Helping Heller help Trump: Sandoval the Enabler

From Sen. Dean Heller’s statement announcing he will vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education:

She shares many of the same points of view as Governor Sandoval when it comes to our nation’s school systems. Having his support weighed heavily on my decision to vote for her confirmation.

In other words, if now or at any point in the future, Heller is feeling pressure for his decision to support such an obviously and outrageously unqualified candidate, he’s got his excuse at the ready: It’s Brian Sandoval’s fault.

A U.S. Senator should heed the advice of others, particularly on issues or areas where that senator has demonstrated little or no expertise. Heller’s areas of expertise are not broadly known to extend much beyond stock car racing, hobby horsemanship and, so it has been said, video games. So a nominee for Secretary of Education is a subject on which he would be wise to seek counsel before making a decision.

No one believes that’s what happened here. Heller did not engage in deep discussion with Sandoval about the importance of an ongoing federal commitment to protect and support students with special needs, and how a DeVos confirmation could threaten to shred that commitment. Heller didn’t ask Sandoval about the infamous lack of monitoring, fraud and wasted public money that accompanies the outsourcing of public education to the private sector through charter and private schools, a movement so dear to DeVos — and Sandoval. Heller did not ask Sandoval to expand on the very real concerns even within the school “choice” movement about the horrible track record of cyberschools, and DeVos’s evident blithe disregard, not only for that record but for evidence of any kind.

“Black bears, ma’am. We have a few black bears in Nevada.”

His gushing about the “No Labels” nonentity, his gimmicky “no budget no pay” stunt, the policy vacuums that pass for his campaigns, his flip-flop on background checks, his mealy-mouthed non-endorsement of Trump (we still don’t know who Heller voted for) – all that and so much more suggests Heller is serious about politics, not policy, and certainly not any policy that extends much beyond the interests of his core rural base.

Whatever his calculation on the DeVos vote — it helps him because this; it doesn’t hurt him because that; no reason to antagonize the autocrat on this one — is irrelevant.

Sandoval, along with 19 fellow Republican governors, signed a letter supporting DeVos, and with that, Heller got what Heller always wants: an excuse, a path of least resistance, political cover. “Of course Governor Sandoval also supported Secretary Devos…” is almost assuredly something Heller will say between now and his next election. After all, if people are going to be displeased with Heller for supporting a naïve zealot whose sole experience with public schools involves trying to eliminate them, and who inhabits a politico-cultural bubble so dense as to be impermeable to information, gosh, are they also going to be displeased with Sandoval the Magnificent?

People should be. Sandoval, unlike Heller, is widely regarded as a serious person. To reiterate: even many avid supporters of shifting public money to privately run charter and private schools are alarmed by DeVos (though some of that is because they fear she hurts the reform brand). For Sandoval to sign a letter supporting DeVos was reckless and irresponsible, precisely because it does give political cover to Heller, and more importantly, facilitates the authority and the agenda of the deeply disturbed Trump, who Sandoval also could not bring himself to publicly support during the campaign.

Heller knows nothing, or near to it. Sandoval knows better, or should. Sandoval shouldn’t be helping Heller help Trump. Sandoval should be helping Heller stand up to him.