The family funded one long-shot legal challenge after another targeting various campaign finance laws. In 1997, DeVos became a founding board member at the James Madison Center for Free Speech, an organization that had as its stated goal ending all legal restrictions on money in politics. “Soft money,” DeVos wrote in a column for the Capitol Hill magazine Roll Call, was just “hard earned American dollars that Big Brother has yet to find a way to control.”
That the balance of power has shifted from parties to a handful of outrageously wealthy zealots, “a tiny, atypical minority of the population,” as Mayer described, is now undeniable. See for example, a recent New York Times story about the coming battle of the billionaires, in this case Mercer vs. Koch, over whose grim libertarian vision of the future will be imposed upon the rest of us. Unions are among the last brake on this transfer of power. Now they’re under existential threat.
A recent poll found that DeVos remains the most disliked official in Trump’s cabinet—not an easy feat to pull off in a gallery of rogues. The depths of her unpopularity are due, not to to the fact that liberals and progressives hate her harder, but because her divisiveness crosses partisan lines. When I traveled to Van Wert, OH this spring to take in the spectacle of a joint school visit by DeVos and the American Federation of Teachers’ Randi Weingarten, I encountered one Trump supporter after another who still liked their guy, even his other cabinet members, but not DeVos. Her signature issue, using taxpayer dollars to send kids to private religious schools, has never been popular with voters, and her Margaret Thatcher “there is no school system” line makes little sense in places like Van Wert, where local schools play an outsized role in binding communities together.