There are times when the spirit has the upper hand. There are also times when ignoring the facts places us all at risk. Worse than evil is indifference to evil. With the recent election of Donald “Judas” Trump, our nation is on the cusps of returning to those dark days of yesteryear. Many a person today has a reason to despair. Prepare yourselves as the fortunate and the unfortunate are about to suffer. So cry out if you will, for crying out to something is not crying into nothing. Those small observations that go neglected, translates into matters of greater consequences. So remember, it is always the little things, when compounded together over time, are the things that really matter and will have enduring consequences.
Mr. Trump is in the process of auditioning contestants for his new reality show, “Let’s Make America Unhinged Again”. Several names for cabinet positions keep popping up, but none are more disturbing than those of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions and Betsy DeVos. Also among the mix are Newt Gingrich, Ben Carson, and the incomparable Rudolph William Louis “Rudy” Giuliani. I place these last 3 in the category of intelligent fools who are basically “hangers on”, seeking positions to elevate their own self- importance. This is not to say that they are any less dangerous, for they too have proven themselves to be intolerant, devious and deceptive. Mitt Romney is a story unto himself, and I won’t waste your time or mine as he exposed himself so eloquently in the 2012 Election.
So, let me focus on the two other contestants. The selection of Jeff Sessions for any cabinet position would be totally unacceptable by any standard. His record is too divisive, too extreme and too racist to serve in any role. He has overtly expressed his racist views, slammed civil rights organizations and derided the Voting Rights Act as a piece of “intrusive legislation”. In the last several years, he opposed the Violence Against Women Act, impeded efforts to remove the Confederate flag from display on public property and opposed the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Not only did he repeatedly vote against defense authorization bills, he did so because he disagreed with hate crime riders and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law associated with these authorizations.
Jeff Sessions is only the 2nd nominee in 50 years to be rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee for a federal judgeship because of his racist comments. He continues to this day to embrace draconian policies that would hurt communities of color, especially including the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. He remains a stanch and virulent opponent of the immigration bill passed by the Senate in 2013 which included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in this country. He went so far as to attempt to pass a bill that would prevent the Justice Department from filing civil rights lawsuits against anti-immigration laws passed by several states. Alabama had such an anti-immigration law however 7 provisions of that law were struck down by the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama as unconstitutional. It should come as no surprise that the Senator is an avid opponent of anti-war protesters, especially anti-Iraq war protesters, as in his opinion, “they do not represent the American ideals of freedom, liberty and spreading that around the world”. In this context, one could assume that Jeff Sessions is the only true patriotic citizen in America.
The thought of him being appointed to Trump’s cabinet as Attorney General is abhorrent. He is beyond the ideological fringe and the Senate should reject him for any position that requires confirmation. His appointment would only reinforce Trump’s appointment of white nationalist Steve Bannon to the top strategist’s role at the White House. It is eminently clear that Sessions is unfit to be Attorney General, a position where non-whites would have good reason to fear that he would actively and passively defang the enforcement of federal civil rights laws. No Senator should vote for a man who we all know will not render justice impartially to all Americans.
Equally troubling is Trump’s recent announcement of Betsy DeVos as the next Secretary of Education. A billionaire Michigan Republican activist and philanthropist, she has limited experience in public education. The DeVos family has been compared to the Koch family in terms of their influence on the modern conservative movement and the Christian right, pouring money into anti-abortion, anti-LGBT rights causes, and supporting and donating to Focus on the Family which supports conversion therapy. Her appointment represents a scary marriage of corporate cronyism, the Christian far-right, and Trumpism.
In 2000, Betsy DeVos helped get a ballot measure before Michigan voters that would have enshrined a right to vouchers in the state’s constitution. After the measure failed, she and her husband formed a political action committee to support pro-voucher candidates nationally. It’s pretty clear what is going on here. Ms. DeVos’ plan is to undermine public education by pushing a consistent corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cooker-cutter solutions to public education. She has helped to make Michigan’s charter schools among the least regulated in the nation. Some 80% of the state’s charter schools are run by private companies.
In Michigan, a for profit charter school insurgency in Detroit has led to a public education fiasco that is unparalleled in the United States, with only 10% of rising seniors scoring “college ready” on reading tests. If Michigan is a center of school choice, it is also among the worst places to argue that choice has made schools better. As the state embraced and then expanded charter schools over the past two decades, its rank has fallen on national reading and math tests. Most charter schools perform below the state average. In fact, a federal review in 2015 found “an unreasonably high” percentage of charter schools on the list of the state’s lowest performing schools. Charter schools also have fewer special education students than traditional public schools, with the difference between the two most dramatic in the state’s urban areas. Even many Michigan republican supporters of charter schools say the Michigan agenda has allowed failing charter schools to expand and replicate.
It appears that DeVos’ agenda is to break the public education system, not educate kids, and replace it with a for-profit model. This model is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse and handfeeding it school children. The Trump-DeVos agenda for education has the potential to undermine progress by diverting resources from the young people who most need them, or by failing to uphold the federal government’s responsibility to protect the needs and interests of all students, especially the most vulnerable.
In the final analysis, we now have an unqualified and unfit President Elect surrounding himself with unqualified and unfit surrogates. Let the ratings begin for this new reality show!