Wednesday, February 8, 2017

DeVos confirmation consolations

Thanks to all of you who fought the good fight in calling Senators to oppose the DeVos nomination. Republicans like to complain about teachers' unions, and sometimes unions push for things that are suboptimal (police unions I am looking at you), but corporations can push harder for greater evil than teachers' unions ever will. Like: confirming an utterly unqualified Secretary of Education who lobbied for corporations running failing charter schools in Michigan, so they could keep their badly run charter schools open and even expand them. It's crony capitalism with children in its claws.

I expected this evil in November, but with it comes a sign of the Democratic Party becoming what it could be. Every single Democrat and two moderate Republicans voted no. The last Cabinet nominee who lost a vote was alcoholic sexual harrasser John Tower, blocked by Democrats and liberal Republicans in 1989. The sheer outpouring of activist energy brought us closer to another block than anything since. (Pence, historically, had to vote. Sessions had to be delayed so he could still be in the Senate to vote.) For reference, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were confirmed 94-2 and 94-3.

There are two reasons why I can feel okay right now. (1) DeVos is going to have some difficulty implementing her terrible policies. Education is mostly controlled in the states, and working the federal bureaucracy right to implement her objectives is a challenge that she has never undertaken and probably can't really handle. (2) I never expected us to block DeVos -- skillful majority leaders like McConnell and Pelosi (who did exactly this when she passed Obamacare) can usually get just enough votes within their caucus, by giving some people a break and other people favors for voting their way.

The giant foe that looms before us is Neil Gorsuch, nominated to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. Unlike Cabinet appointments, Democrats can block him with the filibuster. I've spent a couple days thinking about some arguments from smart people who think it's okay to confirm him, and concluded that they're wrong on basically everything except counterfactuals for some unlikely scenarios. Blocking Gorsuch matters way more than DeVos.

More on this soon. But for now: rest well, and take care of yourself so you'll be ready for the battles ahead.