Friday, July 28, 2017

Speak Up, Betsy!

One of the many odd features of this week's Adventures in Congressional Fumblebludgery was that at no point did GOP senators try to make a case publicly for any of what they were trying to do.

This is, I suppose, a predictable effect of our post-Citizens United era-- our elected representatives only have to explain themselves to the billionaires who bankroll them. As long as those guys are happy, a multi-million dollar media buy should be able to manufacture consent from the rest of us. They don't actually answer to We Lesser Peons, so why bother trying to talk to us (particularly if the vast majority of us disagree with whatever skullduggery they're up to.)

This same disregard for the Lessers might explain the Curious Case of Education's Silent Secretary. Her lack of interest in growing has been on display back to the moment in her confirmation hearing when she couldn't think of any lesson she'd learned in Michigan (after 30 years of education wonkslammery), and many have noted it along the way. DeVos seems to be a True Believer who operates the department opaquely, keeping her cards close to the vest even as she fails to fill in missing positions in the department, which lets her keep things even more opaque. And on the rare occasion that she speaks to press, it's a ridiculous minimalist deconstructed play on an interview, like her three-question dance with Craig Melvin.

Look, if she needed the rest of us to know or understand what was going on, she'd tell us. But she doesn't owe us any kind of explanation (this is why I'm opposed to the various Trump folks who aren't taking salaries-- it's one more way for them to say that they don't owe the American public anything.)

But DeVos's press-averse non-talkarariness may well also be one more measure of her unfitness for the job.

I called this one way back when. DeVos is not a philanthropist-- she has "donated" in order to buy compliance. She's not an advocate-- her "arguments" in favor of policies have consisted of writing checks.

In other words, while DeVos has always had strong convictions about education, she has never had to actually argue for them and convince others to agree with her. She just writes checks, finds people who see things her way, writes more checks. I wonder if she has ever had a conversation with a politician in which she couldn't close with, "Do you want me to finance a primary opponent?" A lifetime as an heiress married to an even-richer heir has not prepared her to convince other people to agree with her. Or, as Lisa Miller put it in her recent DeVos profile:

Out of Michigan, without her checkbook, DeVos is like a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.

This is one of the problems with oligarchs-- they know how to command compliance, but not how to earn cooperation. I can believe that DeVos doesn't feel she should have to argue for her preferred policies-- she's right, and that should be the end of it. But I can also believe that she literally does not know how to do it.

It's just one more reason that she never should have been put in the office in the first place. She seems at once the most dangerous and least able of Trump's crew of muckthuggists. The only good news here is that she is poised to be so ineffective that many of her bad ideas will never get off ground. The bad news is that US citizens may end up with a much more privatized education system and never hear a reason why they were subjected to such suckmuggery.


  1. I like your dictionary of made up words.

  2. Not to defend the devil, but in terms of dealing with "lessers", I don't see how DeVos is any worse than Duncan or King.