The Tribune‘s editors were not amused at being treated like fools, and they called out the department and other voucher opponents on their double talk. So did the editors of the Washington Post. (Credit where it’s due — on this story, the Post‘s editors have been rock solid from day one, calling shenanigans on the department’s behavior even before the story was hot.)
Pretending to do one thing in front of the cameras while secretly doing the exact opposite in smoke-filled rooms may produce a victory for voucher opponents in D.C. this year, but make no mistake. Vouchers are losing because they’re winning. That is, they’re losing in the short term because they’re winning in the long term.
For five years now, the voucher movement has been getting steadily stronger and winning a long string of legislative victories nationwide. Last year was a great year for school choice — three new programs were created and two were expanded. Since 2004, twelve new school choice programs have been created — that’s half of all the existing programs. And older programs have been consistently expanding.
That’s why the hypocrisy and double-dealing of voucher opponents is really a result of the movement’s extraordinary success. The stronger the voucher movement gets, the more its opponents must hide their shenanigans from public view in order to win any battles at all.
Five years ago, no politician who wanted to oppose vouchers would say he was “undecided” while doing his dirty work off camera. They just said they were against vouchers and fought to stop them right out in the open. Things are different now.
Vouchers may lose in D.C., but that doesn’t mean they’re not winning in the long term. Every successful movement loses some battles. Indeed, the more important the cause, the more we should expect the entrenched interests of the status quo to invest in fighting it off. That will inevitably mean some setbacks alongside the victories.
Where would we be today if Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham jail had just said, “Well, here I am in jail — I guess I’ve lost the fight”? King knew he wasn’t in jail because he was losing. He was in jail because he was winning.
And the cowards who put him in jail knew it just as well as he did.