Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Rise and Demise of Neo-Liberal University: The Collapsing Business Plan of American Higher Education

In honor of the start of school, I am reprinting here a recent article of mine that appeared  recently in Logos.  “The Rise and Demise of Neo-Liberal University: The Collapsing Business Plan of American Higher Education” Logos,  2012: vol. 11 issues 2-3

The Rise and Demise of Neo-Liberal University: The Collapsing Business Plan of American Higher Education

by David Schultz

The dominant business model for American higher education has collapsed, taking with it the financial integrity, academic quality, access, and independence that college and universities once enjoyed.

Since the end of World War II two business models have defined the operations of American higher education.  The first was the Dewey model that lasted until the 1970s. The second, a corporate model, flourished until the economic crash in 2008.  What the new business model for higher education will be is uncertain, but from the ashes of the status quo we see emerging one that returns to an era before World War II when only the affluent could afford college and access was limited to the privileged few.

Model I:  The Dewey University

The first post-World War II business model began with the return of military veterans after 1945 and it lasted though the matriculation of the Baby Boomers from college in the 1970s.  This was a model that produced an ever expanding number of colleges for a growing population seeking to secure a college degree.  It was a model that coincided with the height of the Cold War where public funding for state schools was regarded as part of an important effort to achieve technological and political supremacy over communism.  It also represented the expansion of more and more middle and working class students entering college.  This was higher education’s greatest moment.  It was the democraticization of college, made possible by expansion of inexpensive public universities, generous grants and scholarships, and low interest loans.

Public institutions were key to this model.  They were public in the sense that they received most if not all of their money either from tax dollars to subsidize tuition and costs or federal money in terms of research grants for faculty.  The business model then was simply-public tax dollars, federal aid, and an expanding population of often first generation students attending public institutions at low tuition in state institutions.  Let us call this the Dewey business model, named after John Dewey, whose theories on education emphasized the democratic functions of education, seeking to inculcate citizenship values though schools.

Model II: The Corporate University

Yet the Dewey model began to collapse in middle of the 1970s.  Perhaps it was the retrenchment of the SUNY and CUNY systems in New York under Governor Hugh Carey in 1976 that began the end of the democratic university.   What caused its retrenchment was the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

The fiscal crisis of the 1970s was born of numerous problems.  Inflationary pressures caused by Vietnam and the energy embargoes of the 1970s, and recessionary forces from relative declines in American economic productivity produced significant economic shocks, including to the public sector where many state and local governments edged toward bankruptcy.

Efforts to relieve declining corporate profits and productivity initiated efforts to restructure the economy, including cutting back on government services.   The response, first in England under Margaret Thatcher and then in the United States under Ronald Reagan, was an effort to retrench the state by a package that included decreases in government expenditures for social welfare programs, cutbacks on business regulations, resistance to labor rights, and tax cuts.  Collectively these proposals are referred to as Neo-liberalism and their aim was to restore profitability and autonomy to free markets with the belief that unfettered by the government that would restore productivity.

Neo-liberalism had a major impact on higher education. First beginning under President Carter and then more so under Ronald Reagan, the federal and state governments cut taxes and public expenditures.  The combination of the two meant a halt to the Dewey business model as support for public institutions decreased and federal money dried up.

From a high in the 1960s and early 70s when states and the federal government provided generous funding to expand their public systems to educate the Baby Boomers, state universities now receive only a small percentage of their money from the government.  As I pointed out in my  2005 Logos “The Corporate University in American Society” article in 1991, 74% of the funding for public universities came from states, in 2004; it was down to 64%, with state systems in Illinois, Michigan and Virginia down to 25%, 18%, and 8% respectively.  Since then, the percentages have shrunk even more, rendering state universities public institutions more in name than in funding.

Higher education under Neo-liberalism needed a new business model and it found it in the corporate university.  The corporate university is one where colleges increasingly use corporate structures and management styles to run the university.  This includes abandoning the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) shared governance model where faculty had an equal voice in the running of the school, including over curriculum, selection of department chairs, deans, and presidents, and determination of many of the other policies affecting the academy.  The corporate university replaced the shared governance model with one more typical of a business corporation.

For the corporate university, many decisions, including increasingly those affecting curriculum, are determined by a top-down pyramid style of authority.  University administration often composed not of typical academics but those with business or corporate backgrounds had pre-empted many of the decisions faculty used to make.  Under a corporate model, the trustees, increasingly composed of more business leaders than before, select, often with minimal input from the faculty, the president who, in turn, again with minimal or no faculty voice, select the deans, department heads, and other administrative personnel.

