Why NEA’s Questionable Endorsement of Clinton is Actually a Win For Bernie

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union, endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Saturday. While it is outrageous that a handful of leaders go against the rank and file, leaders that are supposed to represent what the members stand for, this could actually very much work to Bernie Sanders’ advantage.

Bernie NovemberSure it’s very troubling that an endorsement this early on in the process will prevent some of the voices from being heard in the traditional way, as explained by Steven Singer in this article

Since this is only an endorsement for the primary election, the matter would not need to go before the Representative Assembly (RA). In effect, the move could sidestep the voices of the RA’s 8,000 delegates representing state and local affiliates, student members, retired members, and other segments of the united education profession.

The decision would be made by a handful of leaders and the PAC council. Though there are thousands of PAC council votes, they are distributed by the amount of money raised by each state’s members. This means that little states like Delaware – where members donate greatly – have a larger vote relative to their membership than other states.

Okay let’s put aside any thoughts of why the NEA pushed so hard to ram this endorsement down the throats of the rank and file just for a moment. Although we’ll mention real quick that In 2000, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García served as a member of President Bill Clinton‘s White House Strategy Session on Improving Hispanic Education. Just a coincidence I’m sure.

But let’s move on to what this can actually do for Bernie Sanders and his grassroots campaign. Had the top brass of the NEA went with what the majority wanted how much more energized would the teachers be? I mean sure they #FeelTheBern like the rest of us already do and since I know some teachers personally, (some of them write for The Bern Report) I know this is true. They are very active supporting Bernie. That said this act of going against their wishes lights a fire like no other. The NEA leaders are in effect campaigning for Hillary Clinton and if I was in the position of the teachers I’d be extremely pissed off…and they are.

That spark will lead to even more support for Bernie, with a 3 million member base, making them the largest union in the country, that’s a whole lot of pissed off people. If the leaders don’t think this will backfire they have been watching too much CNN and not been witnessing first hand just how many people want Sanders.  And of course not listening to their members.

Make no mistake about it, the leaders were lobbying hard and it appears the game was rigged from the very beginning.

More from Steven Singer’s article:

Last Wednesday NEA Directors were invited to an hour-long conference call with Clinton. Few directors were allowed to ask questions and only if those questions had been submitted in advance.

After Clinton left the call, only three state presidents had a moment to speak; all gave positive reflections on Clinton and how she supports teachers and public education.

Despite the fact that several Democrats have been courting the NEA’s endorsement, only Clinton was invited to this call.  You read that right, none of the other candidates were invited to that call. A spokesperson for Sanders’ campaign stated that the call was not offered to them.

Last summer, the NEA invited all presidential candidates to participate in the union’s endorsement process. Only Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders did so. Each made a video statement that was shown at the summer’s RA meeting and posted by many to their local groups. Though more candidates have entered the race since then, none have chosen to interview with the NEA.

Ironically, at the same RA meeting, the assembly voted specifically NOT to ignore rank and file membership before endorsing a Presidential candidate. New Business Item 79 states:

NEA, as an organization, will actively engage in conversation and outreach on the NEA endorsement process with all 2016 Presidential campaigns prior to the consideration of a primary recommendation.

Now that the endorsement is in place it appears the leaders went directly against what they said they’d do in NBI 79.

Even though the NEA endorsement didn’t go to Bernie Sanders, he had this to say:

“I am proud to have the support of many hundreds of thousands of members of the National Education Association and trade unionists all across America. We are going to win this nomination and the general election because of support from grassroots Americans. We are on track to do just that.”

The local level tells another story for Bernie however, in stark contrast to the shady politics at the national level of the NEA and AFT, some state affiliates have already made endorsements. For instance, Vermont NEA already endorsed Sanders, their state’s Senator.

Back in July the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) seemed to endorse Clinton in a somewhat strong-armed manner as well. According to another article by Steven Singer, though the AFT Executive Board voted to endorse Clinton, there is little evidence it did so after adequately gauging members opinions through claimed multiple surveys and telephone town halls. The move caused an uproar and claims the AFT endorsed too early and without rank and file support.

That move also created a fire-storm of angry Bernie supporters and we’d expect NEA’s official announcement today to result in the same thing, only bigger. Enough Is Enough.

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G.A. Dunlap

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