One of the striking features of America's alleged "peaceful transition" is that senior figures in the departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security and others are happy to undermine him in public, and indeed openly defy him. When the media report on this phenomenon, the roles mysteriously get reversed: Donald J Trump is openly defying the All-Knowing Fauci on public health, is openly defying his Cyber-Security guys by undermining confidence in the election, is openly defying his chiefs of staff by wanting to bring troops home from Hoogivsastan...
In the American system, the President is head of the executive branch. For four years, the branch has regarded Trump's efforts to head them as a kind of impertinence. He was impeached because the briefly famous Vindman and those Foggy Bottom striped-pants panjandrums believe that America has a permanent Ukrainian policy that it is an unconstitutional abomination for mere transient politicians to attempt to change.
Trump sharpened the contrasts, in part because the permanent state was determined that Trump should never happen again and the people had to be taught that lesson good and hard, as they were on November 3rd. But the broader problem predates Trump, and certain aspects of the current scene remind me of this passage from my bestselling book After America. For one thing, the throwaway line about the "head of behavior change" hardly does justice to a world in which experts assert the right to change your behavior with respect to leaving the house or dining with neighbors and grandparents:
Popular sovereignty may be fine in theory but not when the citizenry are so obviously in need of "re-education" by their betters. The alliance of political statists and judicial statists is moving us into a land beyond law – a land of apostasy trials. The Conformicrats have made a bet that the populace will willingly submit to subtle but pervasive forms of re-education camp. Over in England, London's transportation department has a bureaucrat whose very title sums up our rulers' general disposition toward us:
Head of Behavior Change.
In 2008, when the Canadian Islamic Congress attempted to criminalize my writing north of the border by taking me to the "Human Rights" Commission, a number of outraged American readers wrote to me saying, "You need to start kicking up a fuss about this, Steyn, and then maybe Canadians will get mad and elect a conservative government that will end this nonsense."
Made perfect sense. Except that Canada already had a Conservative government under a Conservative prime minister, and the very head of the "human rights" commission investigating me was herself the Conservative appointee of a Conservative minister of justice. Makes no difference. Once the state swells to a certain size, the people available to fill the ever expanding number of government jobs will be statists (the key distinction, as Mark Levin's Liberty And Tyranny makes plain) — sometimes hard-core Marxist statists, sometimes social-engineering multiculti statists, sometimes fluffily "compassionate" statists, sometimes patrician noblesse oblige statists, but always statists. The short history of the post-war western democracies is that you don't need a president-for-life if you've got a bureaucracy-for-life: The people can elect "conservatives", as from time to time the Germans and British have done, and the left is mostly relaxed about it because, in all but exceptional cases (Thatcher), they fulfill the same function in the system as the first-year boys at wintry English boarding schools who for tuppence-ha'penny would agree to go and take the chill off the toilet seat in the unheated lavatories until the prefects were ready to stroll in and assume their rightful place. Republicans have gotten good at keeping the seat warm.
Thus, America in the 21st century – a supposedly "center-right" nation governed by a left-of-center political class, a lefter-of-center judiciary, a leftest-of-center bureaucracy - and educated by a lefterooniest-of-all academy.
Liberalism, as the political scientist Theodore Lowi put it, "is hostile to law", and has a preference for "policy without law". The law itself doesn't really matter so much as the process it sets in motion – or, as Nancy Pelosi famously told the American people re health care, "we have to pass the bill so you can find out what's in it." When Lowi was writing in the Seventies, he noted that both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission were set up by a Congress that didn't identify a single policy goal for these agencies and "provided no standards whatsoever" for their conduct. So they made it up as they went along.
Where do you go to vote out the CPSC?
~excerpted from Mark's bestselling book After America.
If you like these forays into the back catalogue, many other columns from the glory days of the Telegraph and The National Post are anthologized in Mark's books The Face of the Tiger and Mark Steyn from Head to Toe, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available singly or together from the Steyn store - and, if you're a Mark Steyn Club member, don't forget to enter your promotional code at checkout for special member pricing.
Likewise if you're a member of the Steyn Club, feel free to disagree in the comments section - but please do stay on topic and be respectful of your fellow members; disrespect and outright contempt should be reserved for Mark personally. For more on The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget our special Gift Membership, which makes a great Christmas present.
Mark will be back on telly for Wednesday's edition of "Tucker Carlson Tonight".
Comment on this item (members only)
Viewing and submission of reader comments is restricted to Mark Steyn Club members only. If you are not yet a member, please click here to join. If you are already a member, please log in here: