mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
Winter on the Left
Democrats Take Aim at Civil Liberties Group

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.

Features Icon
show comments
  • FriendlyGoat

    The best reason for opposing Devos as Secretary of (Public) Education is that she is not a veteran of public education and is not an advocate for public education. Another reason (for me) would be that, last time I had direct exposure to Amway, the recruitment of dealers at the bottom of the multi-level sales pyramid was based on a lot of lying about the actual business prospects of being an Amway dealer. A third reason is that a right-wing billionaire by marriage who disdains school teachers is about as crappy a pick as one can find to put in charge of school teachers.

    • Genesis123

      I know, somebody who will pay attention to the needs of kids as opposed to making sure that union money flows to Democrats. How awful. Hopefully, this pick will be the beginning of the dismantling of the teacher union cartel that has been failing our kids for far too long.
      Why do you hate the idea of poor children in minority neighborhoods having a good education? Or you only care for the poor when they vote the D and the rest of the time they can rot for all you care? Typical Leftwing hypocrite.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Tell me whether you are the product of public schools and whether your kids are in public schools and we can evaluate whatever biases you have from there.

        • Genesis123

          Yes, I went to local junior high (advanced curriculum) and then to one of NYC magnet high schools. My further education was done in private institutions. My kids go to local school, but there is a reason I pay the real estate taxes that I do.
          But why does it matter? We know we have been increasing our spending per pupil for decades without any results. The only thing we have is an ossified bureaucracy whose only function (as far as you are concerned) is to funnel money to Democrats. The fact that this bureaucracy failed generations of poor minority children, whose experience is far more common than my own, seems to not bother you too much. So I repeat my original question. Why do you hate poor black and Hispanic kids so much? Does money to Democrats mean more to you than their future? Your actions suggest that you could care less about them. That’s why ideologues like you are so dangerous and scary. You are willing to sacrifice entire generations in your quest for power. That doesn’t seem very, what’s the word I’m looking for here…. Christian of you…..

          • FriendlyGoat

            Well, if you went to public junior and senior high, were your teachers a bunch of bums? Are the teachers of your kids now a bunch of bums? Do you have some real reason to want to criticize or whack THEM?

            Now, here are some realities with respect to school choice. 1) You most likely pay a lot of property taxes on purpose because you have chosen to live in as “good” of a school district as possible. This is true of the entire middle or upper-middle classes who congregate in suburbs for these quality-of-life reasons. Most of them have no intention of moving the poor minority children out of urban schools and into theirs. Neither do they have any intention of seeing the funding of their good schools reduced by vouchers. So, rather than berating me, I would suggest you watch what is said and done by residents of “good” school districts if they are invaded with hard-to-handle kids or are presented with funding reductions.

            2) A great deal of the oomph behind the school choice movement is about gaining the ability to teach religion in sectarian schools using property-tax-source money. It is an unconstitutional proposition. Beyond that philosophical problem, a great deal of the movement is powered much more by people who are already paying both property taxes and private school tuition and who would like to stop paying the latter. It is not about those folks continuing to pay both while poor minority kids are put on scholarship into their sectarian schools. You will probably have some ample opportunity to see and hear how this plays out.

            Net, net, Betsy Devos has been chosen as a slap to every teacher you ever had and the ones teaching your kids now. Stop wasting your time pounding the keyboard at me with hate-line of the day and go tell them (THEM) how glad you are that they are getting an Amway billionaire to “oversee” their work.

          • Tom

            2. By that logic, state employees should be prohibited from giving money to churches.

          • FriendlyGoat

            State employees earn their salaries. That is why there is no constitutional question about what they do with their money after it is theirs. Meanwhile, I have to ask. Has the election caused you to lose your mind?

          • Tom

            No, but in case you haven’t noticed I’ve been staying on the same keel before and after.
            Frankly, given how hysterical you’ve been, I should ask the same of you.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Well, since you asked, here’s the answer. I felt sad in 1980 when church people dumped a Sunday School teacher to fawn over an actor. I felt sad when, starting then, all citizens were lied to repeatedly from The Right on virtually every economic issue—with the effect of the high-end tax cutting which caused a big chunk of the working class to be laughed at, pushed aside and left behind over decades (not to mention leaving the rich USA as the world’s biggest debtor nation). I feel sad again that most of the Protestant Church folks who are supposed to be focused on the “personal relationship” with Jesus just went out and voted with and for an over-arching aura of meanness which proves they don’t know Him.