The corporate university took control of the curriculum in several ways in order to generate revenue.  The new business model found its most powerful income stream in profession education. Professional education, such as in public or business administration, or law school, became the cash cow of colleges and universities.  This was especially true with MBA programs.  Universities, including traditional ones that once only offered undergraduate programs, saw that there was an appetite for MBA programs.  The number of these programs rapidly expanded with high-priced tuition.  They were sold to applicants that the price would more than be made up in terms of future income earnings by graduates.

This business model thus used tuition from graduate professional programs to finance the rest of the university.  Students either were able to secure government or market loans or those from their educational institution to finance their training. Further, the business model relied heavily upon attracting foreign students, returning older Baby Boom students in need of additional credentials, and recent graduates part of the Baby Boomlet seeking professional degrees as a short-circuit to advancement.

This model accelerated with the emergence of the Internet, on-line classes, and was especially perfected with the propriety for-profit schools.  In the case of the expansion of on-line programs over the Web or internet, a specialist designs the curriculum for courses, sells it to the school, and then the university hires adjuncts to deliver the canned class.  Here, the costs of offering a class are reduced, the potential size of the classes are maximized, and if and when the curriculum needs to be changed to reflect new market needs or preferences, it is simple to accomplish.  Traditional schools, seeing this model flourish, began emulating it, expanding on-line programs, often with minimal investments in faculty.

A second way higher education became corporatized was in the increased funding streams from corporations.  These funding streams became necessary as a result of decreased public support funding for higher education.  One way schools have become more dependent upon private funding is simply by turning to corporate donors either to contribute directing to them, or by way of naming, that is, giving private corporations the right to donate in exchange for naming some part of a school after them.   For example, in recent years many business schools have adopted famous names of companies in return for donations or sponsorships.

Overall, the new business model relied heavily upon the expansion of pricey professional programs sold to traditional and non-traditional students who financed their education with student loans.  This model took off with the Internet, and was facilitated by a management structure and partnering that drew higher education into closer collaboration and dependence upon corporate America.

The Collapse of the Corporate University

The corporate business model worked-until 2008-when it died along with the Neo-Liberal economic policies that had nourished it since the late 1970s.  The global economic collapse produced even more pressures on the government to shrink educational expenditures.  But the high and persistent unemployment also yielded something not previously seen-the decline of students seeking more education.  The decline came for two major reasons.  First, Baby Boomer were aging out into retirement, no longer needing educational training.  With that, the Baby Boomlet had run its peak, with the American pool of potential students rapidly decreasingly.  In effect, the demand for education had dropped.

Second, traditionally MBA and other professional degrees flourished in tough economic times as individuals used their unemployment as the opportunity to get retrained.  But since 2008 that has not happened, in part because of the persistent high unemployment and rise of consumer debt.

Unlike previous post World War II recessions, the most recent one has dramatically wipe out the wealth of consumers-some $13 trillion in wealth was lost-and consumer debt has skyrocketed.  Student loan debt has also ballooned and is now greater than personal consumer debt-$829 billion compared to $826 billion as of early 2012, with estimates that it will soon top $1 trillion. The average student loan debt for a graduate of the class of 2010 exceeds $25,000.  In effect, potential students are tapped out-they have no money to finance further education, they see that companies are not hiring, and overall, find little incentive to debt finance for jobs that may not exist. The result?  A crash in applications to graduate professional programs including MBA and law schools.  From 2009 to 2010, MBA and law school applications declined by 10% for full time programs.

The corporate business model has crashed.  Even  such mainstream publications as the Economist in its August 4, 2012 issue noted the collapse of this old model. It was a bubble that burst much like the real estate one that burst in 2008.  But in actually, it was a model waiting to burst.  The corporate business model functioned as education Ponzi scheme.  Higher education paid for programs by raked in dollars from rapidly expanding professional programs and selling degrees on the promise that the high tuition costs would be worth it to students.  But as all Ponzi schemes go, they soon collapse and that is what higher education is now experiencing.

The Next Business Model?

But what is the next business model?  In a foreseeable era of high unemployment, decreasing public funding for education, and persistent consumer debt, significant retrenchment will occur along a few models.  For one, a few elite universities will continue to exist, serving elites who can afford to pay the privilege of attending them.  This model negates the democratic function of higher education that existed since World War II.

