Category Archives: Democrat Party

The DeVos Apocalypse

A bit more on this important event. It will be interesting to see the landscape 4 years hence.
WSJ 2/9/2017 By Daniel Henninger

The extraordinary battle over Betsy De Vos’s nomination to be secretary of education is the defining event of the Trump presidency’s early days.

As presented, the DeVos confirmation appeared to be a standard partisan conflict between Democrats and Republicans, or in the conventional update, all that’s good and all that’s Trump.

But something deeper was at stake here, which is why the Democrats raised the nomination for a second-level cabinet post to a political apocalypse.

The person who introduced Mrs. DeVos at her confirmation hearing was former Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman from Connecticut, arguably the last of the unequivocal Democratic moderates. In the confirmation vote, every Democrat opposed Mrs. DeVos, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

The issue presumably at the center of this nomination fight is the future of the education of black children who live in urban neighborhoods.

During a strike in the 1930s, a miner’s wife wrote a song that became a Democratic anthem, “Which Side Are You On?” The question remains: Which side are you on?

A standard answer is that the interests of the Democrats and the teachers unions are conjoined. Still, many of us have wondered at the party’s massive resistance to publicschool alternatives and most reforms.
Beneath that resistance sits a grim reality: Many urban school systems are slowly dying. As with the decline of the industrial unions, the Democrats’ urban base of teachers is disappearing by attrition. The party is desperate to hold on to what’s left, and increasingly that includes its bedrock —black parents.
Enrollment in many urban schools has been declining for years. It’s down significantly in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City and elsewhere. Falling alongside have been membership rolls in urban teachers unions, notably in Michigan and Wisconsin, two Trump pickups this election.

Families who could afford it have moved away. Many adult blacks stayed behind and, inexorably, the education of their children fell behind, a fact documented annually year after year. By the way, good public teachers got trapped, too. Some of the best lost heart and left, replaced by less able teachers, some grossly so.

For parents of children in the nation’s suburban public schools, none of this mattered much, so sustained political support for reform of city schools was never very deep. But in the cities, dissent rose.

The charter-school movement emerged first in Minnesota in 1991. Wisconsin passed the first school-choice legislation in 1989, authored by a Democratic black activist named Polly Williams. Some of us thought then that Polly Williams was the start of a new, bipartisan civil-rights movement. How naive we were.
The movement persisted. According to a 2016 study by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, using state databases, these are the percentages of students now enrolled in public charters only: In now-famous Flint, Mich.: 53%. Kansas City: 40%; Philadelphia: 32%; the District of Columbia: 45%; Detroit: 53%.

In Louisiana, which essentially abandoned its failed central- administration model after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans charters are at 92%.

The steady migration of poor families to these alternatives is a historic saga of social transformation. It happened for two reasons: to escape public-school disorder and to give their kids a shot at learning.
This is one of greatest civilrights stories since the mid-1960s. And the Democratic Party’s role in it? About zero. Other than, as in the past two weeks, resistance.

In 2002, the Supreme Court, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s deciding vote, ruled that Cleveland’s (still successful) school voucher program was constitutional.

In 2013, the Obama Justice Department sought an injunction against Louisiana’s voucher system, arguing the alternative schools were . . . too black. By this logic, children are wards of the state first and the free sons and daughters of their parents second.

Let’s be clear. We are talking about the professional Democratic Party and their full-time adjuncts. Many Democrats, some as “wealthy” as Betsy De-Vos, abandoned the party’s hard-line resistance and supported charters and choice.

America’s inner cities are the foundation of the Democratic Party. Now, its urban political arm, the teachers unions, is shrinking. And its moral foundation of black parents is drifting away. Hillary Clinton explicitly promised more of the status quo. They didn’t turn out for her.

This relentless erosion of an unreformable party explains the rage over one woman, Betsy DeVos.
Some of the least attractive elements of this opposition reemerged, notably anti-Catholicism and anti-Christian bigotry. Stories cited as reason for opposition to Mrs. DeVos her support for “Christian schools.” It’s true. Those Christian and Catholic schools, supported by vouchers, have sent thousands of black and Hispanic kids on to college, the first in their families to make it that far.

Frederick Douglass, speaking in 1894 in Manassas, Va., said, “To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature.” That in 2016 this reality should be redefined in our politics as it was so clearly by the fight against Betsy DeVos is one for the history books.



