If the Republicans make the mistake of nominating a pro-Common Core candidate to run for president in 2016, they’ll be positioning themselves to lose. It will be disastrous for the Republican Party and for the country, because we could very likely end up with Hillary Clinton as our next president. Both Jeb Bush and John Kasich — enthusiastic supporters of the top-down, federally influenced state education standards — are destined to go down with the Common Core ship and they’ll take the GOP with them if either one is at the top of the ticket in 2016.
Does that sound extreme? I think the numbers and the anecdotal evidence are on my side. Consider that there are some 50 million children enrolled in public schools in the United States, plus another 5 million who attend private schools, most of which are following the Common Core standards. A Gallup survey of parents with kids in public schools found that 35% view the standards unfavorably — and 18% have a “very negative” view of them. Even allowing that many families have more than one child in school, it’s still likely that a million parents think the standards are bad and probably at least half a million think they’re really bad. Add to that the grandparents and friends of the family who are hearing about it second hand and you’ve got a giant pool of Americans — all potential voters — who don’t like Common Core.
How many of those are swing voters who don’t normally care about politics — individuals who don’t identify themselves with Rs or Ds but will show up to the polls to vote for a particular issue or for the candidate who says he or she will stand up for their kids? According to a University of Connecticut poll conducted last year, two-thirds of independents think national standards are a bad policy. Worse (if you’re a pro-Common Core candidate), 43% of voters in Ohio (the swing state on steroids) oppose the standards while only 60% of Democrats like it. And the numbers are going in the wrong direction for supporters of Common Core.
Anecdotally, I see the antipathy toward Common Core all the time. I not only hear the stories directly from parents, I also overhear them talking about it at the beauty shop and while standing in line at the market. Spend some time with parents whose kids attend public school and you’ll hear their Common Core horror stories.
This week I was at a Cleveland studio, recording a new PJTV segment talking about education and school choice. After we recorded the segment, one of the technicians made a beeline for me because he wanted to tell me about how Common Core is destroying his 5th grade daughter’s school. He said she is coming home from school with homework he can neither understand nor explain, even though he is a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree. “And there’s way too much high stakes testing,” he told me. He’s obviously an intelligent guy who loves his kids, but his frustration was evident. From our brief conversation, he didn’t strike me as someone who cares much about whether someone is a Republican or a Democrat, but he told me there is no way he could ever vote for Governor Kasich because of his support for Common Core.
In 1996 Bill Clinton aggressively pursued the Soccer Mom vote, described in the Wall Street Journal that year as “the overburdened middle income working mother who ferries her kids from soccer practice to scouts to school.” They were a powerful swing vote and they supported Clinton over Dole by a margin of 53 to 39.
Common Core Moms are the new Soccer Moms. These are the moms — and dads — who show up to vote on election day not caring a whit about Republicans or Democrats. They say things like, “I hate both parties” and “they’re all crooks.” They’re just trying to make a living and maybe unwind with ESPN or a little reality TV after a long day at work. Their lives revolve around their families — soccer practice, math homework, and who their kids’ teachers will be next year. Three words define their feelings about Common Core: Sick. And. Tired.
If Republicans nominate a pro-Common Core candidate, it would be the biggest GOP political blunder since George H.W. Bush uttered the words, “Read my lips. No new taxes.” In 2016, as with most elections, a large percentage of deeply entrenched Republicans and Democrats will vote along party lines. But that still leaves a pool of persuadable voters up for grabs. Let’s hope Republicans don’t give up the biggest populist issue of the election cycle and leave hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — of Common Core votes on the table.