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OP-ED | A Woman Without A Party

by Sarah Darer Littman | May 3, 2013 5:30am
(18) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education, Opinion, Bridgeport

When my son registered to vote two years ago this month, he wanted to register unaffiliated. “Both parties are just corporate shills,” he said.

I had a hard time disagreeing with that point of view, but I talked him out of it with the same words my father told me thirty years earlier, when I was a new voter: “You should always join a party in a closed primary state so you can vote in a primary.”

My son listened to me, as I listened to Dad. So he was shocked when I told him that I’d gone to Town Hall this week and changed my registration from Democrat to Unaffliated in the final stage of my journey to disgust and disillusionment with the two party system.

“Welcome to my world,” he said.

At 18, I was a registered Republican. At 36, I became a Democrat. And now, as a woman of a certain age, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Attorney General George Jepsen, and their BFF Arne Duncan, have persuaded me to join the fastest growing voter group in both Connecticut and the country — the Unaffiliated.

As readers of my columns will know, public education is a subject of great passion for me. My grandfather was born on the Lower East Side, the first U.S. born child of Jewish immigrants from Poland. He went through the New York public school system, went to law school, became the Managing Director of United Artists and President of 20th Century Fox International. He epitomized the American Dream, and public education made it possible. Every child deserves that possibility.

I, too, owe much of my success to public schools. True, I spent five years at a private school in the United Kingdom, but for most of my education I attended public schools in Stamford. Thanks to the wonderful teachers I had at Westhill High School, I found myself just as well prepared for my undergraduate education at Duke as any of my classmates who had graduated from exclusive private schools. The fact that I obtained my bachelors degree with honors attests to that.

These days the state Department of Education judges Westhill as a failing school. Much of the time my classmates and I spent analyzing books and using critical thinking skills to write papers, is instead used for test prep and filling in Scantron bubbles. Is it any wonder that more students need remedial writing help when they enter higher education? My daughter read and analyzed a third fewer books in 10th grade honors English than I did 30 years before, hardly surprising when part of February and most of March is lost to CAPT prep and testing. With the implementation of the Common Core curriculum this will only get worse. How is this progress?

I’ve been growing disaffected with the Democratic Party for a while now, but watching Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel, and the Malloy administration work with anti-democratic forces and Republicans to systematically dismantle public education in this country has left me a woman without a party.

It’s not just the policy that has led me to join the Unaffiliated . . .

It’s the method.

It’s the lack of transparency.

It’s the repeated refusal or delay to comply with FOI requests.

It’s the support for mayoral control instead of a democratically elected Board of Education.

It’s the state Democratic Party and the Attorney General choosing to ignore the cesspit of corruption in Bridgeport because votes there are key to winning the 4th Congressional District.

There’s more:

It’s the state Board of Education and the legislature creating loopholes for Bridgeport, while students in Bridgeport continue to suffer.

It’s because a judge had to dismiss the portion of the lawsuit brought against Stefan Pryor and Paul Vallas because the state marshal hired to serve notice didn’t serve them to Commissioner Pryor correctly.

It’s because that state marshal, Charles Valentino, faces possible perjury charges for his testimony under oath related to how he served the documents. And it’s because it doesn’t smell right when that same marshal, Charles Valentino, happens to have been a member of the charter commission appointed by Mayor Bill Finch during Finch’s failed attempt to revise the Bridgeport charter to allow more mayoral control of the school board.

One of the books that has most influenced me was one I read in that 10th grade honors English class, George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM. The reason I’ve become unaffiliated is because as I looked from one party to the other on education, “already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.

———

EDITOR’S NOTE: Based on the dismissal of the case against Commissioner Pryor, Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ordered Bridgeport State’s Attorney John Smriga to look into the allegation of perjury regarding State Marshal Charles Valentino. Attorney General George Jepsen’s office reminded us that they only deal with civil matters and are not empowered to investigate criminal matters such as municipal corruption or allegations of perjury.

