This is not something you see everyday. CNN contributor and black radio talk show host Roland Martin, a staunch Obama supporter, says that McCain is right and his guy is wrong on school vouchers:
But part of the reason why vouchers have been denounced and dismissed is because Democrats have been far too obstinate on the issue, and have not listened to their constituents, especially African-Americans, who overwhelmingly support vouchers.
There is no doubt that on this issue, McCain has it right and Obama has it wrong.
The fundamental problem with the voucher debate is that it is always seen as an either/or proposition. For Republicans, it is the panacea to all the educational woes, and that is nonsensical. For Democrats, it is something that will destroy public education, and that too is a bunch of crap. ...
It is unconscionable to ask a parent to watch as his child is stuck in a failing school or district, and ask him to bank on a politician coming up with more funds to improve the situation. Fine, call vouchers a short-term solution to a long-term problem, but I'd rather have a child getting the best education -- now -- rather than having to hope and pray down the line.
This is a blast from the past. Vouchers is not an issue we have heard much of since President Bush surrendered them to get an education bill out of Ted Kennedy in 2001.
In many ways, this symbolizes how the GOP has become intellectually threadbare since the '90s. Back then, journals like Policy Review used to advance forward thinking arguments for school and housing vouchers and personal Social Security accounts. They articulated conservative solutions for those at the very bottom of our society, without descending into "compassionate conservative" mush. There was a vibrant political and intellectual scene around these types of solutions led by Jack Kemp, Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler (R), Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist (D), and Penn professor John DiIulio. To some extent, this scene got scrambled by the emphasis on the war. Kemp was an Islamophile and so was marginalized post-9/11, while Schundler tried to get himself elected Governor of New Jersey as a social conservative, and DiIulio took over the faith based office at the White House only to become disillusioned when this didn't turn out to be new Administration's #1 priority.
Is it time for a revival of a GOP urban agenda starting with vouchers? Where we went wrong the first time is pinning so much on the utilitarian benefits (reciting statistics about Catholic school performance) which left us open to the teachers' unions nitpicking us to death. We should have been making an argument from the standpoint of freedom and dignity. Parents have a right to choose regardless of whether it improves their kids' education a lot, a little, or not at all. It's their choice.