Newton: Is Civil Disagreement Gone Forever?

Steve Newton, well known as a founding member of the Delaware political blogosphere and known in Delaware political circles as a libertarian voice, has something reasonable to say about recent fights in the educational field concerning DSEA President Mike Matthews and State Representative Paul Baumbach, both of whom were themselves bloggers in earlier days (reprinted with Steve Newton’s permission):

I have these two friends. One is a teacher’s union leader and the other is a State legislator. There is a lot we don’t agree on, a lot we do, and certainly a lot of areas we’ve never talked about. The key to not agreeing is that we’ve been pretty careful not to treat each other like crap just because one wants a $15 minimum wage or the other thinks some gun control laws would be a good thing.

We argue, but we don’t really ever fight, possibly because we figure that the things that bind us together are more important than the things that pull us apart. Or maybe it’s just a throwback to the times in America when your opponent didn’t have to be the Spawn of Satan.

But recent events in Delaware social media have convinced me that (finally) that those days are gone forever, and nobody but me misses them.

My friend Mike Matthews, the DSEA President, has been firm opponent of corporate education reform, bizarre teacher accountability schemes, and high-stakes standardized testing. When he was chiefly known for those opinions, the single-issue education crowd and the tea party and a lot of centrists Democrats were willing to cut him some slack on the fact that he’s a gay man in a monogamous relationship who also identifies with all the causes of the Progressive Democrats of Delaware. Mike’s an “opt-out” advocate, therefore a stand-up guy.

Then came Regulation 225 that, flawed as it may be, was the first piece of regulation ever explicitly designed to protect the rights of transgendered kids, and Mike supported it. Wholeheartedly. And he suddenly became a “sell out” and a guy in “an alternative lifestyle” (which was one of the nicer quotes) who “only cares about gay kids.” Even other opponents of corporate school reform sometimes joined the press, asking Mike why he had abandoned “parents’ rights.” (Apparently the right of parents to make their child’s life a living hell for being different is somewhere protected in the Magna Carta, or the Constitution, or the King Jimmy Bible.)

Teachers who sat back quietly while the old DSEA leadership sold out their members time after time during the past gubernatorial administration as suddenly claiming that with Mike the Anti-christ in office they are mailing back their DSEA ID cards.

Or consider Paul Baumbach, the progressive who fought for two years to re-legalize home birth with midwives (purely out of principle, by the way), continues to fight for the rights of the tenants of manufactured housing, and who has been a thoughtful critic of what’s going on in our schools.

Yet let Paul come forward with a bill to shorten the terms of school board members, or one to make it easier to remove school board members who don’t do their jobs, the suddenly Paul is the other anti-christ. No matter how often he says he thinks this is a good process idea, the people imposing anti-ed reform dogma are suddenly empowered to know his motives (which simply CANNOT be what he says they are). He’s obviously a sell-out.

The irony here is that I don’t agree with Mike that Regulation 225 should be passed as is, and I don’t agree with Paul that unelected State Board of Education members should have the power to remove members of local school boards. I think they are both thoughtful individuals whose ideas attack serious issues. Both understand completely how to play the long game.

And both probably thought they knew who their friends were. Nah. They just found out that dozens of acquaintances and fellow travelers are ready to turn on them in little more than minutes. They couldn’t just be people with a different opinion on one of these issues. They couldn’t just be wrong for the right reasons.

They both had to have secret hidden motives and nefarious plans to betray all of the things their orthodoxy-loving acquaintances stand for.

I’ve cured this problem for myself, if not for them. I suddenly realized that my life was not being improved by listening to or reading about this kind of garbage. So I started dumping sites and groups from my feed (I got dumped by others). And my feed is now pretty much filled up with my real friends (including Paul & Pam and Mike & Jose) or posts about comic book collecting (which I’m currently more into than politics). (Way more into.)

I know the real world is still out there, I just prefer not.

Except that my friends are my friends, even when I disagree with them, and nobody who has contributed as much to Delaware as these two should be put through the wringer of holier-than-thou judgmental bullshit.  Those of you who did it know who you are, and you really ought to be at least embarrassed if not downright ashamed.


Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

10 comments on “Newton: Is Civil Disagreement Gone Forever?

  1. Needed to be said… Thanks Steve…

  2. This was great and thanks for sharing. There are people like, Alby that will not be civil and call people names or censor them, when they don’t agree with his beliefs!

