When Tea Party Met Occupy: Stop Common Core

Rob Astorino and Zephyr Teachout don’t agree about anything, but they held a joint press conference this summer to hold hands while kicking Common Core.

From the far right, Astorino had already spelled out his objections online:

We refuse to let our children be the guinea pigs for this untested federal reach into our local community schools. Not only will Cuomo’s Common Core lead us to higher property taxes, Washington, D.C. bureaucratic oversight, and fewer enrichment classes, but it also stops our teachers from using all their skills in the classroom.

From the far left, Teachout later penned an op-ed:

In 2008 Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest men, decided that he should take charge of education policy. He promoted a single set of standards to measure our children’s achievements in school. Since then Gates has spent more than $200 million to advance this idea, called the “Common Core.”

Astorino is carrying a chocolate bar of Tea Party fears: Federal overreach! Higher taxes! Beaurocracy! Teachout comes along with a jar of Occupy peanut butter: Capitalists! Dollar signs! Conformity! Will this unlikely mix of ingredients create a lasting coalition to upend Common Core in New York?

Yeah … no. Politicians like Astorino and Teachout will use the Stop Common Core movement to make themselves look more mainstream than they really are. But the Tea Party-Entertainment complex and progressive purists won’t let their messages be diluted to suit an electoral majority. When Glenn Beck is in the game, filling movie theaters across the country to recruit footsoldiers against fascist education standards, reasonable people are no longer in control of the debate.

Rob Astorino is running on the Republican and Conservative ballot lines, but now also on one called Stop Common Core. If he were a liberal New York Republican — Rockefeller, Pataki, Giuliani — creating the Stop Common Core ballot line would be a brilliant move, reinforcing his bipartisan appeal and giving Democrats disaffected with Cuomo an escape valve on Election Day. But the rest of Astorino’s campaign is hard core Tea Party. He’s called legal abortion infanticide. He stuck up for the conservatives who tried to block gay marriage.  And he thinks your semi-automatic weapons don’t hold enough ammo. Will left-leaning Common Core opponents abandon all their other principles to vote for Rob Astorino?

Even Zephyr Teachout come Election Day won’t let this one issue get the best of her: if she’s willing to make the same pragmatic choice the rest of us have to, she’ll vote to re-elect the Governor.

Even though this political coalition has no legs, the Stop Common Core movement is not going away soon. It’s fueled by varied and legitimate concerns, then super-charged with anger, anxiety, and defensiveness about the most vulnerable things in our lives: our kids. But anyone truly concerned about the new standards and tests should be hoping the wingers — on the right and the left — stay out of it.