I know, I know, applying the “mask slips” metaphor to Nancy Pelosi, who appears to have sprung full blown from some twisted lefty-nightmare remake of The Stepford Wives, may seem a cliché, but this extraordinary video, posted by RealClearPolitics and flagged by Brian Bolduc over on The Corner, reveals the innermost character of modern liberalism in just a little over one minute.
Speaking last week at Tufts University, Pelosi said, among other things, “To my Republican friends, take back your party so that it doesn’t matter so much who wins the election because we have shared values.” In other words, it’s fine if Republicans win elections so long as they agree with us. But she couldn’t stop there. She added this: “The fact is, elections shouldn’t matter as much as they do.”
Freeze frame right there. Tom Bethell used to argue in the American Spectator that the permanent government in Washington viewed elections as a nuisance, something to be endured like summer thunderstorms that blow over in a few minutes, allowing them to get back to the job of administering the country in the name of “the common good.” Pelosi perfectly expresses in her comment the old Progressive view that “politics” and political argument should be less and less relevant to the main business of government. (This is one aspect of contemporary Progressive thought that has not changed from the old Progressives of a century ago, in contrast to the series I posted here last month.) The object of Progressivism was best expressed in Saint-Simone’s famous phrase that “the government of men should be replaced by the administration of things.” Of course, if you determine that a function of government, like traffic enforcement or tax collecting, should be beyond the reach of partisan political argument, then you have essentially ruled the other party out of order when it objects. Pelosi and confreres believe that once any welfare state measure is in place, it cannot be questioned. The tacit premise of Pelosi’s remark is that today’s Republican Party is an illegitimate party, akin to Nazis or Communists or other subversives who reject the principles of the Constitution. At best, elections to the Progressive mind would increasingly become ceremonial exercises, like Fourth of July picnics. At worst, it is an argument for tyranny.
It is a mistake to dismiss Pelosi as the complete nitwit she often appears. The most clarifying single moment of the last generation may well have been Pelosi’s famous remark that we’d need to pass the healthcare bill to find out what was in it. Rather than being a matter of ridicule, I thought Pelosi expressed perfectly the innermost character of congressional legislation in the modern administrative state. What she said was quite true and accurate: even at more than 2,000 pages, the enormous discretion and policy responsibility delegated to executive branch agencies meant that in effect the actual operating law would be formulated by administrators rather than Congress. And the huge number of waivers being granted under ObamaCare reveals the essentially arbitrary (some might say lawless) nature of administrative government.
The liberal/Progressive view of how we should be governed in the “modern” age was seldom put better than by Frank Goodnow, a prominent political scientist of the Progressive Era, in a 1901 book called Politics and Administration: A Study in Government. Draw deeply on this passage:
The fact is, then, that there is a large part of administration which is unconnected with politics, which should therefore be relieved very largely, if not altogether, from the control of political bodies. It is unconnected with politics because it embraces fields of semi-scientific, quasi-judicial and quasi-business or commercial activity–work which has little if any influence on the expression of the true state will. For the most advantageous discharge of this branch of the function of administration there should be organized a force of government agents absolutely free from the influence of politics. Such a force should be free from the influence of politics because of the fact that their mission is the exercise of foresight and discretion, the pursuit of truth, the gathering of information, the maintenance of a strictly impartial attitude toward the individuals with whom they have dealings, and the provision of the most efficient possible administrative organization. The position assigned to such officers should be the same as that which has been by universal consent assigned to judges. Their work is no more political in character than is that of judges.
That very last sentence, with its quaint and sincere naivete about the supposedly “nonpolitical” character of judges, gives away the whole game. The bitter divisions over the judiciary show that politics cannot be abolished, except through tyranny.