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Prediction: Betsy DeVos Will Attract More Liberal Venom than Any Other Trump Cabinet Appointment

David Klinghoffer


I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that of all Trump’s Cabinet picks, Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education may attract more liberal venom than any other. We’ll see when her confirmation hearing begins on Tuesday, January 17.

The accusation will be that she is “anti-science,” an imagined thought crime that provokes elite loathing like almost no other. Of course, there’s zero evidence for the charge. They will cite her husband’s comment on teaching intelligent design, which I addressed already here when atheist cosmologist Lawrence Krauss pushed the panic button on it in an article for The New Yorker. They will ask her how old she thinks the Earth is, whether human beings rode on dinosaurs, whether she has visited Ken Ham’s Ark Park lately. If possible they will seek to humiliate her and cast her in the role of a Neanderthal, which is to say a deplorable.

Why do I say that a special note of seething from critics may characterize her hearing? Well, if you don’t understand this point about the cocoon of liberalism, then much of what goes on in politics, science, religion, and entertainment may mystify you.

The currency in the cocoon consists of stroking a very particular type of social and intellectual vanity. My 30th reunion at Brown University falls this year, and when I look back on it, this may be the most important thing I learned in college, mainly from interacting with fellow students. I left that world behind, but the degree to which liberals are driven by the picture of themselves they want to see in the mirror has stayed with me. It clarifies so much. It would be hard to exaggerate.

The year I graduated, Tom Wolfe published his great novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, and this has been one of his signatures themes over the years. It’s a motif in his most recent book, The Kingdom of Speech, on the failure of evolutionary theory to account for human language.

In the new book, he emphasizes the part that social prestige played, starting with how Darwin succeeded in fending off the challenge from “fly catcher” Alfred Russel Wallace in claiming credit for the theory of evolution. More important, Wolfe repeatedly notes, social anxiety was critical in herding elite opinion to first embrace and then mindlessly defend Darwinism. It still functions that way. The theory became a prime marker of what kind of person you are: enlightened and thus worthy of esteem, or deplorable?

Liberal elites can just barely tolerate the existence of the deplorables, so long as the latter do not aspire to reverse the power relationship of dominant to subservient. Being deplorable is not about being poor, or poorly educated. It denotes, instead, a whole alternative culture where the cream of the crop in the liberal world are no longer seen as the paladins of enlightenment that they imagine themselves to be.

Hence the fury I think will be aimed more at Mrs. DeVos than at any other Cabinet appointment. Why her in particular? Because science and education are peerless in conferring the prestige from which the cocoon draws its nourishment. Take control of those away from them and they are left in a fit of sputtering rage.

Sure, Mrs. DeVos has said not a word (as far as we know) about evolution or intelligent design. Yes, the Secretary of Education doesn’t set curricula for local schools, and ID advocates never sought to push ID into schools. Granted, her critics don’t understand what the evolution debate is about anyway. They couldn’t care less about the huge distinction between intelligent design and creationism. But anything remotely tied, however unfairly, to the latter is demon spawn to them. Nothing could be more deplorable. Not even Trump.

Let the creationists worship their intelligent designer in their tacky megachurches. The cocoon can live with that, maybe. But install in government, with influence over science education, a woman whose husband once said a favorable word about ID? Never! Oh yes. Watch for it. Given the chance, they will burn her at the stake over that one.

Photo: U.S. Department of Education, by Coolcaesar [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.