Second, expect significant collapse and merger of weaker institutions as they seek to find ways to complete for a dwindling student population and resources.  This model decreases access to higher education as the range of college and university choices decrease.

Third, while many for-profit institutions may not be able to withstand market pressures, look to see many traditional colleges and universities will have no choice but to emulate that management style.  It may not be a viable business model but given economic pressures for the future, that may be the only one that exists, rewarding a few schools that are able to provide a curriculum that is cheap enough that students want to attend. In effect, the new business model is a hyper-extension of the current model.  This may mean even more alliance with corporate America along with curriculum pressures that further de-emphasize traditional liberal arts studies in place of professional education.  One sign of that already is the movement to take professional degrees such as MBAs and now offer BBAs instead.

Fourth, the education market is ripe for non-traditional suppliers.  For example, media companies such as the Discovery Channel and Disney see delivering educational materials as an extension of their brand.  They are able to combine the power of the television and media presence with textbooks and educational materials and deliver a package of services that few if any traditional let alone for-profit schools can.  With an intense and loyal viewer-consumer, it makes sense of them to now leverage that relationship into one that taps into the student-education market.  This neo-liberal solution simply opens up education to even more exploitation and profiteering.  Look to see down the line one of the major media companies purchase a Walden or Capella University.

Likely business models for higher education are not good.  They threaten to erode the strengths that American higher education enjoyed for years, while at the same time not articulating a plan that is financially sustainable.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Voter ID: A Costly, Unnecessary Abuse of the Constitution

This blog appears in the August, 2012 Minnesota Bench & Bar Journal.

From its 1858 statehood Minnesota has been a leader in voting rights.  We take pride in the fact that Minnesota leads in the nation in voter turnout, and it has a history and bipartisan tradition of encouraging citizen engagement.  Minnesota is also a state of common sense, embodying a pragmatic “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality.  It is for these two reasons and the cost borne to the state and individuals that the proposed amendment requiring voter identification at the polls should be rejected.

Minnesota’s Constitutional Tradition
Minnesota in its constitutional convention was one of the first states to debate voting rights for African-Americans.  Even though both the United States and Minnesota supreme courts have declared voting to be a fundamental right,1 it is textually explicit in Article VII of the State Constitution. Among the 211 previous attempts to change Minnesota’s constitution, 12 adopted amendments have addressed individual rights, with five of them seeking to expand voting rights.  In the entire history of the state only one constitutional amendment, in 1896, restricted voting rights.  Here it limited the practice in place that allowed aliens or noncitizens to vote in Minnesota.  Minnesota’s tradition then is one of expanding the franchise, not limiting it.
The voter ID amendment is an abuse of our constitution and tradition.  Minnesota’s Bill of Rights offers more protection for individuals than found at the federal level. We protect freedom of conscience and privacy more vigorously than does the U.S. Bill of Rights. We also protect some rights—hunting and fishing, and peddling farm produce—that are not found at the federal level. We have constitutionalized our commitment to education and support for the environment and the arts. This reflects our culture and who we are.
The voter ID amendment wrongly sidesteps the political process and challenges our state identity. Instead of trying to use the normal legislative process, it is an effort to bypass it and our legacy.

