One of my regular sources, the polling-and-statistics-minded Number Cruncher, writes in, trying to make sense of this story from over the holiday weekend:
The nation’s largest teachers union voted Monday in Chicago to support President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election bid despite discord between rank-and-file teachers and the administration over key education reforms.
Seventy-two percent of the National Education Association’s representative assembly voted to support Obama, marking the group’s earliest endorsement ever, and one that comes before the Republican field has narrowed to a single candidate.
NEA officials said the vote was 5,414 members in favor of endorsement while 2,102 members voted no.
Number-Cruncher writes in, “I’m under no illusion the NEA will ever endorse a Republican candidate…but why this early? There is no GOP candidate yet, wouldn’t the union membership best be served by at least giving the GOP candidate ‘a chance’ to hear out his or her proposals, thus trying to win the appeal on a bi-partisan manner? I can only think of one reason for this move, the Obama people are going into over drive to get as much into Obama’s coffers as possible, and thus asked for this explicitly. These are action of a very desperate campaign…on both sides. The Obama administration obviously is not raising enough money; the NEA is losing friends on the Democrat side of the aisle (see Cuomo).”
Actually, the NEA’s Political Action Committee endorsed Obama in May; the vote this weekend was merely a formality.
In October 1999, the NEA PAC endorsed Al Gore who was then fighting a longshot bid from Bill Bradley for the Democrat nomination. The formal endorsement in the general election came on July 4, 2000.
In other words, this year’s predictable endorsement of the Democrat came a year earlier than traditionally.
Notice this fascinating comment from an NEA rep over at Daily Kos:
I am a building rep for the NEA. I actually spoke personally with about 2/3 of my unionized teachers when the early endorsement – the first such in NEA history – was proposed. Out of the more than 80 teachers with whom I spoke only one supported the early endorsement. Many did not like giving up what little leverage the union had with the administration.
Of greater importance – the endorsement implies that the NEA believes there is a difference between Duncan and Obama on educational policy. I am sorry to say that I do not believe there to be any substantial difference between the two men. Obama explicitly agreed with Duncan’s support of the firing of all the teachers at Central Falls, to cite just one example.
Unfortunately, the administration is likely to ignore the strong criticism of its policies contained in the resolution on Duncan and the press will go along with portraying the endorsement as “overwhelming” or “strong” support when in fact the historical record shows it to be very weak.
There is a Facebook page for NEA members opposed to the early Obama endorsement.
Meanwhile, NEA member and education blogger Fred Klonsky says the early endorsement was not as big a hit as you might expect:
Some day the story will be told of why NEA President Dennis Van Roekel decided to push for a first time ever presidential endorsement a year ahead of time.
I don’t get it. Those that support it are luke warm. Those that are against it are pissed.
I am convinced Obama would have received the official endorsement next RA. But this just seems smelly and manipulative by many delegates.
After the vote, he added, “As for the Obama vote, many activists I spoke with were dismayed. The 72% of the delegates that voted support are well short of the 80% that Obama received in 2008. But it is too many. The difference is that in 2008, the vote of support was given with optimism and enthusiasm. Today’s vote was given with noses held. I’m not proud of the vote. But it is what it is. As always, it shows we have work to do.”