Published July 13, 2022
Last week, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo issued a solid and thoughtful takedown of the “Civics Secures Democracy Act” (CSDA), a bill that purports to promote civics education, but that in fact empowers the Biden administration to push critical race theory (CRT) on the states. Pompeo now joins former President Trump, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, and Florida governor Ron DeSantis as a prominent Republican opponent of CSDA.
Pompeo’s CSDA takedown shows impressive command of the issue. Although we think of him as a former secretary of state, Pompeo was a four-term congressman too. Back then, Pompeo was a member of the Congressional Constitution Caucus, “dedicated to downsizing the amount of power usurped from the states by the federal government.” (He also finished first in his class at West Point.) This background shows in Pompeo’s remarks on CSDA.
Pompeo understands that handing $6 billion to Biden’s Education Department will enable it to “lure and bribe states into adopting its woke agenda.” “Lure and bribe” is exactly right. CSDA doesn’t openly or formally impose CRT on states. Pompeo understands, however, that the bill will force a choice between state and local control of schools and a giant bundle of cash for jumping onto Biden’s woke bandwagon. “Soft coercion,” Pompeo rightly calls it. That phrase implicitly answers defenders of the bill, who stress that CSDA doesn’t formally “mandate” curriculum. Why force you to dance to my tune when I can bribe you to do it instead?
As a congressman, Pompeo denounced Common Core, co-sponsoring a resolution that condemned it. He understands that the “civics” bill is an effort to complete Common Core by extending those failed standards into areas deemed too controversial for the initial version. In general, Pompeo’s grasp of the issues at stake in the CSDA debate is impressive. There’s obviously more to Pompeo than defense and foreign policy.
It’s no secret that Pompeo is mulling a presidential run. In light of his facility with education issues — and his willingness to jump into the fray well ahead of Republicans on the Hill — I’d say he deserves a serious look.
Stanley Kurtz is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. On a wide range of issues, from K-12 and higher education reform, to the challenges of democratization abroad, to urban-suburban policies, to the shaping of the American left’s agenda, Mr. Kurtz is a key contributor to American public debates. Mr. Kurtz has written on these and other issues for various journals, particularly National Review Online (where he is a contributing editor).
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