The Absence of Fraud
Some will claim that voter photo identification is needed to prevent voter impersonation and fraud at the polls. The reality is that in-person voter fraud is so insignificant in Minnesota and around the country that one has a better chance of being struck by lightning than having it affect the outcome of an election.3
What evidence does exist documenting voter fraud?  Nationally, the three most persistent claims of voter fraud come from the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund,4 a report from the Senate Republican Policy Committee in Congress,5 and the Carter-Baker Report.6 None of these studies have documented provable and significant voter fraud.  The Carter-Baker report asserts that: “[W]hile election fraud is difficult to measure, it occurs.”7 Proof of this assertion is citation to 180 Department of Justice investigations resulting in convictions of 52 individuals from October 2002 until the release of the report in 2005.8 Yet while the Carter-Baker Commission called for photo IDs, it also noted that: “[T]here is no evidence of extensive fraud in U.S. elections”9 As with other studies, absentee voting is singled out as the place where fraud is most likely to occur.10 
As the Brennan Center stated in its analysis and response to the Carter-Baker call for a voter photo ID: “None of the Report’s cited examples of fraud stand up under closer scrutiny.”11 Even if all of the documented accounts of fraud were true, the Brennan Center points out that in the state of Washington, for example, six cases of double voting and 19 instances of individuals voting in the name of the dead yielded 25 fraudulent votes out of 2,812,675 cast—a 0.0009 percent rate of fraud.12 Also, assume the 52 convictions by the Department of Justice are accurate instances of fraud.  This means that 52 out of 196,139,871 ballots cast in federal elections, or 0.00003 percent of the votes, were fraudulent.13 The chance of being struck by lightning is 0.0003 percent. 
Similarly, Minnesota is devoid of significant in-person voter fraud.  The state has witnessed two close elections and recounts in 2008 with the senate contest between Al Franken and Norm Coleman and then in 2010 with Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer.  In both cases the recounts failed to show any real in-person voter fraud or impersonation at the polls.  Even in its oral arguments before the Minnesota Supreme Court in Coleman v Franken,16 Coleman’s attorney Joseph Friedberg, when asked by a Justice whether widespread voter fraud existed, conceded that it had not.
The Minnesota Majority has alleged many instances of voter fraud over the years.  Mike Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, has investigated many of them in his jurisdiction.  He found none involving in-person voter fraud.  Yes, 40 ineligible felons voted, but voter ID would not prevent that because drivers’ licenses do not indicate criminal records.17 In 2008 seven voter-impersonation charges were investigated by Minnesota county attorneys; there were no convictions.18
Some election fraud may exist, but it is de minimis in Minnesota.  It takes place not at polling places but as studies have repeatedly pointed out, in the absentee voting process which will not be addressed by voter ID.

The Costs of Voter ID
What are the costs associated with adopting the amendment?  Minnesota will spend millions of dollars issuing identifications for those who currently lack them.  The Secretary of State has estimated that 215,000 Minnesota adults lack a state-issued ID. Minnesota and local governments will spend millions of dollars to implement the new ID requirements. Additionally, individuals will bear costs to secure these IDs.  In Weinschenk v. State19 the Missouri Supreme Court noted that approximately 3 percent to 4 percent of the state population lacked an appropriate identification to vote under its voter ID law.  It found that for many the costs of getting the ID were significant, even if the state issued it for free.  Many individuals lacked state birth certificates, or were born out of state, or naturalized, and they lacked the required documents to secure the state ID.  Many of these documents cost money, in addition to the time and ability to navigate the bureaucracy to obtain them.20  For these reasons, the Missouri Supreme Court invalidated its voter ID law under its state equal protection and right to vote clauses.
Many of the individuals who lack valid IDs are the elderly in nursing homes, recent immigrants to the state, students away at school, and those who have recently moved into a new home or apartment.  Imagine trying to get your elderly mom or grandmother out of a nursing home and into a state driver’s license office to get new photo identification.  The costs to these individuals may be enough to disenfranchise or discourage them from voting.

Legal Issues
Finally there are the legal issues surrounding voter ID that could delay implementation for years and cost million to defend.  The Supreme Court did uphold Indiana’s voter identification law, but it was a facial challenge.  The Court did note that as applied challenges are possible if the law is discriminatory. In Minnesota, challenges to the voter ID amendment could range from violation of the single-subject rule21 to concerns over vagueness in determining what constitutes a “valid” photo identification as described in the amendment’s description.

The voter ID amendment is bad public policy.  It runs against the grain of the state’s constitutional tradition of expanding rights and encouraging voting, it is not needed given the absence of significant in-person fraud, and it will be costly to the state and citizens.

