CLEVELAND — As I’ve been watching President-elect Joe Biden put together his leadership team, I’ve experienced a disquieting sense of déjà vu. Here we go again. Barack Obama redux. Perhaps even worse.
The recent anybody-but-Trump election result seems destined to send us careening in the wrong direction in so many ways. Doubtless there are many more to come, but here are just two examples:
The first is Betsy DeVos, the soon-to-be-ex U.S. secretary of education.
Yes, I know, my liberal friends … to you, she is the devil incarnate, and her name seldom appears in the national media without a disparaging modifier. Biden has pledged to erase all traces of her tenure, a policy you might instinctively cheer.
So here are some of the terrible things she has done:
From the start, DeVos said that her main objective was to work herself out of a job – meaning that the one-size-fits-all federal Department of Education enacted in the waning days of the Jimmy Carter administration was a mistake to begin with. She argued that decisions on how children should be educated ought to be made on a local – or at least a state – level, and not by the federal government. Better yet, she says, give parents a stronger say.
“At the end of the day, we want parents to have the freedom, the choices, and the funds to make the best decisions for their children,” she said in an October speech.
To that end, DeVos has been a longtime advocate of school choice.
“I like to picture kids with their backpacks representing funding for their education following them wherever they go to learn,” she said. “In this sense, public and private schools alike don’t exist to supplant parents; they exist to supplement them.”
Recent polls have shown that a great percentage of Americans support school choice, and even more favor federal tax credits that will help them send their children to schools of their choosing.
In a Real Clear Politics poll taken in April, 64% of registered voters, including 67% of Black respondents, said they supported the following statement: “School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs.” Federal tax credit scholarships got approval from 69%.
Unsurprisingly, the percentage of people who support school choice has jumped even more during the current pandemic, as parents have gotten a closer look at the education process.
The question is: Will Biden, in the face of the powerful teachers unions that are foursquare against school choice, replace DeVos with an education secretary who supports it? I think we all know the answer to that one.
Apart from that, consider the following DeVos decisions that defanged edicts left over from the Obama administration – and that will loom again with Biden in charge.
She reversed an Obama administration “Dear Colleague” letter that essentially denied due process to college students accused of sexual assault, most of whom are men, considering them to be guilty until proven innocent, and putting the accused’s fate totally in the hands of one person who would serve as investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury. The change allowed the accused student to face his accuser and defend himself in real time, and allowed colleges to raise the standard for guilt from “preponderance of the evidence” (which simply means that it’s more likely that he is guilty than not) to “clear and convincing evidence.”
She rescinded an Obama directive that instructed schools to make sure student discipline lined up racially with the school’s enrollment, or else face possible civil rights prosecution. This resulted in “daily fights, concealed weapons and teachers assaulted being ignored to reduce the number of incidents reported,” according to one school representative in North Carolina. Again, DeVos put such decisions back in the hands of the states rather than the federal government.
“Government has never made anything better or cheaper, more effective or more efficient,” she has said. “And nowhere is that more true than in education.”
We need more of that attitude in Washington, not less. But we sure won’t get it from a Biden administration. Betsy DeVos is a brave woman of independent means who put herself in the liberal crosshairs solely on a matter of principle, and I’ll be sorry to see her go.
The second example is culture warrior Xavier Becerra, former congressman and current attorney general from California, whom Biden intends to put in charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Becerra is recently notable for two things: Filing more than 100 lawsuits against Trump’s policies (at a cost of $43 million and counting), many of them opposing the president’s efforts to keep illegal immigration at bay. And, his unqualified and aggressive support of abortion, wherever and whenever.
In regard to immigration, Becerra is a champion of sanctuary states, towns, neighborhoods and living rooms, resisting federal efforts to find and deport illegal immigrants and refusing to cooperate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
“The people this law protects the most are the criminal aliens,” said an ICE spokesperson about California’s “sanctuary” statutes. “To be clear, ICE neither expects nor wants, local law enforcement agencies to participate in immigration enforcement in the community; but as law enforcement officers, we do expect our partners to participate in protecting public safety.”
Not with Becerra in charge, they don’t.
As both congressman and state attorney general, Becerra was all in on abortion, with extreme positions even by California standards.
He used his power as attorney general to prosecute two pro-life activists who recorded Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of body parts of aborted babies. In Congress, he voted against the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (which passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan margin), voted to preserve partial birth abortion, voted to protect gender-selective abortions and voted to force religious organizations to pay for abortions.
Maybe all the above is good news for you. If you oppose school choice, believe that people accused of sexual misconduct are guilty until proven innocent, favor laws that make it difficult to corral criminal illegal immigrants and think it’s fine to abort a baby because he or she is the wrong gender, you will be happy with Joe Biden’s leadership choices.
But if you wonder why I voted for Donald Trump last month and fear a Biden/Harris administration for the next four years, you’ll find some of the answers above.
Ted Diadiun is a member of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer.
To reach Ted Diadiun: firstname.lastname@example.org
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