Rhee-JECTED by the Voters!!!


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You may think that it’s tough being a liberal Democratic party activist and blogger in Orange County, what with having to put up with our electeds doing the likes of THIS and THIS and THIS.  And then we have to defend a President who does THIS and THIS.  But I always remind myself that it could be much worse.  I could be a liberal Democratic party activist and blogger in Sacramento County, where the local big city Democratic Mayor, Kevin Johnson, is married to this woman:

Michelle Rhee

Welcome to class, new students. Now take out your sharpened pencils and stab yourselves in the eyes.

That is “education reformer” Michelle Rhee, motive force behind the movie Waiting for Superman, prophet of standardized testing, and bane of public education wherever she might find it.  She was, rather inexplicably, put in charge of Washington D.C.’s schools at one point, and cracked the whip (and narrowed the curriculum) to drive up test scores — which did happen.  (Later, this was found to have involved some cheating by school employees, but is that her fault?  Just because one lets employees know that their very jobs will depend on how well they get students to jump through certain standard hoops shouldn’t mean that one would have any reason to believe that, out of desperation, they might cheat a little to get them through those hoops, right?  No one could have foreseen that!)

Anyhoo, Rhee left DC and is back in Sacramento, where she is sitting on large piles of cash that she is doling out to get like-minded “education reformers” — whom I’ve heard called “Rhee-publicans” — in power.  (One notorious ally of her is the nominal Democrat Gloria Romero, author of what even-handed California Politics blogger Scott Lay of aroundthecapital.com described as winning the 2012 award for Editorial Negligence of the Year.  It was published in — naturally (as well as unnaturally) — the Orange County Register.  Read Lay’s re-editing of her editorial here; it’s incredibly funny — and even funnier that it’s still sitting there, uncorrected, on the Register’s site in its original form.  Lay’s comment from Nov. 12, 2012 is still on that site too:

I’ve always liked Gloria, but this is factually wrong and the Register should not have published it. In fact, there are over 3 million votes to be counted, meaning total turnout will be greater than 13.3 million. That’s 74% turnout, which is about average for presidential general elections:

2008: 79.4% of registered / 59.2% of eligible.
2004: 76.0% / 57.0%.
2000: 70.9% / 51.9%.
1996: 65.5% / 52.6%.
1992: 75.3% / 54.5%.
1988: 72.8% / 53.5%.
1984: 74.9% / 59.1%.
1980: 77.2% / 57.05%.

Ah, good times, good times — made all that much better by twisting the knife again here.

(It suddenly occurs to me, by the way, that some people may think that I’m being unfair in using a cropped photo of Rhee that perhaps looks a mite unflattering.  I respect that concern.  The original photo comes from a fawning story about Rhee in her (and no less importantly her husband’s) hometown paper, the Sacramento Bee, which as might be expected gives them both good coverage — including flattering photos.  So, just to be fair, the original uncropped photo is below.

There.  That’s much better, isn’t it?)

Here’s how skewed the coverage is about Rhee and her political efforts: a couple of days ago a “Capitol Alert” blared forth in the Sacramento Bee entitled “Mixed bag for Michelle Rhee in Tuesday’s school board races.”  The story explains:

Michelle Rhee‘s biggest foray yet into local politics in California yielded mixed results yesterday as voters in West Sacramento rejected the school board candidate backed by her education advocacy group while voters in Los Angeles handed a victory to one of the three candidates StudentsFirst supported.

Rhee, the former chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools who is married to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, created StudentsFirst to counter the power of teachers unions in state and local politics.

… [In addition to a loss in West Sacramento,] StudentsFirst also supported three candidates for the Los Angeles Unified school board: Mónica García, Kate Anderson and Antonio Sanchez. García won the race for District 2, Anderson lost the race for District 4 and Sanchez is headed to a May 21 run-off against Monica Ratliff for District 6.

(In addition, two Rhee-publicans Charlene Tabet and David Dobson are on Burbank’s April 9 runoff ballot.)

Wow — sorta scary, huh?  Well, look closer.  A commenter named Allan Brauer helpfully points out:

Hmm. One-for-four is a “mixed bag”? You fail to note that the one Rhee-backed winner is an incumbent, and the one in a run-off came in second. Looks more like a rout to me.

That’s right: the only victor in these races, García, was already an incumbent.  The only other one (putting aside Burbank) who hasn’t already lost is Sanchez — and I’m looking forward to voting to endorse Ratliff at the meeting of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party this Tuesday night without knowing a damn thing about her other than she’s not a Rhee-publican.

Any time someone shows up in politics with a gigantic pile of money to toss around for a cause, it is important to note.  But lots of people are apparently scared to death of what Rhee’s group — which is mostly interested in promoting “selective” charter schools that can save money by eliminating teachers’ unions — can do to a local race.  They should take that seriously, but it’s important to note that Rhee’s track record in this past election is about as dismal as her views on education policy itself.  She may think that her political organization can lift candidates up like the eagle, but it seems as likely that it will hang around their necks like the albatross.


About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Runs for office sometimes, so far to offer a challenge to someone nasty who would otherwise have run unopposed. Someday he might pick a fight intending to win it rather than just to dent someone. You'll know it when you see it. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. A family member works part-time as a campaign treasurer. He doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he hated. He does advise some local campaigns informally and generally without compensation. If that changes, he will declare the interest. He also runs a less frequently published blog called "The Brean," for his chosen hometown, where he is now fighting with its wealthiest and most avaricious citizen-donors. This just seems to be his way.