When two powerful Democrats suddenly reject the position of the teachers unions and support the position argued by President Trump, we know that something’s up.
Andrew Cuomo’s and Chuck Schumer’s abrupt switch of position to support reopening schools in New York leaves a lot of blue state Democrats exposed to intensified criticism for keeping their own schools closed. I see five possible reasons that could explain this dramatic switch.
Let’s start trying to account for the change in position by taking Senator Schumer’s press conference explanation at face value.
“What is one of the biggest problems facing us in the next month? As the Speaker mentioned, schools. Opening up the schools safely. If you don’t open up the schools, you’re going to hurt the economy significantly because lots of people can’t go to work.”
Other blue state Democrats like California’s Gavin Newsom and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer have continued to behave in ways that inflict maximum economic damage in their states, suggesting that they expect President Trump to be blamed by voters for a slow or negative economic recovery, even at the cost of immiserating their own constituents.
Maybe both New Yorkers are scared that New York’s decline has reached the point that their own political futures are imperiled. After all, Cuomo just begged wealthy New York City residents return to the city from their refuges in the Hamptons, Hudson Valley or even out of state, offering to buy them a drink or cook dinner for them as a lure to pay the extra municipal income tax liability they would face.
With its crime rates soaring and its major lifestyle appeal for the wealthy – restaurants, theatres, high end shopping, museums, and society gatherings – unavailable, New York City could easily lose the top one percent of its taxpayers, the people who cough up half of its revenues. Should that happen, a truly dystopian future could rapidly eventuate. Vacant apartment buildings and hotels seized for nonpayment of taxes or purchased on the cheap and used for dormitories for the homeless. Schools and municipal services cut to the bone and police funding, already slashed by a billion dollars, cut back to the point that the move Escape from New York becomes prophecy.
An even more plausible explanation is the suspicion that internal polling shows that parents are turning against keeping schools closed, even though public polling to date shows that Republicans want schools opened and Democrats want remote learning, which proved ineffective last spring.
The sudden U-turn from Cuomo and Schumer on school openings suggests the months-long Democrat position of banning children from going to school was a political disaster for them. https://t.co/GOPDyrcua3
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) August 7, 2020
It’s possible that both men see that the unions’ absurd demands are alienating the public. John Daniel Davidson writes in The Federalist:
Teachers unions are now trying to blackmail the entire country into meeting a set of leftist political demands for reopening the schools this fall, using COVID-19 as their excuse. (snip)
On Monday, an alliance of teachers unions and leftist groups in dozens of states staged a “National Day of Resistance,” issuing a series of demands that they say must be met before their members will return to the classroom. What do they want? Rents and mortgages canceled, a “massive infusion of federal money” from “taxing billionaires and Wall Street,” moratoriums on new charter schools and voucher programs and standardized tests, and of course “police-free schools,” among other things.
Some teachers unions have gone a step further. In New York City, one group is demanding teachers not be required to return to school until a minimum of 14 days have passed after any new COVID-19 cases, claiming their lives are at risk if schools open (despite evidence to the contrary in Europe and Asia). During protests Monday, hundreds of NYC teachers marched with handmade coffins and a guillotine, chanting wording to slogans like “children can’t learn if they’re dead.”
Even with MSM complicity in covering up the fact that the rest of the world is reopening schools, news that the United States is virtually alone in keeping children at home is sure to leak out, especially in places like New York with a large number of foreign born residents.
Parents are exploring alternatives like home schooling, and there has to be serious worry that support for public school education will slip to catastrophic levels if parents realize the superiority of alternatives to them. American unions have a history of self-destructive behavior, for instance the United Steelworkers and United Autoworkers pursuing wage and work rule demands that so seriously damaged their employers that employment and union membership are now a small fraction of their peak levels. I the same thing were to happen to teachers unions, Democrats would lose their biggest single source of donations and volunteer manpower.
The two New Yorkers may be afraid of contradicting the CDC’s advice that schools should reopen. The CDC, after all, has been a reliable ally in discounting the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, despite the mountain of evidence that when used early, it is highly effective against the novel virus.
Or, it may be what Cuomo said yesterday:
During a Friday conference call with reporters, Cuomo said that the state finds itself in “the best situation in the country right now” in terms of COVID-19 infection rates. Just 1% of the 70,170 people tested for COVID-19 on Aug. 6 came back positive for the virus.
With low infections holding in every region of New York state, the governor said schools should reopen under plans with plenty of precautions to keep students, teachers and staff safe — from mandatory wearing of masks to social distancing and testing protocols.
Now that the governor is no longer forcing Covid patients into nursing homes, and with herd immunity developing, maybe New York State really is over the hump, and not expecting a second wave of infection.
None of these possibilities are mutually exclusive. It is probable that all, to one degree, weigh on the decision of Cuomo and Schumer. If that is the case, we can expect other blue states to feel increasing pressure. It would be incredibly panful for Democrats to yield to the position taken by President Trump, but it is clearly possible.