Amanda Ripley

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The Jerk Vote

10th Sep 2010 posted in Education

Washington City Paper has come out with the most honest and knowing endorsement of a candidate I’ve seen in a long while: “Adrian Fenty for Mayor: The Jerk D.C. Needs.

It’s hard to talk about this election intelligently. You either err on the side of unenlightened objectivity and endorse Fenty on his data alone; or you err on the side of emotion and punish Fenty for being callous in his treatment of a city with a tortured past.

As City Paper puts it:

Fenty has bungled the job of making poorer residents feel a part of the new D.C. Admirers say the only people who call Fenty a jerk are the hacks he’s ostracized. But as emotionally satisfying as it is to hear him elicit wails from the Washington Teachers Union, even a half-smart pol knows that gratuitous dissing of D.C. employees and insiders can play as disrespect for the African-American population that comprises most of those employees and insiders.

Personally, I worry about what Fenty’s opponent, Vincent Gray, might do on the issue that matters most in DC: the school system. With the future of 50,000 kids on the line, I don’t know how far nice gets you. Again, City Paper:

Michelle Rhee’s assault on the D.C. Public Schools status quo will go down as a rare attempt to raise local institutions above the low standards Washingtonians once accepted. Rhee shares Fenty’s abrasive traits, but in her case, it’s easy to be more charitable: When it comes to reforming a failed school system, you either go monomaniacal or go home.

The election is Tuesday, Sept. 14. Wherever you live, it will matter. Because if Fenty loses, the narrative will be that he and Rhee pushed too hard too fast to reform DC’s schools. Whether it’s true or not. And mayors everywhere will take note—and slow down.