James Coburn The Edmond Sun
EDMOND — A local group to promote progressive issues and candidates has formed as a response to the Nov. 2 general election of Republican conservatives to national and statewide office.
The Brennan Society is growing, with 95 people having attended at least one meeting in the past few months, said Tom Guild, one of the group’s founders.
“We want to be nonpartisan; we want to go for the candidates that are progressive and not necessarily based on the party label,” said Guild, D-Edmond.
Guild taught political science and legal studies for 27 years at the University of Central Oklahoma, where he was given the title of professor emeritus by the board of regents. In 2010 he was a primary election candidate for the 5th Congressional District.
Brennan Society members are inspired by what the late Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court William Brennan did for racial justice, one-man-one-vote, women’s rights and the right to privacy, Guild said. Brennan was on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1956 to 1990. He died in 1997 and was known for his progressive views against the death penalty and for abortion rights.
Guild noted that the state Legislature recently approved legislation to make it easier for school districts to terminate non-performing teachers by softening due process rights for a hearing, Guild said. House Bill 1380 was authored by state Rep. Corey Holland, R-Marlow, and state Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville.
He said due process by the 14th Amendment is important. Administrators should have been doing their jobs of documenting defective work by teachers, Guild said.
“I don’t think if you’re eliminating a teacher for whatever those political reasons are, that’s going to benefit the students in the classroom,” Guild said. “If a teacher is not performing and you can prove that, you can remove them and have been able to remove them for decades.”
Brennan Society member LaDonna Hunt said she has always been an advocate for quality public education. Early childhood education is not a priority of the state Republican Legislature, said Hunt, a retired elementary school teacher.
“I’m concerned about vouchers and what that’s going to do with public education,” Hunt said.
The Brennan Society by consensus agrees government should provide a quality education for all people to compete with other emerging economies. Congressional Republicans have proposed cuts in the nation’s Head Start program which helps children from poor families get a more equitable start in public schools, Guild said.
He pointed out that a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 56 percent of Americans find cuts to Head Start programs unacceptable.
“Seventy-seven percent say cuts to primary and secondary education are unacceptable,” Guild continued.
The same poll shows that the Republican sweep of the U.S. House of Representatives was based on the belief they were going to create jobs. Guild said it’s interesting that 56 percent of Americans questioned in the poll rated job creation and economic growth a No. 1 priority, compared to the 40 percent who rated deficit reduction as the nation’s top priority.
“I haven’t seen any evidence that they’re creating any jobs or that’s a high priority,” Guild said. “They’re talking about cutting spending.”
More Americans — 51 percent to 46 percent — say the government should be doing more instead of the government is involved in too many things, according to the poll. The majority of Americans want government to be helpful, Guild said.
Caution urged against privatizing
Social Security, Medicare
Brennan Society members are troubled by proposed cuts in social programs. Guild criticized 5th District U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Edmond, for wanting to privatize Social Security and Medicare. Guild pointed out the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll revealed 49 percent of Americans said cuts to Social Security are not needed, while 22 percent said cuts are needed.
Guild said transforming the system for individuals to own would damage Social Security funding because individuals could opt out of making Social Security contributions.
“It undermines the stability of the greatest social program that’s ever been instituted.”
Lankford told The Edmond Sun in January that several options are on the table to consider. One option is to begin shifting Medicare to the private sector, he said. An insurance formula for Medicare could be created for the future of younger Americans. Users would receive an insurance stipend to purchase private insurance, Lankford said.
“Instead of saying, ‘Here’s your Medicare plan.’ To say, ‘Here’s a thousand companies. Go with one of those,’” he explained.
His preference for reforming Social Security would be to gradually transform the system into an account for individuals to own.
“Right now if you put money into Social Security for 40 years of work and then you die at 63 years old — there’s zero,” he said. “You’re not passing anything down to the next generation. To me that’s inconsistent with basic values.”
Lankford said he and Guild were part of the same debate when they ran for Congress.
“Tom is a good man who knows there are no easy answers to stabilize Social Security and Medicare,” Lankford said. “Twenty-five years ago, Democrats and Republicans worked together to stabilize Social Security. Now, I hope that we can move past old politics and begin the serious work of addressing the challenges we face.”
Brennan Society member David Gwinn said he is more concerned about American values than the terms conservative or liberal. Lankford said Republicans and Democrats are working to resolve the fiscal solvency of Social Security.
“I believe we will find bipartisan solutions to ensure that these vital safety nets remain viable for future generations,” Lankford said. “Right now, the worst option is ignoring budget realities and waiting even longer to prepare for the future. This is a moment for solutions.”
TO LEARN MORE about the Brennan Society, call Tom Guild at 359-7920 or go to www.brennansociety.com. To follow Congressman James Lankford’s voting record, go to www.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id=412464&tab=votes.