If you’ve missed the growing backlash against the Common Core Standards education initiative, rapidly becoming a signature issue for “true conservatives” (though many opponents of Clinton-Bush-Obama-era “education reform” on the Left strongly share the Right’s antipathy to Common Core), Jonathan Martin has a decent summary of the recent politics of the issue for the New York Times.
Along with business leaders, Republican governors probably had more to do with the development of Common Core Standards than any other single category of people. The latest batch of GOP governors now seems to be abandoning it rapidly, led, of course, by the consummate opportunist Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who would probably eat a heaping plate of his own words at one sitting if it gave him traction for a 2016 presidential bid.
I recently gave Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) credit for coming up with the dumb but politically effective tactic of comparing Common Core to Obamacare. But a Google search indicates that the “ObamaCore” meme goes back at least until last fall, when education wonks associated with the American Enterprise Institute were making the comparison.
But whereas Republican Common Core opponents typically blame the Obama administration for promoting the initiative via generous federal grant support, there’s little question their real targets are the “Establishment Republicans” and chamber of commerce types on their own side of the barricades who have “betrayed” local-control-of-education advocates. And it’s especially convenient that Jeb Bush (joined to a lesser degree by Chris Christie) is the single most prominent Common Core supporter in the ranks of nationally visible GOP pols.
MoJo’s Tim Murphy penned a perceptive article late last week on the problem the conservative backlash to Common Core poses to any Bush candidacy in 2016, which may even exceed Mitt Romney’s “ObamneyCare” problem in 2012:
If Bush runs, he could take comfort in the example of past candidates who managed to capture the nomination despite being on the wrong side of an issue causing fits among the grassroots. Building the blueprint for the Affordable Care Act didn’t prevent former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney from becoming the party’s nominee in 2012. But Romney could at least draw offer an alibi, however shaky, that health care reform was a state issue. Bush so far is unrepentant in his backing of Common Core, or in his fundamental belief in national education standards.
More to the point, Romney got around his health policy record in Massachusetts by consistently promising to kill Obamacare at the federal level. Emulating that maneuver would at a minimum require Bush to pledge to kill federal support for Common Core. He’s shown no signs of willingness to go there. He’s more likely to accuse Common Core opponents in his own party of forming an unholy alliance with teachers unions (which typically have supported Common Core in theory but are increasingly inclined to fight its implementation) and high-stakes-testing opponents on the left–which will, of course, infuriate them.
If, as we have often heard, Jeb’s ambivalent at best about running for president and inheriting a generation of conservative hostility to his familial tribe, this issue could be the tipping point that convinces him to demur. If I’m wrong about that, the temptation of other ’16 wannabees to use Common Core as a club with which to beat the Floridian into submission will only grow stronger as the backlash builds.