1 Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966); State ex rel. South St. Paul v. Hetherington, 240 Minn. 298, 303, 61 N.W.2d 737, 741 (1953).
2 “Wisconsin Recall Exit Polls: How Different Groups Voted,” New York Times (06/05/2012) http://tinyurl.com/7h7oey8 (site last visited on 07/23/2012).
3 David Schultz, “Less than Fundamental: The Myth of Voter Fraud and the Coming of the Second Great Disenfranchisement,” 34 William Mitchell L. Rev. 484 (2008); David Schultz, “Lies, Damn Lies, and Voter IDs: The Fraud of Voter Fraud,” Harv. L. & Pol. Rev. On-line (03/17/2008). Available at http://tinyurl.com/28j5qcq (site last visited on 07/23/2012).
4 John Fund, Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy. San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2004.
5 United States Senate Republican Policy Committee. “Putting an End to Voter Fraud” (2005). Document located at http://rpc.senate.gov/_files/Feb1504VoterFraudSD.pdf (site last visited on 01/02/2012).
6 Center for Democracy and Election Management, American University.  “Building Confidence in U.S. Elections: Report of the Commission on Federal Election Reform” (2005), [hereinafter Carter-Baker Commission].  Document located at http://www.american.edu/ia/cfer/report/full_report.pdf (site last visited on 07/23/2012).
7 Id. at 45.
8 Id.
9 Id.
10 Id. at 46.
11 Wendy Weiser et al., Response to the Report of the 2005 Commission on Federal Election Reform. New York: Brennan Center for Justice (09/19/2005), p. 9 (emphasis omitted). Available online at http://tinyurl.com/d7vamom (site last visited on 07/23/2012).
12 Id.
13 Id. at 10.
14 553 U.S. 181 (2008)
15 Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita. 2006. 458 F.Supp.2d 775, 792 (D. Ind. 2006).
16 767 N.W.2d 453 (Minn. 2009).
17 Mike Freeman, “Hennepin County Attorney:  Historically We Expand Voting Rights,” Star Tribune (02/20/ 2011).
18 Jay Weiner, “Voter ID issue advances at Capitol, but facts continue to get in the way,” Minnpost, located at http://tinyurl.com/7fthfpg (04/25/2011) (site last visited on 07/23/2012).
19 203 S.W.3d 201 (Mo. 2006).
20 Id. at 214-15.
21 Minnesota Constitution, Article IV, section 17:  “No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bumpless Veeps and Voter Suppression

Paul Ryan–A Bumpless Veep
    It’s been slightly more than one week since Paul Ryan was selected by Mitt Romney as the latter’s vice-presidential pick.  The most remarkable think about that selection is that there is no bump.  What’s a bump?  Generally when a presidential candidate names a running mate there is a bump in the polls for the presidential contender.  The bump is due to increased media coverage, initial interest in the new Veep, or some other factor that simply gives at least a temporary up tick in the polls.  But as the New York Times reported today (August 20, 2012) and I talked about on Fox 9 news on Sunday night, Ryan has produced no more than a one-percent bump.
    One-percent?  That’s nothing!  Even Sarah Palin did more for John McCain, yielding perhaps 3-4 or so temporary points before dragging him down.  But with Ryan, the polls seem stagnant and  he has done very little to help Romney in the last week.  Why? Several reasons.  First, Romney picked a bad time to announce Ryan, coming near the end of Olympics and on a late Friday night.  The app they were going to use to announce also failed.  Overall, timing to maximize media coverage was poor.  Second, Ryan’s pick (as I argued in my last blog) was less meant to attract swing voters than to energize a conservative base still unexcited by Romney.  Romney has switched gears to run a base campaign, banking that he can out organize and deploy his supporters than can Obama, and then also pick up disgruntled swing voters who do not like the direction of the Obama economy.
    But Romney has not had much of a Ryan bump because in the last week he has been on the defensive over the latter’s budget, Medicare cuts, and his taxes.   The campaign has shifted to Romney defending himself and Paul and away from a critique of Obama, economy, and jobs. The next jobs report will put the economy back into the news, but for now, Paul Ryan has not yield the predicted bump in the polls.  Will the Tampa Republican Convention produce a bump?  We shall see (but also look forward to a coming blog about this were I discuss the myth of convention bumps).

Voter Suppression Minnesota Style
    Last Friday a Minnesota District Court issued an decision dismissing a case being brought by the Minnesota Voter Alliance (MVA) challenging the constitutionality of election day registration (EDR) and the right of disabled individuals who have guardians to vote. Had the suit been successful, the 500,000+ individuals who register to vote on election day potentially would have been disenfranchised along with all of the other individuals who have guardians.
    The MVA claimed that by allowing those who register to vote on election day to vote the votes of the others are being diluted.  The court simply dismissed this claim as meritless.   In effect, the MVA had failed to show an legal injury.  In rejecting the other argument about disabled voters, the court simply stated that these individuals had a constitutional right to vote and the MVA was wrong in asserting that they did not.  The ruling by the court was definitive and dismissive.  While the MVA has vowed to appeal, the case will go nowhere.  This is the second major legal loss for the MVA; their other one was challenging the constitutionality of ranked choice voting and they lost unanimously before the Minnesota Supreme Court.
    Voting rights in Minnesota are under assault.  MVA seeks to limit franchise as well as the Minnesota Majority.  Both groups raise the spectre and fears of voter impersonation, felons illegal voting, and election results altered due to voter fraud.  Again, the instances of voter fraud are so insignificant in Minnesota and across the country that one has a better chance of being struck by lightning than fraud affecting the outcome of an election.  Study after study has substantiated this proposition and there is no good evidence to contradict this assertion.  The most recent national study to support this argument was done by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ryan for VP–Sarah Palin Redux?

