Betsy DeVos and the Cowardice of Republicans

Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing

“If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you, too?”

If you’re a Senate Republican, the answer is apparently “YES!”

Otherwise, why would all but two such lawmakers vote to confirm Betsy DeVos, the most unqualified candidate for Education Secretary in U.S. history?

During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), DeVos showed herself to be hopelessly out of her depth.

She wouldn’t commit to protecting students with special needs.

She wouldn’t commit to keeping guns out of school campuses (because of rampaging Grizzlies).

She wouldn’t commit to holding charter and voucher schools to the same standards as traditional public schools.

She didn’t know the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was a federal law.

And she couldn’t explain the difference between proficiency and growth, two extremely common education terms.

Yet only Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) joined all Democrats to vote against her. It took Vice President Mike Pence to cast the deciding vote and break the 50-50 tie – the first time that has happened for a Cabinet position.

This is a classic example of money speaking louder than people.

DeVos is a Republican mega-donor. She’s given $200 million to GOP candidates over the years – including many of the Senators who voted to confirm her.

Constituents flooded Senator’s phone lines in the past week, demanding they vote against DeVos. The progressive network CREDO Action received over 1.4 million signatures on a petition opposing DeVos ― the most a petition from the organization has ever received.

In a satirical move, Katherine Fritz, a Philadelphia teacher started a GoFundMe page to “buy back” Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) support of DeVos. Though the stunt generated more than $71,000, Toomey still voted for the woman who gave him $60,500 in campaign funds.

Sen. John McCain (Arizona), known as a maverick, also voted along with the crowd. He has the courage to speak up against Donald Trump’s advocacy of torture – having endured it, himself, as a POW during WWII – but when it comes to our nation’s children, he chose to hide behind his party.

At least the Democrats showed a little bit of life, having held the Senate floor for 24 hours straight before the vote. Ostensibly this was to pressure another Republican to join their side, but they had to know it was merely a stunt. If Republicans refused to listen to their own constituents for this long, another 24 hours probably wouldn’t have mattered that much.

To be fair, Democrats deserve a lot of the blame for what happened – for everything that happens under President Steve Bannon – I mean Trump. It was their hubris, political weakness and willingness to go further and further right that gave us this disaster. Not only couldn’t they defeat the least popular Presidential candidate in history this November, they paved the way for much of the corporate education reform we can expect from the DeVos administration.

Both of President Barack Obama’s Education Secretaries were clearly more knowledgeable and qualified than DeVos. But they all think public schools should be run like businesses. They all think the way to improve public schools is to make them less public – more charter schools, more Common Core, more standardized testing. They’ve all given up on committing to quality schools and instead push choice – as if choice and quality were somehow the same. They aren’t.

When Democrats don’t show a strong contrast to Republicans, Republicans win. After all, why would someone vote for a Conservative-wannabe when they can just as easily have the real thing?

However, there is a ray of hope.

This fight has shown that a considerable grassroots network exists to both fight Trump and to champion public education.

What the Trump administration is doing is not at the behest of the people of the United States. He is a rogue leader who only gained power because of antiquated election laws, gerrymandering and the appalling weakness of corporate Democrats.

Already the grassroots has pushed the Democrats to wake up and actually fight for things again. Admittedly, it’s been too little too late. It remains to be seen whether the party has enough life in it to pose a real resistance to the Trump status quo.

But if it can’t, the people will not be contained. We will start our own third party from the ground up.

The pushback against DeVos shows that the resistance is out there. It shows our strength.

We just need to turn that into real victories. We have two years until the midterm elections and four years until we send Trump packing (assuming he doesn’t implode first).

If I were one of the Senate Republicans who voted for DeVos, I would not feel at all safe about my chances for re-election.

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16 thoughts on “Betsy DeVos and the Cowardice of Republicans

  1. Here is the text that I sent to my Senators, McCain and Flake this morning: “As I told you in previous contacts, my wife Susan and I are career educators. We are greatly disappointed in your vote in favor of Betsy DeVos, an avowed enemy of public education and a totally unqualified candidate to oversee education in our country. Over 90% of the children in our land rely upon public schools for their education. The lack of actual concern for our children, our most important resource is very troubling. We are very disturbed that positions of such importance in our government can be bought so easily. Education is not a growth industry. This shames our heritage as a bastion of learning and freedom.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Politicians Are Poody Heads and commented:
    Thank you, Steven Singer. You are exactly correct.
    If the Democrats think that they can win by acting more and more like Republicans, why would anyone who leans that way vote for the faux-Republicans?
    We do need to start organizing and fighting at the grassroots level.
    Fight, fight, fight! It may take awhile, but we need to start. Now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Collins and Murkowski were only there to distract. They could have easily voted against DeVos so that she wouldn’t make it to the Senate vote. Just a distraction to keep people occupied, all the while the plan is to dismantle USDE by 2018. That’s what Trump (I mean President Pence) said, so now it will be done. GOP Senators are already sharpening their knives for the gutting of USDE as we speak. As for Betsy, she is the perfect person for the task and when it’s all done, she will go back to her money, wreaking havoc on Michigan, and buying her allegiance of politicians to support her own money making causes. She is way smarter than she seemed in her hearing….the woman is a shark and smells money in the water.

    Like

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