From a scathing editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal (my emphasis):
The Senate made history Tuesday when Mike Pence became the first Vice President to cast the deciding vote for a cabinet nominee.
The nominee is now Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The vote came after an all-night Senate debate in a futile effort by Democrats to turn the third Republican vote they needed to scuttle the nomination on claims that the long-time education reformer isn’t qualified. Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins had already caved, so Mr. Pence had to cast the 51st vote to confirm Mrs. DeVos.
She can now get on with her work, but this episode shouldn’t pass without noting what it says about the modern Democratic Party. Why would the entire party apparatus devote weeks of phone calls, emails and advocacy to defeating an education secretary? This isn’t Treasury or Defense. It’s not even a federal department that controls all that much education money, most of which is spent by states and local school districts. Why is Betsy DeVos the one nominee Democrats go all out to defeat?
The answer is the cold-blooded reality of union power and money. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are, along with environmentalists, the most powerful forces in today’s Democratic Party. They elect Democrats, who provide them more jobs and money, which they spend to elect more Democrats, and so on. To keep this political machine going, they need to maintain their monopoly control over public education.
Mrs. DeVos isn’t a product of that monopoly system. Instead she looked at this system’s results—its student failures and lives doomed to underachievement—and has tried to change it by offering all parents the choice of charter schools and vouchers. Above all, she has exposed that unions and Democrats don’t really believe in their high-minded rhetoric about equal opportunity. They believe in lifetime tenure and getting paid.
The article is behind the paywall, but if you use an “incognito” browser and Google the title — “The Real Democratic Party” — you should be able to read it.
I should say also that this is not to suggest in any way that the same sort of thing doesn’t happen on the Republican side as well; of course it does. It is an obvious and inherent liability of our system of government. What should also be obvious is that the bigger that government is, and the more powerful it is, the more it attracts — and welcomes — such unholy arrangements, and the more pernicious they become to the general welfare.
If we are to continue to embrace this form of democracy, then the only good answer to the problem is to curtail the size and power of the Federal apparatus itself. You would think that would be as plain as day — so why does it never happen? Because among the many inherent liabilities of complex representative democracies is that the Leviathan always seeks its own growth, with the political class generally acting in the role of parasitic symbiotes. (I’ll take this opportunity to recommend two books: Crisis and Leviathan, by Robert Higgs, and The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics, by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith.)
It is not easy to see a way out of this trap.