Friday, December 5, 2014

Herman Badillo, R.I.P.

A long time ago when I was young and foolish and living in Brooklyn, New York, I supported Herman Badillo in his races for New York City mayor in 1969 and 1973. Ideologically, he wasn't much different from the other far left candidates he ran against, but he was soft spoken and seemed honest and sincere so I favored him. It turns out my instincts were right. Badillo became fed up with the Democratic Party and bolted to the GOP in 1998. He died Wednesday and in remembrance, the Wall Street Journal re-printed part of the op-ed he had written for the paper when he made the switch.

From the time I arrived in New York from Puerto Rico at age 11, I was brought up Democratic. And when I went into politics—as a U.S. congressman, Bronx borough president and deputy mayor—I did so as a Democrat. Last week, after more [than] 30 years in Democratic politics, I joined the Republican Party.
In recent years I have found myself questioning inflexible Democratic policies. I have seen a disturbing lack of vision among local Democratic leaders. As two New York Republicans—Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Rudy Giuliani—reinvented and revitalized government, Democratic leaders doggedly fought to preserve failed, anachronistic policies.
This inertia has been most evident in their approach to schools. In the City University system (of which I am vice chairman of the board of trustees), there are schools like Hostos Community College, where students not even fluent in English have been awarded degrees. And when I challenge the practice of social promotion in elementary and secondary schools and call for academic standards, prominent Democrats attack me.
This defense of low standards reflects a fundamental Democratic problem: Many Democrats believe that some ethnic groups, such as Hispanics, should not be held to the same standards as others. This is a repellent and destructive concept, a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

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