It Will Be Critical To Keep The Pressure On Democrats: The DeVos Edition

Over the next two years, it’s going to be very hard for the Left (I use that term very broadly) to shift Republican officials on key elements of their platform. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen–or that we shouldn’t try–but the success rate is going to be very low. But we can make sure Democrats draw sharp distinctions between themselves and Republicans, and when they do, we need to ensure those distinctions are worth a damn. That means, rather than cheering mindlessly for Team Democrat, we will have to be hard with some Democrats by making it clear they will lose their own offices if they fuck this up.

Not only can’t we afford ersatz bipartisanship that muddies the waters, but no Democrat should support any of the coming garbage–throw them an anvil. Democrats have done this with education reform–there’s a reason why Cory Booker is distrusted by part of the left. Keep in mind, teachers, and their unions, are one of the few ‘organic’ organizations with clout and heft Democrats have left–shitting all over them might not be a great idea. Attacking teachers isn’t the way to go here.

Unfortunately, Democrats have been very stupid (boldface mine):

But the record shows that Democrats can’t just blame Republicans for her ascension. It was actually Democrats who helped pave the road for DeVos to take the helm of the Education Department.

Democrats have in recent years sounded — and acted — a lot like Republicans in advancing corporate education reform, which seeks to operate public schools as if they were businesses, not civic institutions. (This dynamic isn’t limited to education, but this post is.) By embracing many of the tenets of corporate reform — including the notion of “school choice” and the targeting of teachers and their unions as being blind to the needs of children — they helped make DeVos’s education views, once seen as extreme, seem less so.

Why? Well, follow the money:

The Democratic Party was undergoing structural changes as their traditional bastion of support, labor, was diminished by the changing economy. Democrats began looking more to Wall Street and the superwealthy for funding. During the past three decades, as this PostEverything article explains, the wealthiest Americans have shifted their donations, giving more to Democrats than Republicans — with young technology moguls leading the way….

A group called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), founded and supported in large part by hedge fund managers, was formed before the 2008 election. It embraced corporate reform and pushed school choice. It turns out that it accepted some money from a group DeVos founded, the American Federation for Children. Vicki Ballagh, a DFER spokesperson, said in an email that the amount was “negligible,” and teacher and blogger Mercedes Schneider reported that it was in the tens of thousands of dollars….

Democratic support for market forces in public education reform softened the ground for programs, such as school vouchers. Obama and many other Democrats don’t support using public money for private and religious school tuition — but Obama’s opposition seemed like a policy asterisk compared to the Republican-sounding policy initiatives he did champion.

Like I said, it’s going to be really hard to influence Republicans, but we can make sure Democrats do the right thing.

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