The National Assessment of Educational Progress, a survey administered by the U.S. Department of Education, has just released its 2015 report on school performance. The school districts of most big cities are awful, but two stand out as utter, pathetic failures: Cleveland and Detroit. In Cleveland, 90 percent of students are unable to read “proficiently”; 91 percent are non-proficient at math. Detroit, remarkably, is even worse: 93 percent of kids fail at reading and 96 percent fail at math. It’s staggering.
Cleveland has had Democratic mayors for the last 25 years. Detroit has had Democratic mayors for the last 63 years. It’s hard to imagine that either city could be run worse — but Republicans barely contest mayoral elections in either. The last mayor’s race in each city featured two candidates who were both Democrats. No Republican thinks he would have a chance in either city. No Republican has the requisite ambition.
Education is the number-one issue among both black and Hispanic voters, and the Democrats they overwhelmingly support have in no area failed more overwhelmingly than in education.
Education is the number-one issue among both black and Hispanic voters, and the Democrats they overwhelmingly support have in no area failed more overwhelmingly than in education. What makes Republicans think that black and Hispanic voters have more loyalty to party than to self-interest? If that were the case, black voters would never have begun supporting the Democratic party in the first place — they would have stayed loyal to the Grand Old Party that ended slavery.
Republicans (like Democrats) are loath to spend their finite supply of money and candidates on races they don’t expect to win — but given the other side’s pathetic shortcomings, it’s absurd to go on conceding cities: The RNC ought to stop being so damned conservative. If Republicans campaign on Democratic failures in education, every city in the country is theoretically winnable. If Republicans could win cities, virtually every state would be in play in every election. The entire political fabric of the country could be changed — isn’t that worth a speculative dip into the GOP coffers, starting with Detroit and Cleveland?
And much more important than the political fabric, the country’s educational and cultural fabric would be changed. Picture an America of cities wherein more than one of ten kids can read, write, and do arithmetic. Then send Reince Priebus an e-mail.
— Josh Gelernter writes weekly for NRO and is a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard. He is a founder of the tech startup Dittach.