Even before Michael Anton (writing as Publius Decius Mus) published the most famous essay of the 2016 campaign season, “The Flight 93 Election,”—indeed, even before Donald Trump was considered a serious presidential contender—John Marini was formulating the arguments that would culminate in what remains the most powerful and the best affirmative case for Trump.
Marini’s essay, “Donald Trump and the American Crisis” focused on the ways in which the modern administrative state has worked to subvert and circumvent the sovereignty of the American people by torturing the concept of consent of the governed and blurring all plausible lines between that consent and the general operations of our government.
The massive and out-of-control bureaucracy that many conservatives are happy to criticize as “inefficient” or “ridiculous” or “picayune” is, in fact, a far more serious problem than most of them appear to realize. And it’s bigger, even, than a question of constitutionalism. Marini’s scholarship over several decades has pioneered the philosophical argument against the modern administrative state on the grounds of its political illegitimacy and its injustice.
In his essay last summer, Marini showed he understood what Trump appears to have recognized in the American people. Their plaintive cries of disgust with their government and with conventional politicians were in reaction to these fundamental facts: The people were being ignored and, what’s more, they were awakening to it.
Marini saw in Trump a politician who, more than any of the other conventional candidates, was willing to consider what the people were saying and, in so doing, possibly consider what justice there was to their anger. Given that that anger was legitimate, it seemed reasonable to believe that self-interest and Trump’s willingness to listen to the people (if not some high-toned philosophical reflection) might lead to the correct answers for helping to right this situation.
Marini argued that by attempting to restore political questions to the political realm and reminding Americans of their sovereignty, Trump would have gone a long way toward dismantling the administrative state and restoring the American constitutional order and rule of law.
Friendly critics of this view called Marini’s thesis “wishing” rather than thinking. They suggested that Marini and those who supported his argument were reading something into Trump that wasn’t there but they wished was there. Unfriendly critics echoed the Left and were indignant, insisting that Trump’s brusque manners and unconventional methods hinted at an authoritarian streak.
Now comes this:
Steve Bannon’s words at CPAC yesterday could not have been more clear:
the way the progressive Left runs, is if they can’t get it passed, they’re just gonna put in some sort of regulation in—in an agency.
That’s all gonna be deconstructed and I think that that’s why this regulatory thing is so important.
There it is. They really do mean to “deconstruct the administrative state.” Marini called it. I just reported it and believed it. Now it’s up to Americans of goodwill—including friendly critics—to help ensure that they can get it done.
A word of caution, though, for those just waking up to the fact that Trump is serious in wanting to be enlisted in this fight against the administrative state: there won’t be any doing this if we mean to do it with pure gentility.
If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken,” Bannon said. “Every day—every day, it is going to be a fight. And that is what I’m proudest about Donald Trump. All the opportunities he had to waiver off this; all the people who have come to him and said, ‘Oh, you’ve got to moderate.’ Every day in the Oval Office, he tells Reince and I, ‘I committed this to the American people; I promised this when I ran; and I’m going to deliver on this.’
Apologies are not necessary. That’s all water under the bridge and beside the point. But some chastening of the inclination to dismiss Trump and some appreciation, at least for what he intends to do? That would be welcome and, even, helpful.