The times are so strange, so confusing, so upside-down that it is easy to miss what counted most at the two national political conventions conducted under coronavirus conditions. Audiences were largely missing, Hamlet-like soliloquies were a new ingredient, show biz was at its political best and then there was this compelling attraction, at least in my book. The Republicans were defending civilization while reaching for the human heart.
Among the crises of the day are attitudes mowing down values, a distaste for who we are as a people and condemnatory views of even the best of our history. Incredibly, there is now a sense that it is permissible to burn down homes, loot stores and restrain cops if the cause is a good one. The cause of ending racist-inspired police actions is certainly a good one, but it benefits no one when protesters burn up police stations, homes and small businesses or loot stores and injure hundreds of policemen.
Most are against this and the worst horror is the rise in murders, including the deaths of Black children, but the Democrats at their convention weren’t worried to the extent that it was noticeable. The Republicans on the other hand not only said violent protests were an outrage that can be brought to a halt, but that there is a vital, peaceful solution to improving the lives of Black people, of equality clapping its hands: Improve education.
One crucial technique is more school choice, more charter schools that Black youngsters can go to instead of being stuck at those with bad report cards.
Charter schools are public schools, too, free schools that accept applicants usually by lottery, are less bound by traditionalist dictates and are likely to have minority majorities. They experiment. They break loose from failed techniques. When you compare schools teaching students from the same socio-economic backgrounds in the same areas, you mostly find charter schools are working best. Teacher unions don’t like them, however, because the charter schools themselves often don’t have unions and enough charter popularity could leave the established competitors with fewer students.
The unions ordinarily support Democrats who are less and less supportive of charter schools while I am less and less supportive of public unions. They are special interests with overly powerful influence in public undertakings. What strikes me is that Black voters are finding political friends where they did not expect them. At the GOP convention, everyday folks were called to the mike and camera along with more prominent souls to talk about their needs. Although it scarcely proves Republicans should win in November, I was hit big time by talk of family, self-responsibility and improved education.
My favorite speaker was Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, a Black man from hard times who, in my opinion, should run for president in 2024. He is good in battle even when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi swings a bat, a successful businessman, a thoughtful conservative and someone who has worked with Trump on issues such as tax breaks for single mothers. He believes the American dream is still out there for everyone, and he observes that he benefitted from a mother who worked 16 hours a day and told him to shoot for the moon even after he flunked just about everything one year for the sake of football practice.
He talked about the importance of education and how school choice could give every kid a chance for a quality education translating into a quality life.
What especially grabbed me was how he related this subject to how tough everything was for his cotton-picking grandfather who could neither read nor write but knew to cross to the other side of the street when he saw a white man coming.
“Our family went from Cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” he said, “and that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last.”
(Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.)