It is Election Day today in Plainfield, IL. Late last week, we shared the urgent news that the Koch Brothers’ funded organization, Americans For Prosperity (AFP), is spending money on robocalls there and are distorting the facts to dissuade citizens from voting in favor of a bond and operational funding for a new library. Library staff have been working collaboratively with community leaders for years, hosting focus groups, surveying citizens, and convening open public town meetings. The result of this inclusive and transparent process was the development of a responsible plan to support and amplify the educational, economic,and civic health of the growing community over the next twenty years.
Our article pointed out that AFP does not support the common good, and plays loose with the truth in pursuing their agenda. A link to the article was shared by hundreds of supporters across many social media platforms. In the comments section of one supporter’s Facebook page, the following questions were raised, “Which facts are [American’s For Prosperity] erroneously purporting and which common good do they allegedly revile?” The library itself has answered the dollars and cents questions quite well. I’d like to talk about America.
Here is my response:
Anyone interested in confirming that AFP is consistently dishonest in their public statements can consult Fact.check.org and Politifact for clear and compelling evidence that AFP is “good at quoting facts that don’t exist.” For a listing of speciic statements, see http://www.politifact.com/personalities/americans-prosperity/statements/
Regarding the assertion that AFP “sling[s] mud at the common good”, it is helpful to understand what is meant by the “common good.” In short, it is aligning our actions, resources, and civic institutions to the benefit of all members of society. It is beautifully described in the preamble to our Constitution, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity….”
Keeping this concept of “common good” in mind — a concept that our Founders enshrined in the very opening words of our Constitution — let’s look at where AFP has directed their resources and energy. They have put massive resources behind opposing initiatives to fight global warming, opposing health care coverage for American citizens (they have opposed both the ACA and Medicaid expansion), opposing the economic stimulus package, opposing collective bargaining and trade unions, opposing raises to the minimum wage. And now, opposing the funding of public libraries.
Without a doubt, AFP’s opposition to funding these priorities is a perfectly legitimate political position, and there “any tax is a bad tax” approach is a perfectly legitimate political ideology. It just happens to be one that is opposed to the concept of a common good, and the manner in which the Koch Brothers and AFP have chosen to advance their interests has relied heavily on a well-funded campaign of dishonesty and the intentional propagation of misinformation.
I, and my colleagues at EveryLibrary passionately believe that the public library is the most American of institutions, and is the living expression of citizens coming together to share resources in service of the common good. It is the epitome of a shared civic space where all are welcome to pursue their own unique interests and learnings.
As Americans, we value the idea of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps and making something of ourselves through hard work and education. Along with public education, the library is one of the key publicly funded institutions that provides the infrastructure and the support for individuals to lift themselves up so they can create a better life for themselves and their families.
As a librarian, as a lifelong beneficiary and supporter of libraries, and as a citizen, I oppose the political philosophy of the Koch Brothers and their vision of society; a society, void of any notion of shared civic responsibility, void of the concept of a “more perfect union” that exists in part to promote “the general welfare”, and, I suspect, void of robust funding for public libraries.
I ask you to join me in supporting high quality public library services for all American citizens. Take the pledge to #votelibraries this election season to get on our action-list.