So Betsy DeVos is our new Education Secretary, a job she secured by the skin of her teeth thanks to a historic tie-breaking vote by Vice President Pence.
Her shaky approval weakened her in a department already weakened by a major change in K-12 education law that relegated nearly every meaningful accountability decision to states and local districts. Yet it was still greeted by endless teeth-gnashing by the education establishment–and by countless everyday citizens who would struggle to name a single education secretary before DeVos.
I’m no fan of DeVos. I don’t think she’s qualified to run a federal department that controls the flow of $73 billion. I don’t agree with her vision of school choice, which blindly preferences independent governance over academic quality. Her financial entanglements were never closely examined and will doubtless pose countless conflicts of interest. She will give a pass to for-profit colleges that take federal money to educate students and give them virtually no shot at graduation or steady employment. She will turn a blind eye to rigorous investigations of campus sexual assaults.
Still, even with ALL that, I couldn’t summon the energy to root against her. Why?
Because if DeVos had gone down in flames, I don’t think Trump would have nominated someone better–and I suspect he would have summoned someone so much worse.
Because sexism is at play here. DeVos drew such vitriolic fire and comedic ridicule was not because she’s a politically connected billionaire OR an unprepared lightweight OR an education outsider who loves charter schools and vouchers–but because she’s all those things AND a woman.
Because I don’t understand how Democrats and reasonable Republicans could vote yes on oil executive/Putin BFF Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, but stage a filibuster over Betsy. Seriously, why couldn’t they save that for threat for Attorney General nominee and KKK supporter Jeff Sessions, expected to be approved next with only a fraction of public pushback faced by DeVos?
Why aren’t senior citizens staging a sit-in over Tom Price, the Health and Human Services nominee who not only wants to dismantle Obamacare but also promises to privatize Medicare? And why can’t Minnesota Democrat Al Franken and his colleagues preserve some of that DeVos-inspired outrage to figure out a way to to block the dangerously evil puppeteer Steve Bannon from securing a seat on the National Security Council?
Let’s get real, people. DeVos won’t have enough power to be so terrified by her.
“The position of secretary of education is, more than anything, an opportunity to be a bully pulpit to express the views of the president,” Paul Reville, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, told Business Insider. “The role is highly constrained.”
We’ve exhausted a lot of sound and fury on the DeVos nomination and it signifies nothing. Betsy cannot ruin the environment, dismantle our health care system, eviscerate civil right protections, precipitate a global economic crisis or drive us to the brink of war. We’ve got much bigger crises to fixate on in the Trump Administration.
Photo courtesy of Mother Jones