            What you call hysteria is my refusal to surrender Christianity to organized deception and collective hate-mongering.

          • Tom

            Ah, I get it.
            You were sad when church people decided not to engage in identity politics in 1980, you were sad when the Left failed to tell the truth for decades, and you were sad when people decided that their choices were between meanness and meanness and voted against the person whose meanness you refused to see.
            Got it, thanks. Also, A+ on questioning other people’s salvation.
            Also, if your last sentence is the case…why are you a Democrat?

          • FriendlyGoat

            You’ve “got it” alright. Another way of turning around what I just said to you and lying back to me about it. Tom, there is such a thing as the fruit of the Spirit. When there either is no visible fruit, or the fruit is bad, the Spirit is missing.

          • Tom

            I’m not lying about what you’re saying. I’m analyzing the underlying assumptions behind it.
            And as to your last sentence, in that case, I should begin questioning your salvation.
            After all, you wanted to vote for the most pro-abortion candidate in decades.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You’re not “beginning” to question me. You have been doing so for perhaps two years. I’m used to it.

            As for abortion, there is nothing wrong with teaching men not to cause them and encouraging women not to have them (something no woman wants to do anyway.) There is a lot wrong with males —-who do the impregnating—–legislating from statehouses the elimination of personal options for women whose situations they will never know. There is also a lot wrong with assuming elections are about nothing else than this—-particularly since you’re on the wrong side of it.

          • Tom

            As for slavery, there is nothing wrong with teaching people not to own people and trying to get them away from the plantation economy. There is a lot wrong with people—-whose states buy the cotton—–legislating from statehouses the elimination of personal options for property owners whose situations they will never know and couldn’t care less about.

            –Friendly Goat, 1858

          • FriendlyGoat

            Pants on fire yet? Check for smoke.

          • Tom

            Sorry, but that is the substance of your argument. If you can’t see that, it’s not my problem.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Since you cannot lose what you never posessed, FG has suffered no loss….

          • seattleoutcast

            They earn their salaries, they do not earn their pensions.

          • FriendlyGoat

            That means cops don’t earn pensions either. As long as we treat all public employees the way we treat cops and vice versa, we can address public pension reform.

          • lurkingwithintent

            That last paragraph is a load of crap. My wife and several others who are teachers will tell you that though they can’t say it in public, this is exactly the challenge that is needed to the corrosive effect of of the federal government and national teachers organizations. Both in terms of what happens in schools pushing a left leaning, politically driven agenda and in terms of actually educating children. Even a local administrator in our school district finds Federal mandates and intrusions to be one of his biggest headaches, probably right behind parents and certain school board members. In terms of unions, I read the newsletters that are sent and these educators are correct. The NEA newsletter should be titled the National Democratic Party Committee on Public Education News. I attended public schools and had some good teachers, but some useless ones as well. I survived the disruption of busing, government meddling in education strategies and techniques and its effect on my own development in various subjects.

            As a parent my children went to public schools, but I would send them to parochial schools if I had it to do over. My kids will tell you that they have had many teachers rant and rave about any Republican candidate and have been nearly deranged in their opposition to George W. Bush and their fawning praise of the finally departing current resident of the White House. My oldest was once threatened with suspension by a Spanish language teacher for challenging his view of Che Gueverra and Castro and for asking the question of why the American flag was crumpled up in the corner of the classroom. To which my son and the whole class stood up and sang the Star Spangled banner. When I challenged his one sided approach, he said that as the teacher he thought he knew the subject better than a group of high school students. He did not think teaching that Che Gueverra was better than George W. Bush was out of the mainstream. There have been history teachers who seem to have little balance in their teaching history, no civics instruction, and a couple of science teachers who felt it their job to take shots at Christians with little understanding of knowledge of Christians who contributed to science and still do or what issues Christians might reasonably have with politically driven science instruction. Public school educators lean left even when they don’t want to, because what stands behind them leans that way.

