January 18, 2005


The Chase is On (Susan Estrich, JANUARY 14, 2005)

If you're wondering why the Democratic Party is in trouble, you need look no further than Sacramento, Calif., where for the first time since the new governor took office, Democratic legislators have rejected a Schwarzenegger appointee. [...]

Reed Hastings is one of the leading Democrats in Silicon Valley and one of its strongest supporters of public schools. He was a major donor to Democrat Gray Davis, who first appointed him, and to fellow Democrats.

"I'm ashamed today to be a Democrat, to have to come up here to convince Democrats that this is a good thing," my friend Steve Barr, the president of Green Dot Public Schools, one of the most successful charter school groups in California, said. Steve was one of the founders of Rock-the-Vote and has worked at the highest levels of Democratic politics for 20 years. He went to Sacramento to testify for Reed. It didn't matter. The Democrats had already decided at their caucus to oppose him. First, they delayed confirmation hearings. Then, yesterday, the Rules committee voted along party lines to kill the nomination.

I met Hastings a few years ago at an event of Steve's and was immediately impressed. He is the gazillionaire founder of Netflix, the DVD-by-mail system. But unlike much of Silicon Valley, he is a passionate Democrat, and his issue is public education. He has twice served as president of the State Board of Education. The idea that Democrats could reject him had me checking the local headlines this morning twice, to make sure that this wasn't some joke edition. Have these people lost their minds? This is the most talented guy on the team, not to mention that he's responsible for about $15 million to Democratic campaigns in the last couple of cycles.

Then I got it. Cut to the chase.

This isn't about qualifications or performance. So what if he killed himself for the last five years working on the Board of Education, running all over the state encouraging charter schools, using his own money when necessary to help provide start-up funds, while running a multimillion dollar business as his day job?

He failed the bilingual education litmus test.

Apparently only Democrats who aren't in office can talk openly about the Party's problems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 18, 2005 6:59 AM

What's worse for the Democrats is they're killing the nomination only to satisfy the Latino activists and teachers union folks who fear the loss of the extra bilingual ed teacher stipends. Poll the Hispanic families in California whose children would be targeted by the program, and the majority would be opposed to ghettoizing their kids away from where they'll have to be in order to compete in the main part of American society.

Posted by: John at January 18, 2005 9:32 AM

I am a founding Board Member of Green Dot, which Estrich mentions in the article and which OJ has featured here before as a cutting-edge leader in the Charter School game. Hastings has been a great supporter of Charter schools, which he sees as a great way of providing the competition traditional public schools need to get their acts together. My good friend Steve Barr is right: it's a sad day for Democrats in Cal-ee-foe-nee-ya.

Posted by: Foos at January 18, 2005 10:10 AM

Death Wish

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 18, 2005 6:36 PM