Watch the debate with my opponent; and let’s give a Civics lesson to Jack Harrell and Jeff Chamberlain

Here is the excellent and clarifying Lakeland Kiwanis School Board Debate that occurred today at noon. I’d urge you to watch it and read the essay that follows. The debate actually starts at about 10:00. Click the picture below to access.

Everyone has a place in our Civics

Just days after the 2016 election, I wrote an article called “The wages of Common Core — and a message for Townsend/Trump and Townsend/Hillary voters.” You can read it at that link. I’m quite proud of it. It explained the failures of Common Core; and I was trying to talk to all sides in the presidential campaign and assure everyone that they have a place in my American civic vision as an elected School Board member. It opened like this:

Common Core, teacher abuse, and broken standardized testing elected Donald Trump. They elected Billy Townsend, too. I believe nothing mattered more to the entire presidential campaign than Donald Trump’s brutal primary defeat of Jeb Bush using Common Core. And nothing mattered more to mine.

It ended with this summary of my campaign and victory:

Sixty percent of Polk County voters chose the least cynical campaign ever run in this place. We won in every community, among every race, class, and achievement level. Every precinct but one. That’s what a humane future can look like if we fight for it. And make no mistake, humanity has to be fought for one human at a time. It does not emerge from spreadsheet cells. I would love for Polk’s political and business establishment to join us.

Renewing a real Civics for real people

As is now clear, Polk’s political and business establishment has generally declined my invitation to treat your children like human beings.

And rather than study the life and death issues all school board members face today, my opponent and his supporters have been trolling this four-year-old essay and others for nuggets. They believe they found a winner in the following passage. Note the three words in bold.

Whatever you think of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the people who supported and worked and voted for them thought they were playing by the American rules. They acted in good faith. Do the work, win the votes, influence the direction of the country, negotiate productively with the opposition, appoint the Supreme Court, etc. That’s what they teach you in civics.

If we’re honest about the last eight years, we’ve learned that civics is crap. There are no rules in American politics but winning and losing. I had largely come to that conclusion on my own by studying American history closely. But the Obama and Trump administrations have rather confirmed it for many other people. There are only levers of power, how you get them, and what you do with them.

Realizing that with Tuesday night’s brutal abruptness stings. It stings really, really bad. For a lot of people, particularly young, idealistic, kind people, it may never stop stinging.

I saw U.S Congressman Dennis Ross at an event the other night. He called me out by name in a conciliatory way. I appreciate it. He called for unity, etc. I saw he did so again in a recent op-ed. But he made it pretty clear that the burden of unity falls on the defeated in his world. I think the burden of unity should fall on the powerful as well.

Quite obviously, I was pointing out that American Civics, as taught, has been abandoned by people of power and wealth. I was saying we need to renew it as a community and country. My entire campaign, then and now, is an idealistic effort to renew American Civics and make it meaningful. That’s also probably the number one reason Leadership Club so fears and loathes our movement. I wish they didn’t. It would be easier to renew Civics with their help.

Alas, a rich guy named Jeff Chamberlain and a rich guy named Jack Harrell are spending a combined $11,000 on a some sort of shadow money campaign under the name “Citizens for Polk Education.” They’ve put that disembodied “civics is crap” phrase onto some kind of meme with a bunch of insults; and they’re trying to Instagram people with it, or whatever.

I do not know either one of those guys. I don’t think I’ve ever met either one of them. They’ve never tried to contact me with any sort of education concern — or any other concern. My phone number is 863-209-4037, fellas.

But they really should both be ashamed.

A time for serious people, not petty self-interest

This is a time for serious people to consider deadly serious matters. Instead, Harrell and Chamberlain are spending $11,000 on a cheap, dishonest stunt they hope will replace me with a person completely unprepared to make life and death decisions about your kids and your loved ones who work in schools or hospitals. Go watch the debate if you disagree with my take on the preparation. Make your own decision.

I would be embarrassed to be associated with this silly thing, if I were Chamberlain and Harrell. But we’re different people.

Anyway, I just want you all to know where my opponent and his “Leadership Club” supporters are putting their time and energy. It’s not in thinking about your child or loved one’s safety. It’s not in trying to improve your child or loved one’s experience in the school district. It’s in trolling my writing so they can misrepresent it to the public. So they can lie to the public about who I am and who you are, if you support me.

I don’t respect power, just because it’s powerful. But I do acknowledge power. Perhaps goofy, blatantly twisted digital memes will erase our movement from the School Board; perhaps not. It didn’t work in 2016; but maybe 2020 is different. When you insist on better behavior from power; there’s a always a chance of losing. Period. Always. I don’t fear losing; but I do fear dishonor. That’s why I don’t do silly and dishonest stuff like this.

Whatever happens, remember what Jeff Chamberlain and Jack Harrell chose to do with their spare change at this moment of great testing, great stress, and great community peril. It says much about them; and I’m honored that they oppose me.

But if they ever discover their best selves, they will be welcome to join us — as is everybody else. Always. That’s the essence of our Civics; and it isn’t crap.