Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Can Hillary serve two masters?

This evening, Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debated in Flint, Michigan. Flint is ground zero for a set of disastrous consequences from more than three decades of Draconian government belt tightening and tax cuts. That way of "governing" has caused a once prosperous nation to undermine the Social Contract. In this case, degradation of municipal utilities which now poisons citizens.

Corporate media has made a big deal about the farce which we know as the Republican primary campaign for President. Last week's Republican debate presented the shiny object of its front runner stooping to boast that he has a big penis.

Tonight, toward the end of the debate, Hillary even tried to deflect attention to that problematic and quite pathetic incident last week. How much easier is it to make fun of the Republicans than to put any critical thought into who the Democratic Party should nominate for President?

But I paid attention. From the start, Hillary put her intellect, determination and leadership style on display. It was all about impressing people with her vast knowledge and understanding of the inner workings of the federal government. And she boasted that she will do this... and she will direct these agencies to do that... and she has done the other thing.

In stark, but perhaps subtle contrast, Sen. Sanders consistently answered in terms of what each question means to the people. For example, lauding the activist instincts of audience questioners about determination to stand up and demand the Flint water contamination problem be solved.

That contrast in mindset and leadership style between the two candidates was on full display the entire two hours.

Let me tell you a story about my activist roots. Hopefully, you will better understand why it is so important that we elect Bernie Sanders.

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At 34, I married for the first time and became a step-dad all at once. My new son, four years old at the time and not yet in Kindergarten, was (is) a pretty bright kid. He was multiplying two and three-digit numbers in his head before he set foot in a public school classroom.

These days, Peter is a rocket scientist/systems engineer for a DC space contractor. But I digress.

His mother and I were not able to afford private schooling for either him or our daughter. What could I do to get the most value out of the public school system, which 25 years ago already in Arizona was plenty strapped for cash? Intuitively, we knew we couldn't just sit back and let our children coast, being bored and becoming disillusioned with education.

Living in Ahwatukee, I regularly took the bus to work at a state government agency where I worked as an accountant. In 1991 during my commute, listening to the local public radio station, an announcement of a meeting of concerned parents intrigued me. At the administrative offices of the Kyrene School District, Rob Melnick, at the time director of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, would present the results of a survey on parent satisfaction with schools in the district.

The governing board meeting room was filled to overflowing with more than 200 people concerned about their children's education. I don't remember many details of what I said, but I took a turn at the mic expressing my frustrations. This much I do recall. I had cotton mouth the entire time I spoke. And when I was finished, Onnie Shekerjian got my attention and invited me to participate in the Kyrene Parents' Association. That's also when I first met Laura Knaperek, a wonderful friend and activist who just last week passed away.

That meeting in the Kyrene administrative office was a turning point for me and likely many others.

As a result of that event, parents continued organizing. The district superintendent, an official with a strong academic background who -- instead of wanting to incorporate the partnership of parents -- proposed Blue Ribbon Panels of experts to study the problems parents had. It was all about her. The hundreds of concerned parents instead demanded it be all about their (our) children. Did the Blue Ribbon experts know more about our children than we did?

It wasn't long before the school board accepted her resignation and began the search for a new superintendent.

Onnie and Laura both later served on the Kyrene Governing Board. Laura went on to serve in the Arizona House of Representatives, including as chair of the Appropriations Committee. Onnie later served on the Tempe City Council.

In 1998, I ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Kyrene board, later spent about three years working in the Arizona Capitol Times newsroom (covering the state legislature and writing thousands of summaries of pending legislation). In December 2010, I started writing the Arizona Eagletarian with an initial focus on the 2011 Independent Redistricting cycle for drawing legislative and Congressional district lines.

Grassroots organizing catalyzed needed change in the schools when my children were young. An added benefit is that experience provided the foundation for later positive civic engagement.

Isn't it time we stop worrying about which set of genitals the presidential candidate has and instead prioritize leadership style? Hillary Clinton is extremely smart. I'll grant that. But she's dead wrong about the influence she cannot escape from the special interests who fund her campaign.

A few decades ago, Arizona State Prof. emeritus Robert Cialdini observed it scientifically. Two millenia ago, the writer of the Gospel of Matthew documented the words of Jesus Christ,
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
The only special interest Bernie Sanders owes loyalty to is YOU as one person, the voter.

ILLUSTRATION BY EDWARD SOREL

The ONLY thing that will change my mind... or increase the chances of Hillary Clinton having any legitimacy as a potential POTUS is if she figures how to get her campaign funds the same way Bernie does. I don't see that happening.

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