    Mitt Romney chooses Paul Ryan as his VP.  What are we to make of this choice?  Quite simply, this is one of the best things that can happen for Obama and it also demonstrates a recurrent crisis and problem for Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.
    First, for my Minnesota readers, no surprise that the choice was not Tim Pawlenty.  Four years ago I was persistent in arguing that he would not be the VP pick since he added nothing to the ticket.  The same was true this time around too.  Pawlenty would not have been the favorite son candidate to deliver Minnesota and, quite frankly, he would not have delivered any other state.  He was never the candidate of choice among conservatives and thus would not have helped with that base of the party.  Nor does he resonate with voters around the country (as evidenced by his short-lived presidential campaign) and he is not a great pit bull or fund raiser.  Nor does he have Washington experience.  Nor is there any evidence that his blue collar roots would have offset Romney’s Richie Rich image.  Pawlenty was just another boring white guy-a former governor.  He was too much like Romney.  The only thing he had going for him was that Romney liked him and he would have done no harm.
    But why Paul?  Several reasons.  First, Paul is the person exciting conservatives who still do not trust Romney’s conservative credentials.    With Paul one gets someone with grand conservative ideas–sort of a Jack Kemp lite or a Sarah Palin strong–and lots of support from an important wing of the base.  Additionally, Paul is from Wisconsin, a critical swing state, and maybe that was a factor.  Perhaps so too was the Washington experience of Ryan.  And perhaps too Ryan and Romney get along. Thus, there several plausible reasons for Paul.
    Yet for all these reasons, Paul looks like another Sarah Palin mistake that should make Obama grin.  No, Paul is not the lightweight inexperienced person that Palin was.  He is Palin in a different way.  Palin  was thrust on to McCain after his first choice of Lieberman was vetoed by the conservatives who wanted the suspect moderate McCain to prove credentials by picking the governor from Alaska.  Here it seems the same thing is occurring.  Romney is being led around by his nose by the conservatives telling him what he needs to do to get their support.  Selecting Ryan drives Romney and the GOP further to the right at a time when both need to be moving to the center to capture the swing voter.  Maybe Ryan helps with the base but the election is now down to the votes of ten percent of the electorate in ten swing states.  The swing voters will determine the election and it is not clear that selecting a conservative and moving to the right is the way to score this base.
    Ryan is not the Hail Mary pick that Palin was.  She was selected to excite the base and win women voters.  But she too did little for swing voters who were concerned about her lack of experience and McCain’s age.  Ryan will be a cement shoes on Romney.  Obama and the Democrats will trot out Ryan’s budget plans to cut entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare and tie that to Romney.  Romney will have a Richie Rich image to go along with his desire to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and cut entitlement programs for the middle class.  The entire Obama campaign places Romney on the defensive about whose side he is one and it will prevent Romney from discussing the economy.  Romney has lost swing voter with this choice.
    So think about it. Ryan drives Romney to the right and does little to help with swing voters in swing states.  This is a sign of a crisis and desperation in the Romney campaign. At a critical point when Romney should be demonstrating leadership and control over his base, he shows he is still captured by it and trying to shore it up.  If Romney loses this November--and the odds go up now with the Ryan pick--it will be two elections in a row sabotaged by the right.  The lesson though they will learn from it is to get a real rightist as presidential candidate next time.

PS: Go to the Tampa Tribune this Sunday to read comments of mine about the myth of convention bumps.  Here I discuss the myth that states hosting national political conventions get a political bump for it in terms of helping to win the state.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Political Legacy of Hubert Humphrey

    What is Hubert Humphrey’s political legacy?  The dedication of the new monument in his honor has provoked an outpouring of commentary and analysis on his career and legacy.  The simple answer is that from 1948 until his death he was the face of Minnesota politics to the rest of the US and within the state of Minnesota he defined and personified the DFL party with a set of values that ended with Paul Wellstone’s plane crash in 2002.

