It is clear from press reports that the central messages of the March 4th protests were heard. All of the major mainstream media ran articles on how the cuts to state funding have increased the cost of tuition and have put higher education out of the reach of millions of students nationwide. Many newspapers and television broadcasts also mentioned how classes are getting larger and contingent faculty are being let go. There were even some articles about how public institutions are being privatized.
Another central message that was communicated successfully was the notion that groups from different educational sectors were joining together to fight for more funding. In linking the issues facing K-12 to problems that community colleges and universities are facing, the protesters were able to show that a powerful voting block is being formed. This new political coalition represents the desire of the majority to protect public education and to fight against the continuing assault of privatization.
The next stage of this movement has to be to use this new coalition power to change how states fund education. Just as the tea party movement is pushing the Republicans to move to the Right, we now have to use our power to move the Democrats to the Left. This means that we have to fight for a progressive tax system that restores funding for public programs, while we make sure that wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share of the taxes. In many states, enough revenue can be gained by simply closing corporate and personal tax loopholes.
To push for a new public agenda, it is essential for unions and other large groups to tell Democratic candidates that they will not be supported unless they state how they will protect public education and public workers. While many Democrats say that they are afraid to talk about taxes because they do not want to be attacked by the powerful Right-wing media machine, we have to let them know that candidates who do not propose real solutions will not get elected.
The same type of message has to be sent to President Obama. We need to let him know that the Republicans have no interest in making deals and that he needs to spend his time working on a clear progressive agenda: We need real health care reform and a real jobs bill. We also need to regulate the financial markets and to cut out the private corporations from student loans. In other words, on all levels of government, we should only support candidates who really support us.