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(18) Comments

posted by: foofoo | May 3, 2013  8:29am

sarah, sorry to here about your un-affiliation, but you didn’t leave either party. they BOTH left you (and everyone else), when they stopped serving the people that put them into office. we need politicians that are honest and realistic about fixing our problems, but all we get are dirtbags that are hell bent on solving things by either spending more money, putting it off until they retire, or as most do, both. and you are correct in stating you can’t tell them apart, R or D means the same to me.

posted by: brutus2011 | May 3, 2013  7:30pm

brutus2011

The education deformers here in Ct. and elsewhere have been on a full court press to influence public opinion to favor privatization of public education.

They could not quite privatize social security not too long ago, remember?

This time they are not going to lose the prize (our tax dollars) because of an incomplete public opinion strategy.

We the people need to wake up and smell the cooking of our own asses.

Go to your library or to a search engine and read what Harold M. Hyman or Walter Lippmann or even Alexis deTocqueville said about the dangers of American public opinion.

No, it is not steak on the grill you smell, it is your butt.

And the money boys, and girls, are turning up the heat.

posted by: JusticePartyCT | May 3, 2013  7:42pm

Sarah, thank you for writing this article. I found myself nodding my head as I read your words. In fact, I could have written the ‘brother’ version of this article called ‘A Man Without a Party.’ I could have, but I have found one; at last. I too started off as a Republican in high school. Over the years, I voted for Democrats and the occasional independent, like Ross Perot. During the election of 2012, I felt as your son in that both parties are just corporate shills. Not only are they beholden to their lobbyist, but their parties have elected politicians that can no longer work together for the common good of the country. We can see this manifest itself in the ‘kick the can down the road’ strategy as we go from one financial crisis to another. With redistricting across America, I’m afraid the next wave of Democrats and Republicans will be even more extreme (on the left and on the right) and our system will enter more gridlock. Under those conditions, the country will suffer economically, socially and environmentally. You are not alone as an unaffiliated, as I believe 54% of the voters in Connecticut are not registered with a political party. What has led to this situation? Beyond the money component, what is clear is the lack of ‘true’ competition to the Democrats and Republicans. Looking at our economic system, it is based on competition. Competition creates new products, forces companies to become attuned to their customers, removes in-efficient brands. But competition does something else, it makes the market strive for improvements. The Democrats and the Republicans have altered our political system in such a way, that the barrier to entry is very great. Thus, we have the situation of small quirky parties that appeal to a small segment of voters or ‘rubber-stamp’ parties that simply cross-endorse but don’t fundamentally offer a different vision. Meanwhile, the two major parties have become complacent in their lack of engagement with common citizens as they are forever in ‘campaign mode.’ Imagine if you could only buy a mobile phone from ATT & Verizon? Think how Apple’s battle with Microsoft made both companies (usually) offer better and better operating systems. In the case of broadband, we have typically two companies offering this service to US homes. The result? Asia and Europe lead in their broadband speed and prices. So fundamentally, the way forward is to change our political system to allow for more voices to be heard. To be continued…

posted by: JusticePartyCT | May 3, 2013  7:43pm

Hello again, the system wouldn’t accept my complete reply… part 2…
This in turn will force the GOP and Democrats to truly listen to the people and work for the good of the country. I don’t mean small gestures that the two parties offer to independent parties, but meaningful changes. Allow them to compete under the SAME RULES as the two major parties and let’s see what will occur! On the topic of education, this too is close to my heart having spent six years in the education field while working in Japan. As the first person in an immigrant family to go to college, I understand what public schools and a low-cost, high quality college education can do for an individual. You say you are a woman without a party, however, there is in fact a party for you and the 54% of voters in Connecticut to join and help grow—the Justice Party of Connecticut (http://www.justicepartyct.org). We are affiliated with the Justice Party which was founded in 2011. Having run Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, as our presidential candidate in 2012, we are growing quickly across the country. If you support education, have a listen to Rocky speak about education in America. You will feel, ‘I have found my party.’ You mentioned transparency. It is a cornerstone of our core values. We will work endlessly for transparency, open government and returning the voice of Americans. A voice that has been taken away by PACs, Dark Money, Lobbyist, Billionaires and Wall Street. Voters across America and in Connecticut can keep jumping from the Democrats to the Republicans and vote for the lesser evil. Or, as many do, simply give up on our democracy. However, I hope they will do as I have done; refuse the plutocracy that is forcing our country into ruin and join together to create a TRUE broad-based alternative. We need men and women like you to become the founding fathers AND MOTHERS in creating a new party for WE THE PEOPLE. Finally, I will say that your young son has a great stake in this country. His generation will feel the full impact of student debt, lack of investment in our infrastructure, disparity of wealth, out of control health care cost, weakness in our science and math education, and of course, our disregard of the climate crisis. I urge him not to give up and run for office as a Justice Party candidate. We don’t need millionaires, lawyers, CEOs or career politicians to solve our problems; we need common sense everyday Americans to protect our republic and liberties. I want to thank you again for writing this article, it gives me renewed faith that Connecticut citizens indeed want better than the status-quo. Carlos Camacho, Justice Party of Connecticut.

