Sherry Sylvester

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9th Street And Congress

Thomas Jefferson statue removed from New York City Hall

New York City hauled the 884-pound statue of Thomas Jefferson out of City Hall recently because city leaders said the statue “shouldn’t exist” and that Jefferson should be forgotten. I can understand New York progressives forgetting that Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence but it is surprising that they don’t remember that this Founding Father also brokered the deal that made New York City the financial capital of the nation. Didn’t they see Hamilton?

New York City does dumb things like this routinely and I bet most New Yorkers have just about had enough of it. I lived in New York City in another lifetime and I have seen this movie before. Even the names of some of the characters are the same.

In the 1980’s New York City was overrun with crime—murder, robbery, and drugs. The filthy streets stank, the city was broke—taxes were high and services were non-existent.

I came to New York City as a left-wing liberal, what we would call a progressive today, and the people running the city were people I knew and agreed with.

Mario Cuomo, father to former Gov. Andrew and infamous former CNN Host Chris, was governor. The Democratic majority of voters who elected him were very upset about all the crime. To demonstrate that he wasn’t a bleeding heart, Cuomo imposed mandatory sentences for drug users. His move didn’t solve the drug problem, but it did fill up the prisons, so he built a lot of new prisons all over the state. Most of them were many hours from New York City, making it virtually impossible for families to visit incarcerated family members. Cutting off family connections made rehabilitation almost impossible.

I started working for a liberal prison reform group shortly after I arrived in New York City and I soon got a call from the New York Times asking for a comment on Cuomo’s criminal justice policies. I told the newspaper Cuomo’s mandatory sentencing and prison policies were costing the state and the city millions and not making a dent in the crime problem.

By the time I got back to my office, it was reported to me that then-Gov. Cuomo had called the chairman of the board of the group I worked for and asked him “who the f***” I thought I was.”

My colleagues just shrugged and apologized—to the governor, not to me. I was pulled aside and told bluntly that Gov. Cuomo was a bully and it was not wise to cross him.

Sound familiar?

Long-time New York City Mayor Ed Koch, was popular but his tirades and narcissism—including his on-going tabloid war with Donald Trump—had gotten old for most New Yorkers. The City’s problems—the crime, the taxes, the waste and the mismanagement—had become chronic. People were exhausted by it.

David Dinkins was a low-energy politician and there was no evidence that he had a plan to change things, but he was somebody new and that was enough to convince people he represented change. At a minimum, he was calm and soft-spoken and I knew he would lower the noise level in City Hall, so I went to work on his campaign. After Dinkins beat Koch, I took a job in his administration.

But a change in tone wasn’t enough. New York City only got worse. In addition to bankruptcy, the City was experiencing four simultaneous epidemics—AIDS, low-birthweight babies, asthma and tuberculosis. Crime and homelessness skyrocketed, hospitals and public schools were both failing, the city bureaucracy was riddled with corruption and New Yorkers were walking the streets every day barraged by homeless people who were living on streets littered with garbage bags.

Finally, it got so bad that the unthinkable happened—New York City elected a Republican mayor. Then as now, there were barely enough registered Republicans in New York City to make a blip on a chart, but Rudy Giuliani, the GOP U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, defeated Dinkins’ re-election bid.

New Yorkers had finally had enough and they were tired of hearing Dinkins and Cuomo say that they only way things could get better would be higher taxes and a massive federal bailout.

Like every New Yorker, I noticed a difference almost immediately after Giuliani took office. The garbage was picked up and street crime dramatically declined. He privatized the hospitals (which had been city owned) and they got the epidemics under control. You could walk down the street without being accosted by panhandlers. Police reforms finally began without creating a union war. Zero-tolerance policies were controversial, but they worked.

Giuliani’s transformation of the city changed a generation of New Yorkers. They were still Democrats but they didn’t elect another Democrat to lead the city until the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, took office.

