Perez Points to Battle Between Administrative State and America

The battle over the administrative state is joined. In remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, presidential advisor Stephen Bannon called for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” On Saturday, the Democratic National Committee elected as its chairman the very embodiment of the administrative state: former Obama Administration Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.

The administrative state denotes not merely a calcified bureaucracy but a whole complex of political and legal structures intended to replace the elected branches of government, Congress and the presidency, with the rule of unelected experts. It is— besides this institutional revolution—a conviction that a ruling elite ought to run our politics because ordinary citizens are just too ordinary to have a serious role in government. Degrees from elite schools and prestigious positions in commerce, law, academia, think-tanks, or the media enhance this sense of separation and superiority.

Perez, with three degrees from Ivy League schools, embodies this elite. He won one election in his life, for a position on the Montgomery County Council board, in the bedroom community of Washington, D.C. federal bureaucrats. Among his issues during his single term from 2002-2006 were transgender discrimination, protecting illegal immigrants, and the right of domestic workers to unionize.

In 2002 he also served as president of CASA de Maryland—CASA originally being an acronym for “Central American Solidarity Association,” a now multi-million dollar organization that provides financial and legal aid to illegal immigrants. Among the federal positions he held include stints on the staff of the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and  Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno’s deputy assistant secretary for civil rights. All this before he became assistant attorney general for civil rights and Secretary of Labor in the Obama Administration.

How does such a career in the bureaucracy (my list is far from complete) prepare one to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee? It’s no longer the case that “all politics is local.” Now in the age of the administrative state (as the bathroom nonsense shows) all politics has been federalized. To be a “community organizer” one must be an adept federal (and state) bureaucrat. That’s politics in the administrative state.

It gets even worse. Perez’s chief accomplishments at Justice and Labor featured the advancement of disparate impact theory to measure discrimination in voting, housing, and employment. (I forego dwelling on his covering for the Black Panther voter intimidation business. ) Perez justified non-enforcement of anti-voter fraud laws and may have even perjured himself in a case involving disparate impact.

Contrast Perez’s championing of illegal immigration and group identities with President Trump’s vow to remake the Republican Party into the party of working men and women, his love of the “poorly educated,” and his America First convictions. These all fly in the face of the global elitism that underlies the administrative state. Nothing could horrify such cosmopolitan snobs more (whatever their political beliefs) than a band of Americans chanting “USA! USA!” The square-off features the global elites versus American citizens.

As noted political thinker John Marini observed before the election in a speech for Hillsdale College, Trump rejected identity politics and proposed common citizenship and the common good as the goal of politics . Identity politics with its deep, passionate, and irrational attachments makes a politics of the common good impossible. And it makes irresistible an administrative state that empowers groups based on how they feel discrimination. Trump’s inaugural address denied such claims, as he had throughout the campaign, observing elegantly: “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

The great challenge to Trump’s attempt to protect and restore politics is succinctly encapsulated in the elevation of Perez to Democratic National Committee chairman. Here is a tough and clever enemy who has advanced the administrative state in local, state, and federal government with all its enticements to aggrieved groups. That’s the choice: the administrative state or America First.

About Ken Masugi

Ken Masugi, Ph.D., is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute. He has been a speechwriter for two cabinet members, as well as for Clarence Thomas when he was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Masugi is co-author, editor, or co-editor of seven books on American politics. He has taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he was Olin Distinguished Visiting Professor; James Madison College of Michigan State University; the Ashbrook Center of Ashland University; and Princeton University.

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3 responses to “Perez Points to Battle Between Administrative State and America

  • It would be very interesting to know whether the Democratic Party, I mean its elected officials–Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Schumer, e.g.–controls the administrative state or whether the administrative state controls it. When Elizabeth Warren was made Senator by the DNC–Elizabeth Warren, a bankruptcy law professor at Harvard who didn’t even have Perez’s electoral pedigree, but who had been a bureaucrat for a short while–in Massachusetts, which has no shortage of home-grown Democrats with political experience and political bases, I wondered whether this was not done by Schumer & Co. so that she would be their creature, without an independent political base of her own, and would do what they told her, which was and is to act as a lightning rod, draw media attention and distract people’s view from what the real politicians were actually doing (i.e., shoveling favors and largesse to their big corporate donors while Warren mesmerizes the young and ignorant with her anathemas against corporations).

    So with Perez. The DNC chair could be more a figurehead than an effective operative, providing cover to the real operatives in the administrative state and their allies among the Democrat officeholders by feeding the media–also comprised almost entirely of the young and ignorant, as Ben Rhodes crowed about less than one year ago (already forgotten by the Resist-ers!)–a nonstop slop trough of contrived righteousness and umbrage.

    Or, maybe it is the administrative state power figures who are demanding their their own–Warren and Perez, both administrative state creatures–be installed into high-ranking office. Who knows?

  • ““When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if “progressives” actually embraced this idea? The election of Perez is a doubling down on identity politics of the kind which America should reject. How can you possibly “unify” people when you constantly divide them based upon sex, religion, age, skin color etc?

  • Not much of a battle, considering one is the prime minister and the other holds a politically impotent and largely ceremonial position in a momentarily irrelevant party.

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