TPM Cafe: Opinion

Some things in life have a high price tag: gold, high-end champagne, yachts. Democracy shouldn’t be one of them.

A set of new studies show, again, that two strong trends are putting political participation out of reach for too many Americans: the influence of the very wealthy on the political process, and a shrinking middle class with ever-diminishing economic power.

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Until recently, the Common Core initiative looked to be the most successful assessment-based education reform effort in many years, with 45 states plus the District of Columbia signing onto set of English and math standards and assessments due to be implemented beginning in the 2015-16 school year. Its most important political secret was its careful sidestepping of conservative hostility to national educational standards (which eventually made the George W. Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind initiative toxic on the Right). Drafted and promulgated by the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, Common Core had powerful backing from business interests and most Republican governors.

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On April 28th, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear a case that could determine the future of legal abortion in Mississippi. At issue is a bill that requires doctors at Jackson Women's Health Organization (JWHO), the state's sole abortion clinic, to have admitting privileges at an area hospital.

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After appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) made headlines and spurred double-takes with her claim that it is the Republican party -- not the Democratic party -- that is fighting for women’s rights.

"It is Republicans that have led the fight for women’s equality,” she responded to a question about Republican opposition to equal pay. “Go back through history, and look at who was the first woman to ever vote, elected to office, go to Congress, four out of five governors.”

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I write about American public education for a living. As someone who cares profoundly about inequality and the state of social mobility in the United States, I’ve come to truly love my work.

But it’s time for me to confess: I am a “teacher hater.” I’m also bent on “undermining public education” in service of my “corporate overlords.” Or, at least, that’s what my inbox tells me every time I write something about charter schools, Teach For America, or education politics in general.

And while unsolicited hostility is part and parcel of the politics writing game these days, this particular line of attack cuts particularly deep.

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As I argued in a December 2013 column here at TPM Cafe, a lot of the intra-Republican battles described as representing a “civil war” between “constitutional conservatives” or Tea Party members or “the base” on the one hand, and “Republican Establishment” chieftains or “pragmatists” or “moderates” on the other, are really arguments over strategy, tactics and rhetoric rather than ideology or principle.

And indeed, the less ideological Republicans, having lost the high moral ground to their more ferocious colleagues, rarely challenge conservative orthodoxy as normative for their party, generally offering prudential reasons for downplaying The True Faith as a matter of legislative gamesmanship or superior electability.

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DC Councilor Muriel Bowser, who won the Democratic primary last week and is likely to become the next mayor, is not yet sure whether she’ll keep DC Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson through 2017, as the Chancellor has requested. I hope she’ll base her decision on a serious assessment of how DCPS has fared under Henderson (and her predecessor Michelle Rhee, who set in place the reforms that Henderson has largely continued, albeit with a lighter touch). While the Washington Post continues to uncritically praise those reforms, a closer look at their outcomes suggests that all may not be so rosy, especially for those on the front lines of the changes — principals, teachers, and, of course, students and their families.

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Via its Twitter account, magazine Marie Claire posted an image of Kendall Jenner in braids and declared them “new” and “epic.” The brand immediately received backlash, mostly comedic and largely from Black women who have been wearing cornrows and braids long before Jenner was born. The protests against Marie Claire’s casual erasure of black cultural influence were registered as “outrage,” which is hyperbolic and incendiary, and speaks to the larger issues of hashtag and outrage fatigue on social media.

Twitter’s hashtags have become a significant part of social and news media. They have moved beyond the social network and help shape conversations around everything from world events to late night talk show fodder. News sites aggregate tweets for responses to current events. In the last four years, more people have begun to use Twitter and its hashtags as tools of social justice, leading to the term “hashtag activism” and its gradual backlash. A disproportionate number of Twitter users are non-white, which is reflected in the number of popular topics that reflect concerns dealing with race, sex, the intersection of the two, and culture appropriation.

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The White House was quick to tout the 7.1 million Americans who enrolled in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) health care benefits last week, and this week’s cover of The New Yorker depicts President Barack Obama’s revenge on Republicans now that healthcare appears to be working. Despite this messaging, Washington, the media, nor the law itself can guarantee that health care will be accessed in the intended way.

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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