A lot of people are thinking—and hoping—that Trump will be the third term of Ronald Reagan. Certainly his cabinet is to the right of Reagan’s first cabinet in many ways, and we have the experience of the Reagan years to appreciate better the massive opposition of what people are starting to call the “deep state,” a more accurate term perhaps for the menacing character of the administrative state.
I stumbled across a speech Reagan gave in 1977 that states the modern problem very well:
But how much are we to blame for what has happened? Beginning with the traumatic experience of the Great Depression, we the people have turned more and more to government for answers that government has neither the right nor the capacity to provide. But government, as an institution, always tends to increase in size and power, not just this government—any government. It’s built-in. And so government attempted to provide the answers.
The result is a fourth branch added to the traditional three of executive, legislative, and judicial: a vast federal bureaucracy that’s now being imitated in too many states and too many cities, a bureaucracy of enormous power which determines policy to a greater extent than any of us realize, very possibly to a greater extent than our own elected representatives. And it can’t be removed from office by our votes.
The last sentence here raises the central issue of Trump and Trumpism. The administrative state has dug in even more deeply since the Reagan years (a process that really started under Nixon, but that’s a long story for another time), and will be even harder to root out now.
Tevi Troy offers an important survey and tour of the scene in the current issue of Commentary, “Will There Be An Internal Revolt Against Trump?” Tevi very nicely gives a shout out a key line in my forthcoming book: “That bureaucratic government is the partisan instrument of the Democratic Party is the most obvious, yet least remarked upon, trait of our time.” Tevi goes through all the tricks bureaucrats use to frustrate a president or cabinet member it disagrees with. A useful primer that every Trump appointee ought to read.
My favorite example is one I have been saying for years:
An obstinate employee can’t be fired, as we have seen, but can be offered a job at the same level in North Dakota or another distant state. This does not have to be done too often before the word spreads that the politicals know how to use the tools at their disposal and that they are willing to employ them.
Forget North Dakota. I think Trump should build a large federal building in Nome, Alaska, and send as many DC bureaucrats there as possible.