Not long ago, Hillary Clinton’s coronation as the Democratic presidential candidate was accepted as a given. But with an ongoing email scandal and slipping poll numbers, Clinton has been scrambling to secure endorsements anywhere she can, and the clock is ticking. In the past week, Clinton has sought to lock down pledges, endorsements, and commitments before a possible late-entry in the race from Vice President Joe Biden.
And in California, some members of local teachers unions are urging their leaders not to endorse Clinton. The National Education Association is the nation’s largest labor union, and many members are skeptical of Clinton’s ties to education reformers like famous Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad. On Thursday, October 1, the union kicked off a national leadership gathering.
According to the Los Angeles Times, California teachers are some of the most outspoken critics of a potential Clinton endorsement. In part, the resistance comes from Clinton’s ties to Broad, who has led the charge to expand charter schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Teachers unions have long been reliable supporters for the Democratic Party, and there’s no doubt Clinton is aggressively pursuing an explicit endorsement. Clinton has also been seeking pledges from Democratic supporters and fundraisers, In Nevada, a swing state, Clinton’s campaign has been trying to earn the endorsement of boxer Manny Pacquiao.
The effect of celebrity endorsements on political campaigns is controversial. In one survey, 58% of respondents said they believe celebrities influence which candidate voters support. Oprah is widely believed to have helped Barack Obama sway large numbers of supporters in 2008; however, other studies show that celebrities have little effect on voters’ support. Unions, on the other hand, have been crucial organizers for many Democratic politicians.
So far, the NEA hasn’t decided whether to throw its considerable support behind Clinton. Many local chapters of the labor union want any such decision brought before the union assembly for a vote. While union support for the Democratic establishment has been strong in the past, many teachers feel betrayed by the Obama administration, according to Pomona College professor David J. Menefee-Libey.
“There is a deep factional divide in the Democratic Party over teacher unionism,” Menefee-Libey said. “[The union] did a lot of work to elect Obama. He turned around and appointed [Education Secretary] Arne Duncan, whose approach has been deeply antagonistic to unionized teachers. It is a difficult thing for them to forget.”