Kashkari’s Attention-Getting Ad has a Point

Neel Kashkari’s campaign for governor sought to gain attention with its first statewide television commercial and succeeded. The ad titled Betrayal depicts a boy drowning before being pulled to safety by Kashkari. The boy is symbolic of the school children Kashkari asserts have been abandoned by Governor Jerry Brown when he appealed the Vergara vs. California case.

The judge declared in Vergara that conditions in California schools for minority students “shock the conscience” in concluding that “grossly ineffective teachers” protected by the state’s teacher tenure laws deny minority students constitutional protections for an equal education.

Kashkari’s attention-getting ad is intended to get the media and, through the media, the people talking about this issue. With the one sided advantage the governor has in financial resources Kashkari is relying on an edgy campaign commercial to get his word out.

Brown argued that the appeal to a higher court was necessary if the teacher tenure laws are to be changed. Previously, I wrotethat an appellate ruling would be helpful in validating the lower court’s decision.

However, Brown’s reasoning for the appeal ignored the main question ruled upon by the Superior Court. He did not take a stand on the issue. He did not say that his goal with the appeal is to confirm that the current standards must change; that the students are being denied a quality education. He was silent on the issue.

By not speaking up for the students who brought the Vergara case it clearly appears that Brown is playing up to the teachers’ unions, as Kashkari charges. The unions adamantly want to wipe Vergara away.

I suppose there is something to say about the attention getting aspect of the ad – a boy drowning until pulled to safety by Kashkari. Attention to a child in jeopardy worked in the famous political commercial put out by Lyndon Johnson’s presidential campaign in 1964. A little girl picking flowers disappeared from the screen replaced by the mushroom cloud of an atomic explosion. That commercial actually ran only once but we are still talking about it 50 years later.

Kashkari, undoubtedly, was willing to use a dramatic image to get people talking.

Kashkari speaks of the problem examined in the Vergara case as a civil rights issue. If that is so, the dramatic ad to point out the issue can be compared to the demonstrations that were criticized during the civil rights era. They brought attention. But, the key for Kashkari is that people examine the core point he is making – that Brown is unwilling to stand up and proclaim that minority children are suffering under the current teacher protection laws supported by the unions — and not the ad’s image.

As Martin Luther King noted in his civil rights struggles of a half-century ago, while critics deplored demonstrations they failed to express similar concerns for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. He wanted his critics to deal with the underlying causes.

Kashkari hopes his commercial will bring attention to the underlying problem and those who resist change.

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily.