Three seats on the Essex-Westford School Board are up for grabs on April 12, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a trio of stealth conservative candidates hiding their true agendas behind a thicket of bland rhetoric. It’s the usual stuff: Parental involvement, transparency, focus on basic education, financial responsibility, defusing “tension” and “divisive issues” in the schools.
This stuff is right out of the national conservative playbook: Right-wing candidates running for school board behind the same list of inoffensive ideas.
And concealing their true beliefs and agenda.
As I have before, I will state again: Conservatives have every right to run for any office. But they ought to be transparent about who they are and what they believe. When they hide their true selves, they are subverting the electoral process — and tacitly admitting that they can’t win if they are open about their agenda.
The three hopefuls from Essex and Essex Town all have military backgrounds. Two of them are people of color. Great, a little diversity — but only in heritage, not in platform.
The election is nonpartisan, but the Essex Republican committee has endorsed them and referred to them as “our candidates.” This is the committee that thinks the civic embarrassment Liz Cady is a peachy keen school trustee.
The gent on the left is Earl Barber, the least stealthy of the three. On his campaign website he says that “Parents should be able to view everything possible that is presented to their child.” This includes curricula, lesson plans, handouts, topics of discussion and surveys. In fact, he calls for any student survey to be sent to parents at least one month in advance to “give parents the opportunity to have their child opt out.” He accuses the district of asking “invasive and sexually explicit questions” of children.
Barber code-talks his way around hot-button topics like critical race theory and the Black Lives Matter flag, but his intent is clear. “If adults outside the school district cannot agree on a topic, then it should not be present within our school walls,” he writes. That would make for an awfully insipid and incomplete education.
And then he throws a low blow at socially-engaged kids: “Students seem able to protest or rally about any issue at any time without any consequence. What student wouldn’t want to get out of a class and hang out with friends when there is no consequence?”
Yeah, they don’t give a damn about climate change or racial equity. They just want to play hooky and “hang out with friends.”
Barber has a Facebook page, but it contains absolutely nothing besides a picture of his family. Did he scrub it before he became a candidate? Don’t know, but i have my suspicions.
The middle man is Juan Coleman, a.k.a. Juanny Juan (per his Instagram feed). Coleman is a recruiter for the Vermont Air National Guard and an earnest young man who occasionally lets the curtain slip. Like during a candidate forum hosted by Rights & Democracy, where he closed a content-free answer with a quote from “the great Jordan Peterson.”
Uh, Juanny? Peterson is the deeply conservative and controversial psychologist who has said that white privilege doesn’t exist, that being transgender is the result of a “contagion” and is similar to “satanic ritual abuse,” that gender identity shouldn’t be protected under antidiscrimination laws, and that the #MeToo movement has demonized all men when only a handful are guilty.
“The great Jordan Peterson.”
Otherwise, Coleman sticks to the script. He emphasizes basic education; in the forum, he called for a back-to-the-basics approach — which he defined as “reading, writing, arithmetic, math, and science.”
Arithmetic and math!
Here’s the kicker. Coleman announced his candidacy at a December Town Hall organized by, you guessed it, Liz Cady. His speech was pretty bland, but Cady regaled the very conservative crowd by attacking critical race theory and the Black Lives Matter flag, and St. Johnsbury school trustee Renold Northrup talked about condoms in schools and “obscene sex surveys” in middle schools.
The man on the right is Roger Drury, who has a minimalist campaign website and almost no other traces in the digital sphere. Drury’s public language is deliberately muddled and includes all the stealth-candidate buzzwords: Transparency, communication with parents, fiscal responsibility, “equity should not be divisive.”
But… Drury and his wife signed an anti-CRT petition that circulated in the community, and someone who knows Drury tells me that he and his wife are staunch anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers.
And he’s on a ticket endorsed by the Essex Republicans. You’re known by the company you keep, as they say.
I appreciate these men’s service to our country, and credit their willingness to run for public office. But I want them to have the courage and honesty to present their real views to the voters instead of hiding behind a cloud of doublespeak. The people of Essex and Essex Town deserve nothing less.