Many of Trump’s cabinet appointments have elicited howls of outrage, but one that stands out from the pack is that of Betsy DeVos to Education. DeVos was beset upon all sides by the public-education-monopoly apologists, the teachers unions, the knee-jerk progressives, and a laundry list of other usual suspects the moment her name was declared, and that has not abated.

Why the hyperventilation? Simple. DeVos is a staunch school-choice advocate, and school choice is an idea that all these DeVos-denouncers deem an existential threat. If viewed through the proper filter, they are correct. School choice is an idea that’s gaining more and more traction, as people finally see through the deliberate fog and recognize that these usual suspects care about themselves far more than about students. Charter schools in New York City, for example, are drawing far more applicants than they have seats, and are producing stellar results. The data is on the side of choice, and lawmakers are increasingly realizing that they can’t be totally beholden to the unions and still expect voters to vote for them.

An old litigator’s adage goes:

When the law is not on your side, pound the facts.
When the facts are not on your side, pound the law.
When neither is on your side, pound the table.

Right on cue, Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, attempts to smear DeVos and other supporters of school choice as racists. In doing so, she demonstrates the modern version of pounding the table. As this blogger aptly explains, casual character assassination has become the go-to tactic of many leftists, social justice warriors, and defenders of indefensible status-quos. Leveling accusations of racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, or insensitivity to Identity_Group_01 is a nasty but effective way of deflecting a conversation away from inconvenient facts, deconstructive logic, and irrefutable rationality. It is the equivalent of pounding the table in that it’s meant to startle and intimidate those who are resisting. And, since only overt racists don’t reflexively cringe away from accusations of racism, the accusation has an instant and predictable effect: it causes those accused of racism to instinctively shift away from the point being debated and into an “I’m not a racist” defense.

This is a vicious and underhanded tactic, one compounded by the eggshells that anyone of the wrong skin tone is expected to tread upon when engaging in any discussion on race, no matter how academic, sterile, and dispassionate. We can take solace, though, from Margaret Thatcher’s observation:

I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.

Pounding the table is what people do when they won’t admit they’ve lost the debate. Personal attacks, and especially those that involve accusations of racism, are the refuge of those who either cannot win a fair fight or have no interest in trying to. Indeed, politics is a dirty business, and indeed, it can be the mental equivalent of a full contact, no-holds-barred sport. It’s also a sport where dirty tactics and low blows are often masked with fanciful language. Thus, the “racism” card is nowadays played with terms such as “white privilege,” which we might consider pounding the table under the equivalent of Marquess of Queensberry rules. Nevertheless, it’s still pounding the table, since the intent is to startle and drown out the opposition. Often by inducing self-censorship: it takes either tremendous skill or a willingness to accept castigation and exile to challenge those who bandy “white privilege” (or just “privilege,” to expand it to matters beyond race).

Still, if we don’t, we concede the effectiveness of the tactic. If we don’t challenge Weingarten on her dirty tactic, we accept it as part of her arsenal going forward, and we condemn America’s students to more years and decades of mediocrity and worse. Thus, the proper response is to flip the table that’s being pounded. Throw it back at the accuser, and tell them that if they see racism where it doesn’t exist, they’re either liars or racists themselves. Half a century of public school decrepitude, and those who want to perpetuate it use accusations of racism to do so? Enough already. How many more kids are going to have to be sacrificed to union thuggery?

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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