The Real Democratic Party

WSJ 2/8/2017

The Senate made history Tuesday 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 allnight 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 coldblooded 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. On Tuesday 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 schoolchoice 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. That is one reason not a single Senate Democrat voted for Betsy DeVos.


Sen. Cory Booker, who voted Tuesday against confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary, speaking in 2012 at a conference of the American Federation for Children, the advocacy group chaired at the time by Mrs. DeVos:
I cannot ever stand up and stand against a parent having options, because I benefited from my parents having options. And when people tell me they’re against school choice, whether it’s the Opportunity Scholarship Act or charter schools, I look at them and say: “As soon as you’re telling me you’re willing to send your kid to a failing school in my city [Newark, N.J.], or in Camden or Trenton, then I’ll be with you.” . . .

I’m going to be out there fighting for my president, but he does not send his kids to Washington, D.C., public schools. I got a governor in the statehouse, he does not send his kids to Trenton public schools. I could go all the way down to city council people in Newark, that do not send their kids—so what have we created? A system that if you’re connected, elected, have wealth and privilege, you get freedom in this country? And now you want to deny that to my community?

No. I am going to fight for the freedom and the liberty and the choice and the options of my people, in the same way you will defend that right for yourself.


Chuck Schumer vs. the ‘Resistance’

Talk about a tough job.
WSJ By William A. Galston 2/8/2017

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has the toughest job in Washington, and nothing on the horizon is likely to make it any easier. By Election Day the tactics and tone of the Trump campaign had already rubbed Democrats’ nerves raw. The massive turnout for the Women’s March the day after the inauguration revealed the anger and fear Donald Trump’s victory had generated in the Democratic grass roots. Then in quick succession came ideologically confrontational cabinet nominations for Labor, Education, HHS and EPA; the executive order on immigration and refugees; and the president’s pick to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court.

A progressive uprising observers are already comparing to the tea party has put Democratic senators under intense pressure to reject everything and everybody the Trump administration proposes. Mr. Schumer felt compelled to vote against confirming Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as secretary of transportation— a notable breach of the comity that once characterized what used to be called the world’s greatest deliberative body until it was no longer possible to utter this phrase with a straight face.

The next few months’ legislative agenda could make matters even worse. First will come votes repealing regulations put in place late in the Obama administration, followed by a bill that repeals ObamaCare and replaces as much of it as the rules governing the budget reconciliation procedure will allow. This strategy will allow Republicans to proceed without Democratic support, which is not likely to be forthcoming under these circumstances.

The confirmation process for Neil Gorsuch, a highly credentialed judge who combines the jurisprudence of Justice Scalia with the demeanor of Jimmy Stewart, will probably yield a filibuster by Democrats still smarting over Sen. McConnell’s 10-month blockade of President Obama’s pick, the equally well qualified Merrick Garland. In turn, this will trigger a party-line vote eliminating the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees. By the time Congress reaches issues that might permit a measure of bipartisan compromise, the well may be thoroughly poisoned. If this sequence of events were compatible with the longterm interests of the Democratic Party, Mr. Schumer’s task would be straightforward if aesthetically unattractive. Unfortunately for Democrats, it is not.

In November 2018, 33 senators will be up for re-election; 25 are Democrats or independents who caucus with the Democrats, and 10 of them are at risk. Five Democrats—Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire Mc-Caskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia—represent red states that Mitt Romney carried easily. Donald Trump did even better, romping to victory with margins between 19 and 42 percentage points. In 2012 Mr. Tester received only 49% of the vote; Mr. Donnelly, 50%; Ms. Heitkamp, 51%.
Another tranche of Democrats— Florida’s Bill Nelson, Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey Jr. and Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin—represent five of the six states President Trump moved from the Democratic column in 2012 to the Republicans in 2016. It requires little imagination to predict where Mr. Trump will be campaigning in the fall of 2018, or the effect his presence may have among the workingclass voters who gave him his margin of victory in 2016.

Sen. Schumer’s overriding political imperative is to prevent Republicans from widening their Senate majority next year. To maximize his chances, he will have to allow endangered Democrats to go their own way on votes that could be used to bolster their opponents. This means defending them when they break with bluestate Democrats while doing his best to forestall debilitating primary challenges from disgruntled progressives. The formula for Democratic victory in North Dakota and West Virginia is very different from Vermont and Massachusetts, a reality that the supporters of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren must be persuaded to accept.

