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Who Is Betsy DeVos?

Betsy DeVos used to have more friends. Way back in 2016, a coalition of reputable, fair-minded education reformers — some of them Democrats — got together to vouch for her. Sure, she was inexperienced in the policy realm. Also, an outsider to Washington. Also, naïve to the demands of living under the internet’s ever-watchful eye. Still, it seemed to these surrogates that in choosing a secretary of Education, the president-elect might have done a lot worse. DeVos, a Michigan billionaire and Republican stalwart, had been pouring her energies and her fortune into education for years. Besides, she had signaled a strong distaste for Trump. She attended the convention as a delegate for John Kasich, leading these hopefuls to think that she might approach her new post with the venerable reasonableness of her party’s middle branch. “She is the Establishment. She reeks of Establishment,” says someone who used to work for her.

Jeb Bush liked her. So did his mother. So did Campbell Brown, the TV anchor turned education activist. On Twitter, Eva Moskowitz, the prominent charter-schools founder, said she was “thrilled to see such a passionate leader selected for such an important role.” True, these were people who had taken her money and sat on her boards (or she on theirs), but they still staked their optimism on her prospective success.