            A conservative employee in the public school system where I now reside knows better than to say anything negative or they will find themselves moved from position to position until they decide to leave. I believe we need public education and love the many public school teachers I know, but I don’t think that Betsy DeVos is a threat to it and may stir things up for the good. I am not a fan of Trump or Amway, but I do think the creation of the Department of Education was one of the biggest mistakes ever. It would be wonderful if it ceased to exist, because it is a greater danger to public education than Betsy DeVos. The public union PAC is close behind.

            As to the sectarian schools shot, there are many private schools which offer both excellent education and the opportunity for young people to learn as an alternative to public education. I live in a town with three schools, two of them are parochial and I would send my children to either of those schools before sending them to a public school again. In other towns and cities that may not be true. There are private and public arrangements in places like Roanoke, Virginia (the Minnick Center) that help provide a last chance for many who cannot function in public education. This need not be a partisan issue, but because the unions are essentially more a political action committee than helpers of teachers or students, it will remain partisan. Republicans and Democrats are equally guilty in regard to the shameful state of public education and the unions also bear a share in the sinking of the quality of education.

          • FriendlyGoat

            1) I’m glad you seem to know that government and unions as “problems” in schools rank right BEHIND the problems of some parents and some school board members. I hope you know that some parents and some school board members are the REASONS we ever had either unions or government in education—-to regulate and mitigate the influence of nuts who would otherwise try to “run” schools from the peanut gallery. I’ve met such self-appointed people. You have too. We all have.

            2) I’m glad you are not a fan of either Trump or Amway. Since Trump has appointed Amway to be the big dog in the puddle on matters of education, you SHOULD be outraged. Putting an heiress from multi-level sales in charge of schools (which, among other things, should all be teaching kids in Family Economics Class to beware of multi-level sales) is the height of ridiculousness. It is a slap to everyone with even a modicum of sense, including you. How do we know this? Because you’re (admittedly) not a fan of Amway.

            3) The reason that NEA and other unions are active in all kinds of politics is to try to prevent citizen ignorance rising to the kind of democracy malfunction which just occurred with the election of Donald Trump. Workers’ rights of all kinds are now on the way to the basement permanently and the biggest “reform” you may see is Donald Trump signing the repeal of his own estate tax and that applying to the Devos family, the Steve Mnuchin family and the Wilbur Ross family. Shake things up, you say?

            4) My wife and I actually used protestant Christian schools for our one son K-12 in the 1970s and 1980s. We paid property taxes for other people’s children and we paid tuition for our own. I know from that experience who is pushing this school choice thing. It is the ones now doing what we did 35 years ago. They want to stop paying double and still have certain doctrine taught on the public dime which is not suitable for the public dime. It’s political travesty.

          • seattleoutcast

            My teachers (both public high school and state college) were bums. They only cared about retirement.

            On a separate note, I think the solution is to end federal funding for all schools. Saved taxes to the federal government would go to to each respective state for local funding. The states can decide on how the money would be spent. I’m not enough of a nannycrat to stick my nose into every local school and tell them what to do, which is the purpose of the Department of Education–not to fund, but to dictate.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Any chance you’re old enough that your state —–as opposed to federal anything—-was almost exclusively running those bums you claim you had as teachers? I am.

          • seattleoutcast

            I made two points. You’ve conflated the two.

          • seattleoutcast

            I tried to make a civil rebuttal and you jump down my throat. This proves just how wrong you and Anthony are. If I make a rebuttal, your hypersensitivities kick in and you blame others for being mean.

          • Anthony

            Keep personal opinions to your self as I keep mine concerning you (who I do not know).

          • FriendlyGoat

            Calling all your teachers bums is not civil rebuttal. Blaming the federal government for them when your state was most likely responsible for them is worse.

          • Robert T. Ives

            So, the inner city parents fight to get their kids into voucher schools because they want to use public money for religion?