posted by: Castles Burning | May 3, 2013  10:11pm

I am sorry as I am sure that this was not a decision that you made lightly and besides the liberation, there is loss.

I loved your emphasis on METHOD as well as policy.  The harm that is being done is so egregious.  Thanks for taking a stand and publicizing your decision so that others might understand the seriousness and consider actions of their own.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | May 4, 2013  11:19am

There is, indeed, loss and sadness, and it was not a decision made lightly. I wish my father were not in the grips of Alzheimer’s so I could talk it through with him, even if we might end up arguing about my decisions, as we sometimes (more often in the later years) did. I think the biggest sense of loss is my belief and pride in our democratic system. As an American living abroad, I always felt that no matter what problems I could see looking at our country from the outside in - and there were many - I still retained a fundamental belief in our tripartite system of government. Now, between executive power grabs, the Citizen United decision, which has resulted in an even more bought Congress, and what appears to be unethical politicization of Supreme Court justices, I have lost faith in that, too. My only faith now is in individuals, no matter what their party.

posted by: Commuter | May 4, 2013  5:55pm

First Lee Whitnum and now Sarah Littman. Maybe there is hope for the Democratic Party.

posted by: Reasonable | May 4, 2013  7:40pm

Sarah: Both parties are corrupt—and our electd congressmen have buried this country in massive debt, under the devious direction of the White House.  Congressmen won’t accept Medicaire for their medical coverage—and will only use an elite med plan designed for their own congressional country club—while voting in a bankruptcy driven ObamaCare fraud coverage for the their constituents.  If anyone considers our congressmen to be friends—they don’t need any enemies.  Our Washinton elected officials—led by Pres. Barack Obama have doubled out national debt in the past four years.  They should all be “tarred and feathered” and run out of Washington.  It’s later than we think.  Let’s stop rewarding the people who got us into this fiscal burial. None of these politicians will tell us the truth about the real scope of our national delemna—by their control of the Washington political propaganda machines—telling us only what they want us to hear.  I credit Saran Darer Littman for seeing the light—and telling it like it is.  To many of us have sold our soul to one political party ot the other—when we should only sell our soul to the Lord.

posted by: RichO | May 4, 2013  8:43pm

I recently did the same thing - never would have believed I would do this but I am so fustrated by state and federal politicans that I can no longer be affiliated with either party.

posted by: William Jenkins | May 5, 2013  4:56am

Happy 50th!

posted by: Not Born Yesterday | May 5, 2013  1:03pm

In the wise words of a reader earlier today on readersupportednews.org—“Republicans have not given up on destroying everything republican about the U.S….Welcome to the Democratic Party supported modern GOP.”  So, Sarah, your choice to become “Unaffiliated” is the RIGHT CHOICE and a brave action in defense of public education that all of us parents and educators and enlightened voters ought to be taking.  Question is, will we have the courage NOT to vote for Malloy come Nov 2014 when his opponent is bound to stand even more radically for the Obama/Duncan/Malloy/Pryor school privatization and teacher-punitive, test-crazed actions?

posted by: RJEastHartford | May 5, 2013  5:55pm

Just further evidence of the influence of corporate and private equity money.
These entities are seeking additional subsidies from the government in the form of privatization, direct cash subsidizes much like Medicare dollars to Insurance companies and Quantitative Easing (cash) to money center banks that is invested elsewhere…check out their stock value lately?  Clearly it is hard for a Democrat to govern with this onslaught of money and influence. However, a private equity individual like Tom Foley is in politics for just this reason, further enriching investors and gaining influence. What ever is worth doing is worth doing for money! Meanwhile, a $8.50 minimum wage, no healthcare, part-time hours, laid off as profits soar, that is business friendly.