  3. Funny how Steve only says this about good friends. You can’t cherry-pick these kind of things. Nothing against Mike or Paul, but there have been PLENTY of people who have done good things for Delaware. Those two aren’t members of some exclusive club. They are public figures. I agree things with Mike went way too far on social media because they were going after his personal life. But Paul? He wrote a bad bill and people went nuts. It is a part of being an elected official. He needs to deal with it. Apples and oranges Steve.

    • snewton929

      Horse shit would be the appropriate answer to this reply, Kevin. You miss the connection entirely, but that doesn’t surprise me. The connection is that I did not truly realize precisely how destructive that people–including you–have become until I saw it turned on individuals I know well enough.

      You didn’t stand up for Mike Matthews on social media anywhere that I can find–you continue to post on Delaware Politics Facebook page, which has become one of the most homophobic, red-baiting social media pages in Delaware, but because they mouth the words “parents’ rights” you are apparently ok with that.

      Paul wrote a bad bill. Perhaps. I’ve already said I disagreed with this. But you have at least twice attributed motives to him that he has specifically denied. It couldn’t just be that Paul believes in what he’s doing, it must be that Paul has thrown in with the evil ones and desires to use the powers of the State to attack people he doesn’t like on the Christina School Board. And who knows this–Kevin Ohlandt! Based on what evidence? Oh, yeah, that’s right … his gut feelings.

      Everybody should think about this. A few weeks back Kevin could’t wait to get a post up about WEIC’s meeting that violated FOIA, and couldn’t wait to blast both Tony Allen and Tizzy Lockman as tools of Governor Carney who set up the meeting on the sly to advocate for the infamous “Christina memorandum.” Except Kevin didn’t do his homework and even check the WEIC site or the Mayor of Wilmington’s calendar before he posted. Either of which would have told him that this meeting had been planned and announced 6-8 weeks ago. Was it a FOIA violation–technically yes, because a support person forgot to post it. Did Kevin report accurately that both Tony and Tizzy took responsibility for that violation at the meeting, and held it as a purely informational meeting with note votes of any sort taken–not even to approve the minutes? No, Kevin reported that WEIC had sold out and set up the meeting for Carney. And instead of taking down the original post so he could put up a more accurate headline, he merely slightly amended one paragraph and left up the original inaccurate headline with the lame excuse that Facebook wouldn’t let him edit it. Damn that tyrant, Facebook.

      This is the problem: lots of good stuff has been reported in Exceptional Delaware–but you have to begin to wonder how much crap is also being pushed out. Kevin admits to “throwing grenades” (which is a euphemism for trolling with rumors or even stuff he knows isn’t quite true to see what happens), and he admits that his methods often “get ugly” but they are apparently OK because Kevin. His heart is pure his cause is just and he is the only paladin for kids in the state. He actually wrote that the way he goes after people is acceptable because … he doesn’t go after their families.

      No, he just continues to post and validate a hate site, doesn’t ever challenge the filth written there, and takes unto himself the authority to ascribe everyone’s motives based on little more than the fact that they disagree with him. Yes, Kevin, I only really got it when you played this number on people I considered friends. That’s my particular cross to bear.

      Yours is that you want to sling out anything you please and duck the consequences to your credibility.

      • Now your just kind of being an asshole about all this Steve. Taking my own words and trying to cause trouble. Guess the whole “motive” thing you hold so dear is okay for you, eh? You took issue on that whole WEIC thing, I get it. An asshat would have left it as it was. I did not. And yes, there are quirks with WordPress and the established link once you post it.

        This was how I corrected the article based on what YOU told me:

        “As per a source, this WEIC meeting was planned six weeks ago and the Mayor of Wilmington came to speak. A technicality of not posting the agenda in the required seven day window occurred. When Tony Allen arrived at the meeting, he advised the committee of the technicality and that no action would be taken at the meeting, including approving the minutes for the last meeting. While I have seen time and time again in FOIA complaints that a party forgot to post an agenda, it is my belief, even if a meeting is planned and they decide to only hold it for informational purposes, they should delay the meeting for appearances sake.”

        I even changed the title to “WEIC Gets Stuck On A FOIA Technicality…”. But you want to crucify me for that. And then the cherry on the cake was going after Baumbach over a bill that this blog even called him out for. Hate to say it Steve, that’s politics. Folks can come out with tons of excellent legislation but one bad one can cause people to question them. And when that bill strikes at the very heart of local control, something to which many still believe in, there will be emotions. When you contacted me about my error (which I would have never known had you not contacted me), I had a million things going on. But I took the time to correct it because it was the right thing to do. I don’t see myself as infallible. I am human. I make mistakes. Just as you do.

