A Senate Supermajority?

Barney Brenner
|
Posted: Feb 10, 2017 12:01 AM
A Senate Supermajority?

It's hard to recall a more foolish or petulant action by Senate Democrats than the recent confirmation vote for Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos – unless it’s Elizabeth Warren’s pathetic denigration of her colleague, Jeff Sessions. In a fruitless effort, all 46 Dem senators (which include the 23 up for re-election next year) plus two Independents and two turncoat Republicans with significant conflicts of interest, turned their backs on America's citizens and their school-aged children by nearly voting down an eminently qualified and selfless woman who for years has worked tirelessly on behalf of better education for inner-city kids. It took an unprecedented (for cabinet nominees) tie-breaking vote by Vice-President Mike Pence to confirm DeVos’ appointment.

In a stunning display of heartlessness for their supposedly beloved minority constituents, these fifty elected officials sided with the failed public (read government) school system, the teachers unions and the dysfunctional educational establishment and against the prospect for every student in the nation to get high-quality schooling, regardless of their zip code.

Keep it up, Dems. You may be facing a supermajority Senate in 2019 as ten of those obstinate Senators are in states that the Donald carried last year, five by double-digit margins. Mitt Romney also won those five states handily in 2012, four by double digits. With the election of Donald Trump, the Republican political playbook is out the window, but that of the Democrats is not. And Trump is using their tactics against them: always keep fighting, never give in. It’s the way he won his election, against all odds and all opponents, and it’s not hard to envision him fighting for the election of others next year. So at least eight of those seats could show up in Republican hands in the 116th Congress.

Republicans are eight seats short of 60 Senators, that magic number required to invoke cloture. Although a couple of the caucus are weak sisters, a Democrat bloodbath in 2018 could put the Republicans over the top. With the prospect of at least four and more likely eight years of Republican control of the executive branch, it’s conceivable that many of these vulnerable incumbents (or even not so vulnerable but hating their prolonged minority status) would choose to take the pension money and run.

One of the hallmarks of Trump’s campaign was a vocal concern for the inner cities, which have been plagued by lawlessness, unemployment and perpetually failing schools. By nominating a woman who is a proponent of an all-of-the-above approach to parental empowerment and educated kids, President Trump is signaling his intent to transform those areas of the U.S. that actually need it. In contrast to the previous administration, the Trump Transformation will be for the better.

For many years and by multiple measurements, the highest-spending and worst-performing public school system in the country has been in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. The 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman, focusing on the D.C. school system, was an exposé of the stranglehold that government teachers and their unions have on the fate of K-12 students nationwide. Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the D.C. district, is shown attempting to take on those unions by promoting other educational opportunities such as charter schools. She suffers a blistering backlash from the unions and the teachers as well. Her efforts, and the hopes of the kids portrayed, were heartbreakingly crushed.

The unions do everything in their considerable power to protect bad schools and bad teachers and to prevent families from having an educational path out of poverty. At the same time, the elitists in the school systems, along with their political enablers, almost universally guarantee school choice for themselves by keeping their own kids out of government-run schools.

The film's title is based on an anecdote from Geoffrey Canada, the president of the Harlem Children's Zone, an organization devoted to expanding inner-city opportunity, and, along with Rhee, a focus of the film. He tells of his childhood perception that Superman would always be there to rescue people from bad situations but his hopes are dashed when his mother explains that the Caped Crusader is a comic book character. It was a sad awakening.

But while Superman is fictional, there is still hope. With Betsy DeVos’ confirmation, Superwoman may have arrived instead.