          • FriendlyGoat

            The inner city parents are fighting to get their kids into voucher schools which have a limited capacity and which cannot and will not accommodate very much of what is being teasingly promised to them in the voucher debate. The MAIN drivers of this are those who do, in fact, want schools teaching religion on the public dime and who want to stop paying the tuition they are paying now for their own kids to receive such teaching in private schools.

  • Disappeared4x

    In addition to getting a new Cabinet confirmed, U.S. Senate confirmation hearings are beginning to look a lot like a battle plan to expose the puppeteers financing those “…influential identity-politics fixated campus activists [aka Senate Democrats]…”.

    Two examples from today’s news:

    Opinion: “How Trump can end brainwashing on US campuses” by F.H. Buckley January 9, 2017 | 8:59pm |
    The gentleman observes that the Democrats, being ruffians, have broken the rules, and he resolves never to do this when he comes to power. The Republican ruffian scoffs at the gentleman’s pretense of purity and happily answers the Democrats tit-for-tat when they break the rules.

    You’ll see the difference in how the two sides look at a host of issues — Supreme Court precedents, use of the filibuster, executive orders.

    You’ll also see it in how the two sides look at the Department of Education. The Republican gentleman thinks that education, including higher ed, is properly a matter for the states, and that all such federal grants should be zeroed out. But the Obama DOE has undertaken a massive effort to remake our politics and culture, and the ruffian thinks we should answer the Democrats in kind. If they’ve paid universities to teach contempt for America and American values, let’s sponsor a different set of programs that teach what’s right about America and admirable about our Constitution and culture.

    A study by the National Association of Scholars, released on Tuesday, reveals how Obama’s ultra-liberal progressives have begun to turn American higher ed into a vehicle for left-wing activism and propaganda.

    “Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics” shows how the Obama DOE has indoctrinated college students through progressive “New Civics” programs that seek to repurpose higher education away from the study of Western institutions, and even away from scholarship in general, in order to make little left-wing community organizers of our students. …”

    [More interesting:]

    “Senate Dems Questioning Rex Tillerson Got $9 Million From Anti-Exxon Activists” Michael Bastasch 10:15 PM 01/09/2017

    “In total, LCV, NextGen and EA gave eight of the nine foreign relations committee Democrats $9,341,329 through individual donations
    and super PACs, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation examination of campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

    “NextGen, which was founded by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, admitted in September that some of his state chapters acknowledged to backing investigations by Democratic states attorneys general into Exxon’s supposed global warming cover-up.

    Here is a breakdown of how much support each Democratic foreign relations committee member got from EA, LCV and NextGen:
    •NH Sen. Jeanne Shaheen — $4.3 million
    •VA Sen. Tim Kaine — $2.2 million
    •MA Sen. Ed Markey — $2.2 million
    •CT Sen. Chris Murphy — $511,369
    •NM Tom Udall — $77,470
    •DE Sen. Chris Coons — $8,950
    •NJ Sen. Bob Menendez — $2,000
    •MD Sen. Ben Cardin — $1,000
    (Data goes back to 2008, but mostly includes 2012 and 2014 election cycle spending. Election spending includes donations and independent expenditures by PACs.) “

  • purusha

    Oh, so this is Breitbart now.

    • Tom

      So, supporting due process for those accused of sexual assault is sensationalist nonsense?
      No wonder you people lost.

  • Fat_Man

    I hope Ms. DeVos goes right down Casey’s throat on this one.. The Democrats don’t have a leg to stand on. Their policy of no due process for men will not stand the light of day.

  • Beauceron

    We just watched the Left attack Sessions, a man who basically destroyed and bankrupted the Klan in his home state of Alabama while serving as the state AG, have his confirmation hearing repeatedly disrupted by shouting Lefties dressed up in Klan uniforms, accusing him of being a Klan member.

    This is the Left. They don’t care about what is accurate or truthful. They care about winning. They care about breaking things. It is who they are now, sad to say. The Right has fought off the Birchers and other lunatics. The Left embraced their loonies and then the loonies took over.

    • Adam Bowers

      “This is the Right. They don’t care about what is accurate or truthful. They care about winning. They care about breaking things. It is who they are now, sad to say. The Left has fought off the Jacobinists and other lunatics. The Right embraced their loonies and then the loonies took over.”

