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Voters fill out their absentee ballots as people look for books to check out at the Madison Central Public Library on the last day of early voting on November 06, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Our Only Hope is to Defeat the Right-Wing Effort to Destroy Public Institutions

Conservatives are bent on destabilizing, weakening, and even destroying public institutions. We have to fight back.

Donald Cohen

 by In the Public Interest

While Republican fearmongering about Democrats "defunding the police" didn't exactly lead to a "red wave" last week, conservatives were successful at defunding something else.

They know that to achieve their vision of America, they have to destabilize, weaken, and even destroy the institutions that give a voice to people who don't agree with their vision.

Voters in a small Western Michigan town rejected the renewal of a property tax that funds the town's only public library. Patmos Library, in Jamestown Township, is now expected to run out of money by early 2024.

The reason? "[The library is] trying to groom our children to believe that it's okay to have these sinful desires," a member of the group Jamestown Conservatives told Bridge Michigan.

Echoing conservative parent groups across the country—many of them funded by corporate executives and wealthy Republican donors—stoking opposition to "Critical Race Theory," the group has been organizing to force the library to remove LGBTQ children's books. They have handed out fliers claiming that the books are "pornographic sexually graphic material" intended for "very young and impressionable kids" and even harassed library staff into resigning.

This might be about one library in one small town, but it highlights a key fact about our political moment.

Conservatives might be confused about what to do about Trump and the 2024 election, but they have a plan.

They know that to achieve their vision of America, they have to destabilize, weaken, and even destroy the institutions that give a voice to people who don't agree with their vision. They know that they have to contend for power over public institutions.

That's why they attack public schools and libraries over made-up (and racist and sexist) propaganda. That's why they privatize schools, water systems, public transit, and more. That's why they cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy—to starve the government. That's why they want to shred Social Security and Medicare.

And it's also why those of us who have a different vision—a more democratic, accepting, compassionate vision, where all of us can thrive and be free—need to protect and expand our public intsitutions.

We need to stop charter schools from siphoning money from public school systems. We need to close private, for-profit prisons. We need to protect public jobs that pay livable wages. We need to keep water in public hands. We need to make sure public investments don't contribute to climate change through privatization. And so much more.

Our plan needs to be this: contend for power over public institutions and use them to create the future the majority of people want—where all of us, no matter our sexuality, color, or where we come from can thrive.


Donald Cohen

Donald Cohen is the founder and executive director of In the Public Interest, a national resource and policy center on privatization and responsible contracting. He is a founding board member of the Partnership for Working Families. Cohen has three decades of experience in campaigns and organizations dedicated to economic justice, healthcare reform, education reform, environmental protection, and international human rights.

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