2020 LAUSD School Board Elections
For The Children?
A bitter email from a former candidate highlights what happens when politics becomes about winning and losing instead of doing “good work.”
Losing an election is not easy on one’s ego. Running for office is a time-consuming, sometimes costly endeavor that requires the candidate, and often their family, to sacrifice their privacy. To make your best case to the voters and then watch the results come in and show that your best was not good enough can be soul-crushing. This is especially true if you lose sight of the reason that you ran in the first place.
Elizabeth Badger has had the experience of losing in at least four different races. She has run for positions on the LAUSD School Board (twice), Los Angeles City Council, and the California State Assembly. In the primary for the LAUSD board seat that was held on March 3, 2020, she came in third place with 26% of the vote.
Right after the conclusion of the primary, we all descended into our COVID-19 cocoons. For most of us, that election became a distant memory from a different time. However, it still seems to be very much on Badger’s mind and apparently she has entered “anger” in her journey through the five stages of grief. Over two months after the polling has concluded she sent me an email to complain bitterly about my comments about her in my endorsement of her opponent, incumbent Scott Schmerelson.
There was a time, before this election, that I considered Badger to be a friend and had talked to her regularly after we ran in the same 2015 race that resulted in Schmerelson’s election to the LAUSD School Board. During these conversations, we would often discuss our former opponent’s job performance and my frustration that he was not pushing hard enough against the charter school industry. Contrary to Badger’s recollection, my opinions would not have led to “degrading” comments as I have nothing but respect for Schmerelson. As I have expressed before, he is a really nice guy who is sometimes out of place on a board full of vultures.
Perhaps Badger would not have felt the need to lash out at me for expressing my opinion if her campaign had had more substance. She often uses the expression that she wants to “do good work”, but living up to that lofty goal requires preparation and perseverance. While her campaign focused on highlighting her perceived failures of the LAUSD, she forgot to present concrete solutions. Contrary to the assertion in her email, the “Platform” page on her web site did not actually present any issues. Similarly, her answers to my questions for her candidate profile lacked any substance. Without a concrete platform to build a movement on, her candidacy is left to be defined by a win or loss on election day.
Of course, Badger is not the first politician to be led down this road. The current occupant of the White House has no real allegiance to any political beliefs and instead has built his political career off of the hatred and fear of people disenfranchised in a world that is rapidly changing. Without the vocabulary of ideas, Trump depends on lies, insults, and puffery. He has dragged the political establishment, especially in the Republican party, down into the gutter with him.
Notice that with Trump, everything is about “winning” in some way. He claims to have had the biggest inaugural crowd, he is the most mistreated president and the economy is the best it has ever been. This all stems from the fact that he has an inability to articulate political ideas, never mind explaining how his actions have improved people’s lives. He is the king of branding, and branding is all about how a customer feels, not an intellectual debate.
The Badger that I know personally is better than bitter emails or alleging that her opponent does not care about the children. Should she ever run for office again she needs to drop these Trump-like crutches and take deep dives into the issues. Her campaign would then really make things better for the children, no matter what the outcome. This would be doing “good work.”
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.