by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s choice for Education secretary, will test the resolve of Senate reformers to install a strong backer of school choice in that office. It will also test the reform bona fides of New Jersey Democratic senator Cory Booker, a school-choice supporter who has served with DeVos on the board of a school-choice group. But now he harbors presidential ambitions for 2020, so he suddenly has “serious concerns” about DeVos, despite having worked closely with her in the past.
Booker had already made news last week when he broke with Senate tradition to oppose the confirmation of fellow senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general. He and Sessions had co-sponsored legislation awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to civil-rights marchers. But Booker cast Sessions as a reactionary enemy of civil rights. Arkansas senator Tom Cotton, a Republican, sadly noted: “Senator Booker is better than that, and he knows better.”
Cory Booker was supposed to be different. Beginning when he ran a losing 2002 race for mayor of Newark, New Jersey’s largest city. The 47-year-old Rhodes scholar and Yale Law graduate has been hailed as a “post partisan” figure by people as diverse as Bill Bradley and the late Jack Kemp. …
… Almost every politician, by definition, is ambitious and seeks a larger stage. But if Cory Booker comes out against Betsy DeVos, he will not only have given the school-choice movement he has championed a slap in the face; he will also have called into question the reputation he had of being a liberal problem-solver.