      This game is fun.

      • Jim__L

        Since when did the Left fight off Jacobins?

        (Hell, even the most moderate of them — Bill Clinton — is a literal “sans-culottes”.)

      • Beauceron

        You mean copying the words and thoughts of others?
        You sort of proved my point, here, although you don’t seem to have the brains to even realize it.

        • Adam Bowers

          “You sort of proved my point”

          If you think my point was to showcase your obtuseness, then you’re spot on. You claim the Left doesn’t care about about what is accurate or truthful and only care about winning. You know Donald Trump (the epitome of inaccurate and untruthful) won the Presidential election and Republicans hold both chambers of Congress, no? Are you really that convinced your personal epistemic bubble is reality?

          • Beauceron

            “You claim the Left doesn’t care about about what is accurate or truthful and only care about winning.”

            Of course I claim that. As I stated in the original post, we just watch a bevy of your fellow travelers have a great time larping as KKK members against a guy who quite literally broke the KKK in his state– and this was in Alabama, not Rhode Island.

            I claim you don’t care about facts because you demonstrably do not care about facts.

            “You know Donald Trump (the epitome of inaccurate and untruthful) won the Presidential election and Republicans hold both chambers of Congress, no?”

            Didn’t vote for Trump. Try again.

            “Are you really that convinced your personal epistemic bubble is reality?”
            Goodness, talk about a great leap in logic (such as you’re able to muster). The fact that I think YOU are a liar, doesn’t mean I am convinced I hold the truth– just that you’re full of sh*t. See the difference?

          • Adam Bowers

            “your fellow travelers”

            Unsubstantiated claim. I merely took your strawman soliloquy and replaced a couple of words to show that you can make up anything if you aren’t interested in being honest.

            “I claim you don’t care about facts because you demonstrably do not care about facts.”

            You claim it, thus it is so. You haven’t stated a single fact other than Senator Sessions was interrogated by Congress at his nomination hearing.

            “Didn’t vote for Trump. Try again.”

            Did say you did, nor did I imply it. I have no idea who you voted for. It’s hard to claim the Democrats only care about “winning” (Policy wins? Electoral? Style points? You don’t specify), and it’s hard to see how Democrats are winning anything lately.

            “Goodness, talk about a great leap in logic”.

            I don’t think you would understand logic if it bit you in the keister. Don’t fret, though, I only managed to get a B in logic (

            “The fact that I think YOU are a liar”.

            It is almost assuredly a fact that you believe me to be lying. What you think I am lying about it something else entirely. Especially since I haven’t stated any facts other than Trump and Republican’s recent electoral wins.

            “doesn’t mean I am convinced I hold the truth…”

            Being a skeptic is critical to making sound decisions. You’re not entirely without merit. I still don’t think you’ve let my original comment percolate enough.

            “…just that you’re full of sh*t.See the difference”

            Again, I’m not certain what variety of sh*t I’m full of, but I suspect being so steeped in it, you are a worthy judge of it.

  • Frank Natoli

    When Brendan Eich, Mozilla founder, was removed from his position as CEO because he had contributed to a California ballot referendum supporting marriage as humanity has known it for ten thousand years, I realized that Conservative politics were now criminalized, and it was war. DeVos is more of same, except this time, someone with the power will fight and prevail.

  • Kenneth Currie

    Naturally, liberals would go after FIRE, since it stands for academic freedom and free speech on campus. Can’t have that now, can we?

  • Boston_Patriot

    FIRE is an excellent organization. I suggest you contribute what you can to them. And to hell with everyone in Washington, the press and the universities. We don’t trust you. We don’t agree with you. We don’t respect you. We don’t think you’re “experts.” Actually, we think you’re a bunch of brain-dead, power-lusting, moronic sheep who do nothing but violate our rights and destroy liberty.

  • bflat879

    Democrats can’t help themselves. Hopefully, situations are going to force them to drop the identity politics. I know there are always people willing to jump on that wagon, but as African-American communities start to mend, as jobs begin to reappear in the rust belt, it’s going to become a much harder sell.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service