    Much can be said about Humphrey’s career.  He was mayor of Minneapolis, senator, vice-president, and presidential candidate.  But this resume fails to capture the whole story.  His is a story of the courage of his convictions–both honoring them and not going far enough.  The two most important values–courage and loyalty. In terms of honoring them, Humphrey comes to national prominence at the 1948 Democratic Party National Convention in Philadelphia where he gave what most historians consider to be one of the greatest political speeches of the 20th century.  There he defended a minority report urging the party to support civil rights.  While today a Democrat urging civil rights would seem inordinary, in 1948 it was an act of courage with a party still captured by southern Dixiecrats and state’s rights.  In Humphrey’s words:

    "My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late. To those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights. People -- human beings -- this is the issue of the 20th century. People of all kinds -- all sorts of people -- and these people are looking to America for leadership, and they’re looking to America for precept and example."

     This speech led to many Democrats walking out of the convention, including Strom Thurmond who ran for president that year.  Humphrey’s speech changed Democrat politics.  The line from this speech connects to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the transformation of the Democratic Party into the party of civil rights and freedom, stealing than banner away from the Republicans who had held it since the Civil War.  If LBJ in signing the 1964 Civil Rights Bill was prescient in declaring that the Democrats had lost the south for the rest of the century, it was Humphrey’s speech that began that loss.  By his speech, when the Democrats embraced civil rights it set in motion the forces of political alignment that persist to this day across the country with the Republicans a party of the South and the Democrats one of the North and coasts.

    That 1948 speech was an act of courage and demonstrated loyalty to human dignity. Humphrey always cared about the underdog. Humphrey came to embody the classic image of the Post WW II Liberal-Democrat. It was a party of the New Deal, the Great Society, and a respect for civil rights and human dignity. There was passion in the values and a courage to espouse them. Yet twenty years later in 1968 as a presidential candidate a different loyalty did him in–his loyalty to LBJ. Humphrey (as LBJ’s vice-president) remained loyal, perhaps too loyal to the president, failing to break from him and criticize the Vietnam War. By failing to do that Humphrey failed to capture the banner of the anti-war crowd that first cheered for rival Minnesotan Senator Eugene McCarthy and then Bobby Kennedy.  Some say that had he remained true to his values, had he broken sooner and criticized the war, he would have won the presidency. But despite this loss, Humphrey went onto complete a significant career in the Senate, with perhaps the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Bill one of his crowning achievements. The law guaranteed a job to everyone who wanted to work–too bad the law would be watered down to nothing.

    Humphrey was Minnesota’s face to America.  He was part of legacy or lineage of Minnesota politicians that included Orville Freeman, Walter Mondale, Wendell Anderson, Paul Wellstone, and to a lesser degree, mayors Don Frazier, George Latimer, and Representatives Bruce Vento and Martin Sabo. Nationally they embodied the essence of what the Democrat Party used to be, and they were also the definition of what the DFL was once in Minnesota.

    But that era ended. How and why is a stpry for another day. But I remember first coming to Minnesota in 1986, noting how the DFL party was then in the hands of what I described as the sons of former or dead DFLers. The new generation of Democrats sang homage to Humphrey but they were hardly of the same mold. Now a quarter of a century later, the DFL Party is in the hands of the grandsons and daughters of former and dead Democrats.  They still sing homage to Humphrey but this hardly the party of Hubert. It is a party that is insular, having failed to renew its values and broaden its membership beyond the core of party regulars and hacks who have failed to honor values of Humphrey while updating for the 21st century. The last hurrah for the party of Humphrey was Paul Wellstone, but with his plane crash in 2002 an era closed and the DFL that once existed died too.

    Minnesota is no longer the party of Humphrey.  We are a state of Jesse Ventura, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, government shutdowns, budget impasses, voter ID, and attempts to ban same-sex marriage.  We are a state where bridges fall down, more children are without health care coverage, racial disparities in education and incarceration, and political polarization.  This is not the Minnesota of Humphrey. The DFL in the legislature and the state seem incapable of producing leaders and passion that capture what he stood for.  Finally, the national Democratic party too is a faint shadow  of the Party of Hubert Humphrey.  Clinton was no Humphrey, as is the same with Obama.  Neither  have ever demonstrated the courage, compassion, and commitment to fairness and the underdog that the Happy Warrior did. Were Hubert Humphrey alive today he would not recognize his party, his state, or his country.