The Real Democratic Party
The Senate made history when Mike Pence became the first Vice President to cast the deciding vote for a cabinet nominee.
The nominee is now Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The vote came after an all-night Senate debate in a futile effort by Democrats to turn the third Republican vote they needed to scuttle the nomination on claims that the long-time education reformer isn't qualified. Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins had already caved, so Mr. Pence had to cast the 51st vote to confirm Mrs. DeVos.
She can now get on with her work, but this episode shouldn't pass without noting what it says about the modern Democratic Party. Why would the entire party apparatus devote weeks of phone calls, emails and advocacy to defeating an education secretary? This isn't Treasury or Defense. It's not even a federal department that controls all that much education money, most of which is spent by states and local school districts. Why is Betsy DeVos the one nominee Democrats go all out to defeat?
The answer is the cold-blooded reality of union power and money. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are, along with environmentalists, the most powerful forces in today's Democratic Party. They elect Democrats, who provide them more jobs and money, which they spend to elect more Democrats, and so on. To keep this political machine going, they need to maintain their monopoly control over public education.
Mrs. DeVos isn't a product of that monopoly system. Instead she looked at this system's results-its student failures and lives doomed to underachievement-and has tried to change it by offering all parents the choice of charter schools and vouchers. Above all, she has exposed that unions and Democrats don't really believe in their high-minded rhetoric about equal opportunity. They believe in lifetime tenure and getting paid.
This sorry politics means that no Democrat could dare support Mrs. DeVos, even if it meant a humiliating about-face like the one performed by New Jersey Senator, Cory Booker. As the mayor of Newark, Mr. Booker supported more school choice and he even sat on the board of an organization that would become the American Federation for Children (AFC), the school reform outfit chaired by Mrs. DeVos.
As recently as May 2016, Mr. Booker delivered an impassioned speech at the AFC's annual policy summit in Washington. He boasted about how Newark had been named by the Brookings Institution "the number four city in the country for offering parents real school choice."
He described the school-choice cause this way: "We are the last generation, fighting the last big battle to make true on that-that a child born anywhere in America, from any parents, a child no matter what their race or religion or socio-economic status should have that pathway, should have that equal opportunity, and there is nothing more fundamental to that than education. That is the great liberation."
Some liberator. Mr. Booker voted no on Mrs. DeVos.
His calculation is simple. Mr. Booker is angling to run for President in 2020, and to have any chance at the Democratic nomination he needs the unions' blessing. He knows that a large chunk of both the party's delegates and campaign funding comes from the teachers unions, and so he had to repent his school-choice apostasy.
The unions can't even tolerate a debate on the subject lest their monopoly power be threatened. All that chatter about "the children" is so much moral humbug.
Mrs. DeVos is a wealthy woman who could do almost anything with her time and money. She has devoted it to philanthropy for the public good, in particular working to ensure that children born without her advantages can still have an equal shot at the American dream. She knows education should be about learning for children and not jobs for adults.
All you need to know about today's Democratic Party is that this is precisely the reason the party went to such extraordinary lengths to destroy her. We trust she realizes that her best revenge will be to use every resource of her new job to press the campaign for charter schools and vouchers from coast to coast.