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Trashing Teachers and Red-Baiting: How a Republican Governor Lost in Kentucky


When Kentucky teachers staged a series of walkouts in February and March, shutting down school districts across the state, their message was clear: Stop the attacks on workers and fund public education. It had become a common refrain as a series of teachers strikes swept the country, starting with the historic statewide walkout in West Virginia last February, which soon spread to Oklahoma, Arizona, California and other states.

But Kentucky educators were up against a singularly odious adversary: Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. The least popular governor in the country, Bevin made the incendiary accusation that teachers abetted sexual assault of children through their labor action, telling local station WDRB-TV: "I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them. I guarantee you somewhere today a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were home alone because a single parent didn't have any money to take care of them."

The teachers, who were protesting cuts to their pensions as well as school privatization scams, were furious. J.P. LaVertu, a Shelby County teacher, called Bevin “a disgrace to our state." Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler said she was “appalled” by his comments. Even Republican state Sen. Max Wise said Bevin’s accusations were “reprehensible.”

And on Tuesday night, Kentucky voters showed Gov. Bevin the door. Losing a widely watched race to his Democratic opponent, Andy Beshear, Bevin proved that viscously assailing and insulting working people while throwing your arms around President Trump is a recipe for electoral disaster, even in one of the reddest states in the nation.

On Monday, Trump visited Kentucky to rally voters behind Bevin, saying, "If you lose, they're going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. This was the greatest. You can't let that happen to me!"

Despite Bevin’s refusal to concede, that defeat did indeed happen to the scandal-engulfed president. And while anger toward Trump isn’t the only reason Bevin went down in flames, turnout in some of the most progressive areas of the state soared on Tuesday, suggesting that voters fed up with a president on the verge of impeachment and a Republican Party deadset on implementing a craven anti-worker agenda fueled Beshear’s victory.    

In addition to being one of the most Republican states, Kentucky is also one of the poorest. In 2017, over 17% of state residents were living in poverty (the fourth highest rate in the country) and nearly 15% faced food insecurity (the seventh highest). A report released earlier this year shows that Kentucky is the worst state to retire in.

It was under these stark conditions that Gov. Bevin in 2018 chose to implement work requirements in order for residents to receive Medicaid, which would cut the healthcare coverage of at least 95,000 Kentuckians. When a federal court blocked the plan, Bevin pivoted to unilaterally taking away Medicaid recipients' vision and dental coverage, which impacted 460,000 people.     

Beshear has pledged to reverse these plans, protecting Medicaid coverage while strengthening the Affordable Care Act. On the issue of education, Beshear campaigned on “expanding early childhood education, ending a teacher shortage and increasing mental health services for children.” He also called for fully funding public education in the state while proposing a $2,000 pay raise for all of Kentucky’s public school teachers and making sure none make less than $40,000. As Beshear said, “We’re going to be the best administration for public education that this state has ever seen.”

Ahead of the election, Republicans attempted to paint Beshear and fellow Democrats as “socialists,” and Gov. Bevin claimed his opponent was “in line with Bernie Sanders” and “spreading his hateful class warfare and communist ideology." Sanders, for his part, said in 2016, “I understand your new governor Gov. Bevin is busy cutting healthcare and cutting education. So if you can imagine the kind of governor Gov. Bevin is, think about Bernie Sanders as a president doing exactly the opposite.”

While Beshear’s politics are far more moderate than Sanders, such attacks should make clear that Republicans will try to tar any and all Democrats as radical socialists ahead of 2020, no matter their actual platforms.

The fact that Democrats won across the country on Tuesday night, retaking the Virginia state legislature while coming up big in the Philadelphia suburbs, indicates that this red-baiting is not a winning strategy—especially considering that open democratic socialists themselves had a good night.

It’s no surprise that Gov. Bevin and his fellow Republicans would use their power to strip working people of healthcare and pensions while vilifying teachers—the vanguard of the growing working-class insurgency. But just as attempts to peg Democrats as subversive threats to American democracy have failed to protect the GOP, so too will the continued attacks on public school educators.

During their walkouts earlier this year, “Remember in November” became the teachers’ rallying cry. Tuesday’s results suggest that they meant it.     


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Marcus Yallow is no longer a student. California’s economy has collapsed, taking his parents jobs and his university tuition with it.

Thanks to his activist past, Marcus lands a job as webmaster for a muckraking politician who promises reform. Things are never simple, though: soon Marcus finds himself embroiled in lethal political intrigue and the sharp end of class warfare, American style.


The ‘quiet Australians’ that Morrison fears

Protesters blockade the IMARC mining conference in Melbourne on October 29.
November 7, 2019

It is worthwhile listening to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s speech to the Queensland Resources Council on November 1, where he rails against “progressivism” and the emergence of a “new breed of radical activism”, because it is a reminder of the parallel reality he inhabits.

In it, Morrison hypocritically describes the climate movement as “apocalyptic”, “brooking no compromise” and opposed to allowing for “alternative views”.

Yet he is the one refusing to compromise on climate action, despite more than 300,000 Australians marching on the streets as part of the September 20 Climate Strike.

And he is the one determined to ignore “alternative” points of view, starting with the scientists that make up the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It was their 2018 warning about having understated the risks from high concentrations of greenhouse gases that propelled the highly motivated and knowledgeable high school students into action through School Strike 4 Climate. 

Morrison may have used the protests at the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne at the end of October to launch his counter offensive, but it is the millennial rebels and the impact they are having on “quiet” Australians that has prompted Morrison to act. 

The PM and attorney-general have responded in the only way they know how: bringing in new laws with the hope they will silence, intimidate or bankrupt activists through ridiculously high fines and threats of jail.

The Coalition may have bitten off more than they can chew. Amending the secondary boycott provisions in Section 45DD of the Competition and Consumer Act, which currently protects consumer boycotts in relation to “environmental protection or consumer protection”, is something that a wide range of people are likely to oppose.

Yet Morrison is determined to push ahead on behalf of coal and gas corporations and their right to make profit — at any cost. 

At the same time, Morrison has attacked so-called “indulgent” businesses that refuse to deal with certain companies on environmental grounds. 

The success of the Stop Adani campaign is a formidable challenge to Morrison and the ruling class. 

Market Forces estimates that 61 businesses — including banks and insurance companies — have refused to work with Indian mining firm Adani on its Carmichael coal mine in Central Queensland.

Extreme as they are, Morrison’s efforts do not go far enough for some establishment figures. Reactionary columnist Andrew Bolt has sneered at the PM’s efforts, goading him to go full Donald Trump and dispute the fact that there even is a climate emergency.

When reactionaries are at peak hysteria, we know the climate movement is gaining traction among “quiet” Australians. This is what frightens the 1%, who would rather we focus on things other than politics. 

Since Morrison’s speech, many commentators have noted how protests, including consumer boycotts, propelled major progressive social and economic change.

But we need to understand Morrison’s speech as more than just an attack on our right to protest or the right of investors to decide where to put their cash.

It is a declaration of war — he knows what is at stake and is choosing to perpetuate the climate crisis.

We are living in a period of unprecedented challenge. Scientists have said we need to decisively decarbonise the atmosphere — and quickly — or risk a serious social, economic and environmental disaster.

Capitalism, once the basis for an unprecedented wave of creativity, is today a force for destruction. The climate crisis is just one manifestation of this. That this discussion is being had a dinner tables and bus stops is what frightens the ruling class.

They have declared a class war. We need to be ready to defend ourselves and the planet.

[Pip Hinman is an anti-coal seam gas activist and member of the Socialist Alliance.]

Protesters blockade the IMARC mining conference in Melbourne on October 29. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

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