In the wake of last year’s election upset, Democratic activists and journalists worried about the rise of authoritarianism under the new administration urged Americans to donate to the ACLU and other organizations devoted to protecting civil liberties against government overreach. But now Senate Democrats are trying to derail a Trump cabinet nominee because she donated to a group that stands up for free speech and due process in an arena where their ideological allies have tried to restrict them. Politico reports:
Republican megadonor Betsy DeVos has given thousands of dollars to an advocacy group that is seeking to overturn an Obama administration policy that made it easier to discipline college students accused of sexual harassment or assault. […]
DeVos has not spoken publicly about the Education Department’s aggressive approach to campus sexual assault, but women’s groups and Democrats say her donations to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education send a troubling signal. […]
“Ms. DeVos must fully explain whether she supports the radical view that it should be more difficult for campus sexual assault victims to receive justice,” said Sen. Bob Casey, (D-Pa.), a member of the HELP Committee.
Imagine Senator Casey’s quote applied to a hypothetical 2019 Trump administration policy that stripped due process rights from terror suspects: “Democrats must fully explain whether they support the radical view that it should be more difficult for victims of terrorism to receive justice,” an administration spokesman might demand. Such a statement would surely be described (accurately) as classic demagoguery.
As a spokesperson for DeVos noted, FIRE does work in a wide range of areas. It protects student free speech rights regardless of the speakers’ political orientation, although because conservatives are a such a small ideological minority on campus, their views tend to be targeted more frequently. And it advocates for sexual assault policies that fairly weigh the interests of both accusers and the accused, rather than simply expelling students after kangaroo court show trials, as many activists demand.
That Democrats are floating this line of attack against DeVos is a testimony to how influential identity-politics fixated campus activists have become even among the party’s moderates. Which, needless to say, is a big reason the party finds itself in opposition in the first place.