don’t always mix


Except for former candidate Jeb Bush’s wrong-headed ideas about school accountability and privatization and Ted Cruz’s vow to abolish the Department of Education, candidates for the Republican presidential nomination have mostly ignored the needs of public schools.

So, it’s not much of a surprise when the candidates and their key political supporters also sound as if they have forgotten a lot of what they ever learned in school, particularly about the system of government under which they hold and seek office.

Consider a statement that Gov. Greg Abbott made this week in an interview with The Texas Tribune, after he had endorsed Cruz for president. Asked if he, as governor, could work with Donald Trump as president, Abbott replied that he “can work with any president…and it’s a whole lot easier working with a federal government that follows the Constitution as opposed to violate the Constitution.”

The answer was largely non-responsive as it relates to Trump, since no one really knows what he would try to do with the Constitution as Bully-in-Chief.

Cruz fancies himself a constitutionalist, but he was one of two White House candidates (Bush was the other) proposing after the Paris terrorist attacks to ban Syrian refugees from entering the United States, unless they were Christian. That idea doubtlessly sounded good to Cruz’s right-wing base – which is why he proposed it – but it clearly would violate constitutional protections against religious discrimination.

Abbott tried to ban Syrian refugees from entering Texas, even though immigration, under the Constitution, is a responsibility of the federal government, not the states.

As attorney general before he was governor, Abbott may have set a record suing the federal government and bragged about it. He has never bragged, however, about losing most of those suits, even with a very conservative circuit court with jurisdiction over Texas and a conservative U.S. Supreme Court.

So, now Abbott wants to promote a national effort to rewrite the Constitution to remove safeguards he finds offensive. Fortunately, his idea has about as much chance of becoming reality as Trump has of entering a monastery.

Maybe what Abbott meant to say to the reporter was, “It would be a whole lot easier working with a federal government that interprets the Constitution the way I want it to.”

There are no educational requirements for political candidates or officeholders, and I am not proposing any. But I wonder how many of them could pass the citizenship test required of immigrants who have become naturalized citizens because they really do value our Constitution.



Good schools and a clean environment aren’t “socialism”


The Texas Tribune had a story this week about a family of West Texas billionaires who struck it rich in the oil and gas fracking boom and are investing large amounts of their fortune in legislative candidates and a political action committee that, if given the opportunity, would gut state government, beginning with public education.

The family, led by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, also has contributed $15 million to a super PAC supporting the presidential race of Ted Cruz, who, if elected, would try to gut the federal government, eliminating a host of services millions of Americans actually need.

In a recent interview, Farris Wilks told a TV reporter why he was investing so heavily in political races.

“I fear that our nation is going in the direction of socialism, and so I think that maybe we’ve forgotten what has brought us to the place we are as a nation,” he said.


Here’s a guy who has made a fortune, partly by hard work and partly by a government that has promoted his business. State regulations encourage fracking and try to ignore some of the environmental issues that have been associated with it. Voters in the city of Denton approved a local ordinance trying to ban fracking rigs from towering over their backyards and spewing noxious fumes through their neighborhoods, but Gov. Abbott and the Legislature overturned it, much to the delight of people like Wilks.

Wilks has the government he wants but has the gall to cry, “Socialism.”

The risk of Texas and the United States becoming socialist is about as great as the probability that Farris Wilks will vote for Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat for president.

Wilks, of course, is free to support the political candidates of his choice, but socialism is a scare word, not an issue. What Wilks really fears is the Texas Legislature or the federal government clamping new environmental and public safety restrictions on his business. So, he is supporting political candidates who will keep giving him the government he wants, which is as little government as possible. Never mind the public service needs of school kids and the rest of Texas’ non-billionaires.

Wilks also is overlooking – or ignoring – the fact that education and all the innovation it has produced also are major factors in, as he put it, “what has brought us to the place we are as a nation.”

Some of the candidates he is supporting would turn back the calendar.