Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

The Last Defense against Donald Trump?

Jerry Stratton, February 8, 2017

Trumpit: A trumpet over an American flag, with the link to hoboes.com/trumpit; Election 2016; President Donald Trump

In Foreign Policy recently, economist Daron Acemoglu wrote an article subtitled:

America’s institutions weren’t designed to resist a modern strongman.

In fact, America’s institutions were designed to resist a modern strongman. The President doesn’t impeach congressional representatives. Congress impeaches the President. If Donald Trump actually acts like a “modern strongman”, even a Republican congress will vote to impeach him. But of course, that’s not what the left is complaining about. They’re complaining that Trump is acting like President Obama did.

America’s institutions weren’t just designed to resist strongmen; they were designed so that there wouldn’t be any strongmen. The left tore those institutions and barriers apart.

The President doesn’t get to legislate. Neither does anyone else in the executive branch.

Except, of course, that now they do: because that defense has been dismantled by the left, with a lot of help from the beltway class. They wanted plausible deniability when agencies did what congress authorized them to do. And they figured they’d always be in control.

The party in power doesn’t get to install their own judges to interpret legislation. Since 1806, they have needed some form of a supermajority in the Senate1.

Except, of course, that now they don’t: because that defense was dismantled by Democrats under Senator Harry Reid. They figured they’d always be in control. And they figured that even if they did lose, it would be to someone else in the beltway class.

The federal government doesn’t get to legislate people’s personal lives, from who they go to the bathroom with and what insurance they buy to how their communities educate their children. The federal government only has those specific powers granted it in the constitution. Everything else is left to the states to decide, and the people themselves if the states don’t.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Except, of course, that now the federal government does have that power: because that defense has been dismantled by the beltway class, with a lot of help from the media calling for federalization of every problem rather than letting fifty solutions bloom.

They figured they’d always be in control.

Acemoglu complains that Trump gets to install some “4,000 high-level posts in the civil service and the judiciary, essentially shaping a bureaucracy ready to do his personal bidding.”

But that’s not Trump’s fault. Trump didn’t build this bloated administrative state. Nor is that how America’s institutions were designed. America’s power structure was specifically designed to insulate states from the federal bureaucracy. The left, mostly, and the beltway class in general has dismantled that defense.

Barack Obama on phone: “President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call from the Oval Office, Monday, June 8, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.”; White House; Barack Obama

“I've got a pen and I’ve got a phone… and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions.”

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

They thought they’d always be in charge.

And even the merest whiff of Trump appointing someone who might reduce his own power by dismantling part of that bureaucracy—such as appointing DeVos to the Department of Education—is greeted by horror from the establishment left. They want that power to remain for the next time they’re in charge.

There’s a telling line in a recent Washington Post story about one of Trump’s inauguration-day executive orders, on ObamaCare:

The executive order, signed in the Oval Office as one of the new president’s first actions, directs agencies to grant relief to all constituencies affected by the sprawling 2010 health-care law: consumers, insurers, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, states and others. It does not describe specific federal rules to be softened or lifted, but it appears to give room for agencies to eliminate an array of ACA taxes and requirements.

However, some of these are embedded in the law, so it is unclear what latitude the executive branch will have.

If the beltway class—including the Washington Post—hadn’t begged President Obama to rewrite the law—this specific law, in fact—it would be very clear what latitude President Trump has about requirements embedded in the law. The President doesn’t get to change specific requirements in the law. Except, of course, that President Obama altered those requirements, the media praised him for altering them, Democrats refused to help Republicans stop him, and the courts, including the Supreme Court, let him get away with it.

They thought they’d always be in charge.

It would be easy enough for Democrats to fight Trump’s executive orders, if they truly wanted to reign in executive overreach. If Democrats introduced a bill in congress requiring all executive orders and regulatory interpretations to be approved by the House and/or Senate within, say thirty days, and, to show that they’re serious, backdate it to the beginning of President Obama’s presidency Republicans would have to support it, or forever stop complaining about executive overreach. But Democrats won’t reign in the presidency, because they want to be in charge again, and they want that power back when they are.

What the Democrats are doing is more of the same that gave us Trump: complaining ineffectually because they don’t want to implement solutions that would hold them back, too.

In response to The Bureaucracy Event Horizon: Government bureaucracy is the ultimate broken window.

  1. From 1806 to 1917, even a single Senator could block a nomination if they were willing to filibuster it; from 1917 until 2013, three-fifths, that is, 60 Senators, were required to bring a nomination to a vote.

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