I am sure it is not lost on older New Yorkers that the same problems they had with Koch and Dinkins returned with de Blasio. That’s undoubtedly why they rejected progressive mayoral candidates this fall and instead elected a retired police officer, Eric Adams.

It wasn’t lost on me either. People often ask me how I became a movement conservative after years working as a progressive Democrat. While there was never a “road to Damascus” moment, seeing the turnaround that occurred in New York City under conservative leadership created some huge cracks in my liberal ideology.

When I see so many great American cities today, like San Francisco and Austin, that are being ruined by liberal policies, I recall what happened in New York and it gives me hope.

When the failure of left-wing progressive policies are in your face everyday—when they’ve wasted your tax dollars, ruined your downtown, mismanaged services, and told you to do stupid things like forget Thomas Jefferson, ultimately voters who will finally say “enough!” We’re beginning to see some changes across the country and I am betting we are going to see more.

For Texas,

Sherry

TPPF’s Distinguished Senior Fellow Sherry Sylvester, has spent decades working at the nexus of public policy and politics. She began as a decidedly left-leaning Democrat on the East Coast but years of working closely with the left-wing pushed her to the right. After two decades in Texas, she is a committed to Keeping Texas Texan — a beacon of freedom and liberty, a center of innovation, and a major force in the global economy. Coming off a 17-year stint working around the Texas Capitol, including 7 years as Senior Advisor to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, 9th & Congress, presents her insights and updates on politics, policy, the news and history

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Women’s Rights v. Trans Rights: Where Are the Feminists?

In the successful fight to pass Senate Bill 3 in Texas protecting girls’ sports, conservatives were repeatedly told by their opponents on the left that we were tilting at windmills. Trans men were no threat to female sports, we were assured; the legislation we were pushing was a “solution in search of a problem.” Conservatives who pushed to protect sports for women and girls were accused of being transphobic. 

But ask girl swimmers in Pennsylvania what they think about the recently transitioned person who is shattering women’s records in the Keystone State. 

In 2019, when conservatives were working to pass privacy legislation to ensure that boys would not be permitted to enter girls’ restrooms in public schools, leftists and the media again insisted that we were provincial prudes. When Texas state senator and former NCAA champion athlete Lois Kolkhorst declared the bathroom battle “the women’s rights issue of our time,” almost no Texas media outlet reported it. The media ignored dozens of reports of women being attacked by men in public restrooms and changing rooms in Texas.

Similarly, the media ignored what helped spark a triumph of parental rights in the Virginia gubernatorial election. A girl was raped in a school restroom by a boy wearing a skirt.  School officials said that they didn’t know whether to confront him because he might have been a “trans” person. 

In Texas, our legislation to protect sports for women and girls is described by the media as “disqualifying” of boys rather than affirming girls. News reports say that the bill “excludes” those who say that they are girls – instead of noting that the bill protects actual girls.

Which brings me to my question: Where are the feminists? Having fought in the second wave of women’s rights in the 1970s, I do not understand why today’s American women’s movement has been so quick to give those hard-won rights away – to say, essentially, that if a male is suffering from gender dysphoria and thinks that he’s a girl or woman, we should just go along with that. 

Body dysphoria leads to life-threatening bulimia and other diseases, but gender dysphoria should be enabled, even encouraged – at least, according to the left, which believes that parents should be permitted to authorize life- and body-changing hormone treatments, and even surgery, for their children, not recognizing that these actions are irreversible and clearly child abuse. This is a horrible disservice to the victims of gender dysphoria. It is also a setback for women’s rights.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has joined with many European feminists in stepping up and saying the obvious: that sex is a real, biological fact. It is scientifically certifiable, not something that is arbitrarily “assigned” at birth and written on one’s birth certificate. Rowling has attracted the ire of the trans movement because she dared to question the terms “people who have a cervix,” “people who menstruate,” or “people who can become pregnant” as substitutes for the word “women.” 