This is Mr. Schumer’s thankless task, which he cannot evade, whatever the shortterm impact on the support he enjoys from his party’s left wing. The alternative—an ideologically driven purge of Democratic moderates—could consign the party to minority status for a generation.

Those of a certain age cannot suppress a sigh of recognition. The clash between partisan zeal and the imperatives of building a majority helped bring about three consecutive national defeats in the 1980s until Bill Clinton and the New Democrats found a formula for leading their party out of the wilderness. Apparently their legacy—peace, vigorous economic growth and widely shared prosperity—is not good enough for today’s progressives, who view the 1990s as a period of unprincipled capitulation.

George Santayana famously remarked that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. He might have added that even those who can remember are condemned to the same fate.

Rebelling against Trump is tempting, but moderation is the key to majority status.


The Non-Silence of Elizabeth Warren

The Democrat Party wants to live by separate rules. And yet they wonder why Donald Trump was elected.
It was their “President Obama” who said, many times over: Elections have consequences. But God forbid a non-Democrat to think the same?!
Is this really where they want to take this country? If the answer is yes, I hope they are ready.
WSJ Feb. 8, 2017 6:54 p.m. ET

The activist base of the Democratic Party is demanding rage and resistance to Donald Trump and all his works, and Senate Democrats are listening. Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General Wednesday on a party-line vote, though not without more pointless melodrama and the informal launch of Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign.

The Massachusetts progressive’s latest diatribe against her fellow Senator Sessions was interrupted after she repeatedly violated Senate Rule XIX, which prohibits members from besmirching the character and motives of their colleagues. After warnings that she ignored and a Republican motion, the Senate rebuked Ms. Warren 49-43. As a result, she lost her privileges to participate in the rest of the AG debate.

Ms. Warren is now claiming she was “silenced,” which is true if she means the Senate floor for an interval lasting fewer than 24 hours. It is not true if she’s talking about the Facebook Live video she taped outside the Senate chamber on Tuesday night, her live call-in to Rachel Maddow’s prime-time television show, her sundry media appearances on Wednesday or her fundraising emails off the incident.

“This is not what America is about—silencing speech,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday, shortly after Ms. Warren announced an April publication date for her new book, “This Fight Is Our Fight.” For a martyr to censorship, she’s remarkably prolific.

Social media are overflowing with memes featuring the likes of Rosa Parks,Harriet Tubman and various suffragettes along with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comment about the Senate sanction: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Likening one of the most powerful people in the world to an underground-railroad conductor may be a tad histrionic, but you be the judge.

HRH Warren isn’t a victim, even if she enjoys feeling she is, and Republicans aren’t trying to get her to “shut up,” as if that’s possible. She knowingly broke protocol and said Mr. Sessions was “racist” and prosecuting “a campaign of bigotry,” among other gross, false and personal insults that Democrats now feel entitled to hurl. Our guess is that Ms. Warren wanted to be punished so she could play out this political theater.

A question for Republicans is whether Mr. McConnell enhanced the Warren brand by responding to her provocations in this way. She already has a formidable platform but the story dominated Wednesday’s news. Then again, sooner or later Mr. McConnell had to send a signal that Senate rules can’t be violated with impunity.

The larger context is that Democrats have slowed Senate confirmation of President Trump’s cabinet to the slowest pace since Eisenhower, and by some measures since the 19th century. Though they lack the votes to defeat anyone, they’ve boycotted hearings, maxed out debate time, denied routine courtesies and delayed procedural votes.

New Jersey’s Cory Booker even testified against Mr. Sessions, which no Senator had felt to do against a colleague since Congress was formed in 1789—a period that includes the Civil War and two world wars.

Democrats are within their rights, but at some point they might consider the precedents they’re setting. The Senate is an institution that used to run on civility and comity. Republicans as recently as 2009 confirmed 11 of President Obama’s 15 cabinet nominees by the end of January—even Tim Geithner as the Treasury Secretary who would run the IRS though he hadn’t paid all of his taxes.

Harry Reid’s unilateral destruction of the filibuster for nominees has made it impossible for Democrats to defeat a nominee without GOP help, and the next Democratic President’s cabinet is likely to receive the Trump treatment. If Democrats keep up their misbehavior, Mr. McConnell has plenty of tools he can use to pass legislation they won’t like. If Democrats want to turn the Senate into the House, with its majority rule and restricted debate, they may get their wish.