posted by: saramerica | May 6, 2013  6:49am

saramerica

Mr. Jenkins, if you think pointing out my age bothers me, I celebrated with a karaoke party and by finally, last year, purchasing the convertible I’ve wanted since I was a teenager. 50 is just fine by me. I’m very happy with where I am in my life and extremely proud of what I have overcome to get here and achieve the things I have.

posted by: Chucky_Dee | May 6, 2013  8:44am

I really LOVE that you mention “lack of transparency” since obviously the things our “elected officials” do once they are elected probably IS criminal - literally! if we knew BUT I would suggest that the ‘transparency’ of some of the things we find out is EXACTLY what they fear - transparency would be FINE with them IF they CONTROLLED it !

posted by: ALD | May 6, 2013  8:18pm

Sarah,  I can proudly tell you I am 15 years older than you, and went through my fair share of Porsches along the way to help me deal with that fact!! grin

I know you are a passionate supporter of public education. You make mention several times in this piece of 10th grade Honor’s English classes that first you, and latter your daughter attended.

I too read Animal Farm in 10th grade English class, many years before you.  Along with countless works of Shakespeare, and many other writers, and poets.  I also learned how to spell, diagram sentences, and speak in complete sentences.
  It seems a major difference between you, your daughter, and me is that I never attended any honors English classes. What I was taught 15 years before you was all just normal run of the mill average College Prep stuff. It was taught to me by caring teachers in what since has become one of the poorest towns in the state, Meriden CT.  Not something I then needed to attend an Honors English class to experience.

Do you like me get upset when so many school days are called off based on a weather forecast? Are you at all upset when an inch of snow requires a 90 minute delay to the start of the school day? 
 
Does it bother you when these days what used to be a normal 5 day school week is more the exception than the rule?  Do you ever wonder how is it possible to generate any sort of learning atmosphere when there are so many interruptions to the school week? Countless holidays, snow days, late openings, early closings, needless vacation weeks, etc.

Does it bother you like me,when it comes time to make up days lost during the year, vacation time is more important to many parents, and even many teachers?

Does it make sense to claim we need to spend more on education, yet when it comes time to make up all the hours lost during the year no one involved, from the administrations, to the teachers, to the students, can find the time to do that?

To me there is little difference between what I point out and your sudden realization that we are surrounded by a culture of failure. From our politicians, here in ultra violet CT, where Democrats expect to be rubber stamped back for life, to our school systems who know that when dollars get tight the mere mention of cutting a football program solves everything. 

With all due respect, you have only taken a small first step in changing from Democrat to Unaffiliated…. The next step is a much bigger step, demanding actual results…....... We don’t all have to be Paul Tudor Jones to demand positive results, we just have to stop rubber stamping failure because party affiliation is more important.

posted by: ConnVoter | May 7, 2013  9:13am

Sarah, lumping all members/candidates of a party into a single stereotypical characterization of that party is as wrong as saying, “whites ____,” “blacks ____,” “men ____” or “women _____.”  Our government is dysfunctional because the people running it are not good at what they are doing - not because a single party is collectively good or bad.  If you want better government, elect better leaders.  We’re in a terrible rut in Connecticut, and it shows in our tax rates, our job numbers and our dropping quality of life.  You should consider running.

posted by: Reasonable | May 7, 2013  3:20pm

Sarah:  Since you took the Democratic Party off of your back—I’m glad you now can now say that you are feeling good about youself.
“You took a dead-weight horse off of your shoulders.”

posted by: Reasonable | May 8, 2013  9:46am

Sarah: Correction.  ‘You took a dead-weight donkey off of your back.”  Because of your strong religious Democratic background—you were never inclined to carry a dead-weight Republican elephant. As an Independent—I believe you still would have voted for Obama—as you were brought up to vote for a Democrat. Changing your party affiliation—does not change your matching DNA.  You are still the same Sarah Darer Littman—that took 50 years to mold.
I like you anyway Sarah—“as you are an admirable gutsy person—steadfast in her way!”