The bartender bought us a free round of Surfer on Acid shots on Saturday, so we hired her to perform root canals on us.
The mechanic threw in a free oil filter in appreciation of our repeat business, so we hired him to plan our wedding.
The nice lady and her family, who made their fortune off a multi-level marketing business, donated generously to our political campaigns and conservative causes, so we made her U.S. Secretary of Education.
These scenarios may have sounded ridiculous a year or even six months ago, but here we are.
Heiress and Republican mega-donor Betsy DeVos will be the U.S. Secretary of Education in the wake of V.P. Mike Pence's tie-breaking vote in her favor. A couple of Republicans, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lise Murkowski, crossed the aisle to vote against her, which resulted in a tie; Pence was tasked with casting the deciding vote.
Democratic Senators' grilling of DeVos made for late-night TV fodder when she couldn't answer questions an education major with a C average could easily get right. In fact, she didn't really answer many questions at all.
But that didn't seem to matter to those who supported her, because:
a) Her family has given crazy amounts of money to the PACs and/or campaigns of President Trump and many of the U.S. Senators who voted for her. Take one Marco Rubio, the Republican U.S. Senator from Florida, who, having taken $100,000 in contributions from the DeVos family (for a time he was their golden boy, after all), ignored the pleas of constituents who flooded his office with calls, emails and in-person visits and urged him not to support her. It goes to show: you can do whatever you want in life, as long as you give free stuff to the right people.
b) Much like most of those senators, she seems more in favor of dismantling public education by funneling education dollars into often ideologically-driven charter schools that have little interest in arming the general public with critical thinking skills. (People with critical thinking skills don't vote for a candidate who wants to abolish civil rights as well as environmental and financial protections, because he "says what's on his mind" or is a "self-made man" who is actually an heir). And what do you know? On the same day of the vote, a Republican from Kentucky filed a bill that would abolish the U.S. Department of Education completely.
Of course, DeVos' confirmation doesn't exactly mean that public education will soon be defunded out of existence (that's what states are for!). Local and state taxes are largely what fund education, with help from federal and private grants. So, in a concrete sense, her confirmation doesn't mean as much as it does in its spirit, i.e., public schools shouldn't expect her to visit for a pep talk anytime soon.
Reactions abounded in the wake of the vote.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, was visibly shocked during her confirmation hearing after he asked her about the ongoing debate between proficiency and growth. Here's what he had to say in a written statement he sent out following the vote:
"One of the most important jobs in our government is the Secretary of Education, who directly oversees the policies that children, teachers, school administrators, and entire communities depend on. It's not a job for amateurs who don't know the first thing about education. I voted against the nomination of Betsy DeVos, a billionaire Republican donor, because she is the most incompetent cabinet-level nominee I have ever seen," he said.
Ben Monterroso, director of the Latino voting rights group Mi Familia Vota, said Latin Americans are taking note of the senators who voted for her confirmation, and will remember the vote next time they're up for reelection:
“It is incredibly disappointing to see that while we teach our children that hard work and good grades are important, that we did not demand the same level of studiousness and merit from our now confirmed DOE Secretary Betsy DeVos. The nomination was so highly contested that Vice-President Pence had to issue the tie-breaking vote," he said in a written statement. “In 2018, Latino voters will remember how their senators voted on this important cabinet position. Senators cannot continue to offer lip-service to Latinos during election season without actually acting in the benefit of our community when we need them most.”
This tweet from Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, who didn't seem to realize that every single Democrat in the Senate voted against DeVos.