DeVos and Sessions’ clash over transgender students shows how liberals misplaced their outrage

Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos clashed with Attorney General Jeff Sessions over whether the Trump administration should issue new guidelines rescinding former President Obama’s anti-discrimination protections for transgender students, according to New York Times reporting today. The left’s comparative silence on Sessions’ confirmation compared to the apocalyptic prophecies of gloom and doom surrounding DeVos highlights the misplaced policy priorities surrounding the opposition movements to Trump’s Cabinet picks. Here’s the NYT:

Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off on the order and told President Trump that she was uncomfortable with it, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions.

Mr. Sessions, who strongly opposes expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, fought Ms. DeVos on the issue and pressed her to relent because he could not go forward without her consent. The order must come from the Justice and Education Departments.

But Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, these Republicans said, telling Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her objections. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the choice of resigning or defying the president, has agreed to go along. The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday.

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Even forced to fall in line with an administration policy she opposes, DeVos has still been trying to minimize the impact of the new rules on transgender students. Thanks to DeVos’ efforts, language in the order now supposedly requires schools to protect these students from bullying. It’s a cruel irony that so many on the left rushed to paint DeVos as an ardent opponent of LGBT+ causes during her confirmation hearings, based on the donations of other members of her family.

Those who worked with DeVos before she was a cabinet secretary have argued the opposite. In 2015, DeVos wrote testimony in support of a Michigan gay couple’s bid for adoption. In 2013, DeVos attended the wedding of the Kennedy Center’s President, officiated by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As far back as the late 1990s, DeVos made accommodations for a transgender woman to use the women’s bathroom. DeVos simply hasn’t been vocal about this history, according to friends and associates interviewed by the New York Times, because she does not want to cause public tensions with older members of her and her husband’s families.

Whether or not you agree that the Obama administration’s expansive interpretation of Title IX is the best format to protect transgender students, it can’t be denied that DeVos went out of her way to do precisely the opposite of what the left feared. Democrats seized on her rocky hearing hearing to paint DeVos as a horseman of the educational apocalypse. In reality, the left smelt blood in the water and wanted to put points on the board against the Trump administration. Combined with the vested interests opposed to education reform, vociferous opposition to DeVos was understandable, but a failure for Democrats to serve their base by prioritizing opposition to the biggest dangers to their platform.

Attorney General Sessions’ unusually harsh views on criminal justice reform and drug enforcement as well as his opposition to same-sex marriage, support for Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and other anti-LGBT stances were well known before his confirmation hearing. Despite this, Sessions was confirmed with a relatively comfortable 52-47 vote, with one Democrat, Joe Manchin (WV), even joining the Republicans. Compare this to DeVos, whose opponents jammed the Capitol switchboards with tens of thousands of calls. Women’s Marchers held January rallies opposing DeVos, as if opposition to school choice was an inherently feminist issue. Senate Democrats even held an all-night talkathon in a last-ditch effort to stop DeVos, as if she was anywhere near the biggest threat to their interests.

The left put all their eggs in one basket, demonizing a woman who turned around to go to bat for transgender rights in the White House. In their selective outrage, they let someone much more capable of damaging those causes sail through far too easily.

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