The Senate has just confirmed – in a historic tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence – President Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos. Pence’s vote came not because of the supposed unsuitability of DeVos (as constantly decried by her liberal critics) but because of a concerted smear campaign driven by teachers’ unions and their own economic self-interest.
DeVos has devoted years to the cause of school choice, a cause that is supported by many on both sides of the aisle. School choice is supported heavily by minority parents, and until recently was supported by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) particularly when he was mayor of Newark, NJ. Booker even had speaking engagements at an education foundation founded and chaired by DeVos. Suddenly, he abandons his passionate and commendable belief in school choice and his advocating for parents’ ability to send their parents to the best schools, and paints DeVos as absolutely apocalyptic for education – and why? Because of pressure from the unions.
Booker has been said to be contemplating a presidential run in 2020, and of course there are many Senate Democrats who will be up for re-election in 2018. The two Republican defectors on DeVos are also friends of the teachers’ unions. Make no mistake, this unprecedented battle over an Education Secretary (this amount of vitriol was not even seen over Rex Tillerson) has no basis in logic or fact and is fueled entirely by the caprices and commands of the teachers’ unions. They know that people having a choice in their education means fewer unionized teachers, which lessens the influence and monetary strength of the unions – including union donations to Democrat politicians. Democrats often accuse Republicans of various and sundry oligarchic tendencies in the pursuit of money – Democrat voters should follow their politicians’ advice, and follow the money when it comes to the opposition to Betsy DeVos.
Postscript: The criticisms of DeVos as having bought her position because of her and her family’s political donations are absurd, for several reasons. Obama gave positions (including ambassadorships) to almost 200 fundraising bundlers, leaked DNC documents during the campaign indicated fundraisers and bundlers would have received positions both in a Clinton administration and in the DNC, and Clinton gave State Department advisory board positions to donors. In addition, DeVos has not been a supporter of Trump in the past, calling him an “interloper” during the campaign. Money has always played a central part in politics – argue the points of that all you want, but don’t imply is this a radical departure from norms or indicative of corruption. Especially if that view is ignorant of recent history.