        So now you have labeled Exceptional Delaware a “hate” site. And you are just now “realizing” this when I attacked one of your friends and made a WEIC boo-boo. I’ve been going after people that I feel are not good for education for three years and you didn’t say boo. And yet, many blogs do this. Delaware Liberal, this blog, and Kilroy’s Delaware to name a few. Where is your, and yes, I’ll say it, holier than thou attitude with them?

        I never said I was the “paladin for kids”. I said I’m one of the only active education bloggers out there right now. If someone else wants to take that mantle, I welcome it. I always felt that when there was a cross-section of blogs about education, Delaware was better for it.

        There are a ton of things I could write about and haven’t, for various reasons. I have to wonder what you would think of some people if I did. Would you be writing these mea culpas then? But I suppose I just write about “the filth”. And God forbid I insert my personal opinions in my articles. God forbid! Which is often accompanied by “I think” or “in my opinion”.

      • As far as this “character assassination” of Paul Baumbach, are we no longer allowed to question legislation if it comes from a friend of Steve Newtwon, even if it is some of the worst I’ve seen? Is it “trolling” if you post an opinion? As for my “grenade throwing” section, a state legislator (not Paul) who I’m friends with challenged me on this a couple of years ago. The context of that conversation was my uncanny ability to alienate those I should be partnering with. Which is something I’ve gone back and forth over during my time blogging. But here is the problem. If you play nicey-nice over certain topics, especially those dealing with education, you tend to get steamrolled. Sorry you don’t like my approach, but I won’t change for you Steve Newton. Don’t believe I ever told you how to write your blog, I certainly don’t appreciate you telling me how to write mine.

        Yes, I post my articles on the Delaware Politics Facebook page. I also post them on my homepage, Delaware BATS, Solutions for Wilmington Schools, often Autism Support Group Delaware, often the Badass Teachers Association page, and many more. If it is an article that has national importance, I’ve been known to post it to hundreds of Facebook pages. The funny thing is I get a lot of heat on the Delaware Politics page for my articles.

        I have NEVER posted something I know to be untrue. I’m not one of those guys who likes to throw crap on the wall and see if it sticks. But because of the very delicate nature of what I write about, I have to protect sources all the time. Especially if it is teachers who would be cast out of their job in a New York minute if it was found out they delivered information to me. That is a very fragile line and one I take very seriously.

        I find it very ironic that you suggest I never defended Mike Matthews. I guess you like to talk the shit, but don’t actually read the articles where I have defended Mike. And written that the actual character assassination of Mike on Facebook is absolutely disgusting. Something Mike and I have had sidebar conversations about. I suppose you wouldn’t know that when contacted for Mike’s cell phone number shortly after DSEA came out in support of Regulation 225, I refused to give it because I questioned how it would be used and didn’t feel like subjecting Mike to that potential for abuse.

        You really don’t know me at all Steve. You might think you do, but all I see (IN MY OPINION) is a sudden urge to discredit me and my blog, and that I DO take offense to. And yes, I am questioning your motives for this. Freedom of speech and freedom of thought. Cause the way I see it, I recently went after one of your bosses (the Christina/WEIC thing) and a friend of yours (Paul) and you took that personally. Certainly your right to do that, but when put in context of the entire history of what I’ve written for three years, it comes down to a matter of timing.

        I don’t justify anything because I don’t go after the personal lives of people. But when folks hold public office or a job that puts them in the public spotlight, IT IS OKAY for people to question motives. IT IS OKAY for people to write about those doubts. To suggest otherwise spits in the face of what makes America great. And no, I won’t write about the personal lives of these people. I don’t go after families, people who are related or married to the person I’m writing about. That is one of my personal code of honor things.

        Speaking of friends, I once thought we were friends Steve. Did you bother to contact me about why I felt the way I did about Paul’s bill? No. But you didn’t hesitate in your attempt to crucify me, in public. Thanks for that.

      • And going back to the WEIC thing which seems to be your primary defense of how much I’m not “credible”, my primary source for the whole FOIA violation thing was The News Journal post that came out that day which wrote about the same thing THAT DAY. For folks who like to damn me because I don’t write like The News Journal, I find that to be ironic.

      • “The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, a state advisory committee formed by then-Gov. Jack Markell to come up with ideas to improve education in the city, was also scheduled to review Carney’s original outline of the proposal Tuesday night. They did not meet to discuss the draft MOU. WEIC did not publicly advertise the meeting in compliance with state law or post the agenda for the meeting until late Monday, after a News Journal reporter called and asked when it would be shared.” Source:

      • You don’t have to answer this Steve, but where is your reply on this story explaining the facts? Yeah, I know…

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