Similarly, a left-wing British MP, Rosie Duffield, has drawn a line in the sand. Duffield is saying what many feminists have apparently been afraid to say: that most men are stronger than most women. Too often, that reality can be a threat to women. We ought to be able to go to the restroom – where, unlike men, we must partially undress – without being afraid.

Which brings us back to the swimmer who just smashed all the women’s swimming records in Pennsylvania. Texans know that this is unfair, and they don’t want any part of it. 

A full 58% of Texans strongly support legislation that would require high school and middle school students to compete in sports associated with their biological sex. This includes 75% of whites, 64% of Latinos, and 63% of African-Americans. It includes almost half of Democrats, over 90% of Republicans, and 73% of Independents. And while 82% of my generation – the Baby Boomers – support the legislation, so do 63% of Millennials, 69% of Gen Xers, and 54% of Generation Z. 

Back in the 1970s, a battle cry for many of us in the women’s movement was that “the personal is the political.” I’ve long abandoned that motto, but in this case, it has some relevance, as we are watching our rights as women being given away to men. On this issue and many others, Texas conservatives are standing up for women, but I ask, again: Where are the feminists?

Sherry Sylvester is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and former senior adviser to Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

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Critical race theory bans protect our history and students

If the public had been largely unaware of the pervasiveness of critical race theory in America’s public schools, the shock waves of Virginia’s election have made sure people, particularly parents, are now paying attention.

The Texas Legislature joined several other states and passed an anti-CRT bill earlier this year. To fight back, proponents of the controversial concept have scrambled to downplay its impact and launch attacks against efforts to ban it in schools.

An overwrought editorial in the Houston Chronicle is typical of these assaults on CRT bans. Opponents claim that the legislation frightens teachers into teaching a whitewashed history of America. But this is factually and demonstrably untrue. If only they would read the bill.

The items some claim won’t be taught in Texas schools, such as the evils of slavery and the role of government in upholding that unholy institution, are taught because state law specifically mandates that they be taught.

The new Texas rule on critical race theory, House Bill 3979, not only doesn’t ban teaching facts, but it reinforces that our full and accurate history, scars and all, should be taught. Specifically, the bill states that students should understand “the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong.”

Opponents of the law claim it says students should never feel “discomfort” from learning that, for example, Texas hero Jim Bowie owned slaves. Therefore, teaching this fact would be banned.

What the new rule actually says is that “a teacher … may not … require or make part of a course that … an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.” In other words, teachers can teach history, but they can’t require students to feel guilt as a condition of passing the class.

The teachings of CRT go beyond simply learning America’s history and, in fact, require white people to accept blame for all economic and social disparities experienced by people of color today.

That is what is being banned by the CRT bill — and for good reason.

Not only does CRT discriminate against white people, but it hurts minorities, too. It forces young black and Hispanic children to accept they will always be victims and that under our current system, there is nothing they can do to improve their lot in life. It also advocates lowered standards for minorities and strips them of agency. Teaching CRT is not just unconstitutional — it is demonstrably false and cruelly immoral. CRT has no place in our schools.

As for the laughable lie that CRT isn’t found in schools, of course it is . What’s more, liberals are demanding more CRT in public schools, and they want parents to shut up about it.

The new law protects speech, debate, and the free flow of ideas. It prevents students from being forced to accept controversial theories as a condition for advancement. And it helps empower parents to address and correct these illegal and unconstitutional activities in their schools.

On one thing, at least, we are in full agreement with the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board: “Hard facts about race and racism, about our flawed heroes or about our inability over the years to live up to our ideals of freedom, equality and justice are part of the Texas story. They’re not the only part, by a long shot, but a well-educated Texan needs to know them.”

We are sure, then, that members of that board will be relieved that those things are taught in Texas schools and will continue to be. If they have any questions, they can read the text of the bill itself .

