It was a squeaker, but what is important is the outcome.
When I heard the appointment, I knew there would be trouble. The extensive DeVos family, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is part of the donor class, as has been amply documented. The family fortune, based on Amway products, is estimated at $5 billion. The DeVos family is a political force without comparison in Michigan. “Their politics are profoundly Christian and conservative,” says Politico.
The DeVos point of view is high-end evangelical Protestant. A lot of people nationwide who take religion seriously are indebted in one way or another to DeVos money and zeal. DeVos money helped make bestselling author and renowned pastor Tim Keller, for example. After Michigan went Trump, in an act of gratitude as old as human society, the DeVos machine got repaid, and Betsy was no longer in the dark money shadows.
The teachers unions, always vicious about private alternatives, targeted DeVos for extinction. She could be taken down more easily than Sessions or Tillerson, it was thought. The LGBT education lobby and bacchante feminists both hate DeVos and are prone to public displays of emotion. They fear rightly that DeVos might try to rescind Office of Civil Rights guidance letters and diverse regulations that try to repurpose education along racial, feminist, LGBT and other progressive lines.
Betsy DeVos is by no means an education dunce. She has experience in a certain sphere of education. As do many ill-advised conservatives, she overtrusts free market solutions to school failure and reform. She believes in vouchers and charter schools. She knows little about insane — and insanely complicated — federal policies and regulations, and it shows. Academic curricula are not her strong suit. Worse, DeVos is not schooled in white privilege, disparate impact, prejudicial discipline, and the rest of the lumpen professoriate creed.
Had the organized Washington left prevailed in squashing this cabinet appointment — and it came very close — the education establishment would guess it could block further appointments and policy. The federal Leviathan would sigh with relief, knowing it still monopolized the political culture and rules of the game.
This is a huge political victory for Trump over the status quo. For public school classroom quality? Not so much. But a move like this t0 disarm Leviathan is a colossal step in the right direction.