Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the narrowest of votes this week, requiring a rare tiebreaking vote from Vice President Pence after two Republican senators bucked their party's nominee. And if any of President Trump's Cabinet picks have inflamed the passions and political activism of the political left more than the others, it's DeVos, without question.
But for anybody who thinks the passions may have subsided after the vote this week, think again.
As The Washington Post's Emma Brown reports and the video above shows, DeVos was prevented by protesters from entering a Washington public school on Friday morning. After the demonstrators blocked the staircase she was trying to use and shouted at her, DeVos returned to her car, escorted by an aide. She later used another school entrance and went about her work.
It was a pretty striking scene. Here's a sampling of the protests (with a warning that there is some vulgar language):
What's remarkable about this is that we're talking about a Cabinet secretary here. Yes, there have been controversial nominees over the years, but the passion we've seen from the political left in going after Trump seems to be filtering down in an extraordinary way. DeVos, due to her support for school vouchers and her wealth (which she previously spread around to the senators who later confirmed her), has found herself singled out as someone the left will try to make life very difficult for going forward. And there are plenty of people nationwide who feel very strongly about public schools who could be spurred to action by DeVos's confirmation.
Democrats believe they are simply adopting the tactics of Republicans by obstructing in any way they can. We've even seen some scenes at townhalls that hark back to the summer of protests we saw in 2009, when the tea party asserted itself by shouting at members of Congress and the video clips went viral.
As they were back then, these tensions seem to be higher at the start of a presidency. But we're now eight years further into the progression of social media — and it's even easier to make a moment like this last with an online display of protest and (quite literal) obstruction like the one on the staircase.
Make no mistake: Democrats have a strong sense of righteousness right now about halting Trump's policy moves — almost in a truly religious sense. We've seen it with their opposition to Trump's Cabinet nominees and the Supreme Court pick. We've seen it in their chants that Trump isn't their president and in the historic Women's March on Washington the day after Trump's inauguration. Republicans may have thought President Barack Obama was a socialist who would expand government; Democrats believe Trump is a bigot and a dangerous man.
Whether their appetite for protesting and obstructing remains over the long haul is an open question. But scenes like the one Friday suggest a new political paradigm.
Update: DeVos tells CNN in a statement, "I respect peaceful protest, and I will not be deterred in executing the vital mission of the Department of Education. No school door in America will be blocked from those seeking to help our nation's school children."