Sherry Sylvester is a distinguished senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and a former senior adviser to Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Carol Swain is the distinguished senior fellow for constitutional studies at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and co-author of Black Eye for America: How Critical Race Theory is Burning Down the House.

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America’s History Is Not Just Black and White

Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of the infamous 1619 Project, said recently that she didn’t understand why parents believe they should have a say in what their children are learning in school. She simply doesn’t get it. While most Americans agree that our children must learn the whole story of America, they oppose indoctrination and are outraged that the 1619 Project and critical race theory is showing up in our schools.


Hannah-Jones and The New York Times crowd that launched the 1619 Project three years ago have stopped fighting about whether their work is history.  After virtually every reputable historian in the country—on both the left and the right—called their work inaccurate and sloppy, they know they have lost that fight. Now they are fighting parents and conservatives.

These days Hannah-Jones and the Times carefully call 1619 a “journalism project” which apparently means it doesn’t have to be true.

Backing away from facts even further, Hannah-Jones has called the work an “an origin story.” She also says “…it is not about history, it’s about memory…”

Journalism, memory, whatever—1619 marches on. It is now a best-selling book and will soon become a movie. A children’s version has been released. 

No one who has read 1619 is confused about what it is—another left-wing, America-hating screed designed to divide us on race and to indoctrinate our children. 

The 1619 Project has always had a classroom component with teaching guides and lesson plans. It is being taught in thousands of classrooms across America now. The goal is for every school child in the country to be taught that America did not begin in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence, but instead was born in 1619 when the first Africans arrived in Virginia.

It presents all of American history in black and white. “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false,” Hannah-Jones writes, “Black Americans have fought to make them true.”

Of course, Americans of every race and creed have fought—and continue to fight—so our country lives up to the ideals laid out by the founders.  

1619 presents only two American stories—the black story and the white story. But American history is made up of millions of stories and we are learning more about those stories all the time.  

If Hannah-Jones were a historian writing real history, she would understand that what we know about our past is dynamic. It changes when real historians discover new facts that put the past in clearer focus and sometimes reverses what we thought was historical fact.  

When the British dug up Richard the Third in a parking lot in 2012, 500 years of English history had to be re-examined. Closer to home, when DNA finally confirmed in 1998 what Jefferson’s descendants had known and many people had believed for generations—that Thomas Jefferson had fathered Sally Hemmings’ children—it recast the way Americans, who may not have been paying much attention before, viewed our country’s founding and the leaders who forged the nation.  

The Jefferson-Hemmings story was not a surprise. Long before The New York Times put out the 1619 project, Americans knew that Jefferson, Washington and other Founding Fathers, despite the great country they had built, were also slaveholders who had exploited the evil of the institution they were perpetrating. By the 1960s, American children were learning in school about slavery and the long road to freedom, from Reconstruction to Jim Crow to the struggles that continue today. Despite their insistence that 1619 advocates teaching history accurately, contemporary history classes discarded “whitewashed” views of the past and phony excuses for the Confederate rebellion decades ago. 

Jefferson’s DNA test inadvertently ushered in a new way of looking at history that changed the way we see ourselves. His story was part of what moved millions of Americans to want to know more about who their own ancestors were. Inexpensive DNA tests have allowed millions of Americans to look more closely at their genetic ancestry resulting in a 276 percent jump in the number of people who reported identifying with more than one racial group in the 2020 Census. According to Pew Research,  easy access to DNA tests have given Americans a much broader perspective on who they are and where they come from. Almost 20 percent report finding racial links they were not aware of. These findings are expanding what we know about America’s past. 

Writing history requires collecting facts and painstakingly stitching them together to build something that gets us closer to the truth of times past. It is not memory or myth and it is certainly not a politically driven agenda pretending to be a “journalism project.”  

Real history is the exact opposite of The New York Times 1619 Project and Americans have rejected it. When it comes to history, they want so much more.   

Sherry Sylvester is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Texas  Public Policy Foundation.

 

Source: TownHall.com