Who’s Actually Running This Thing?

We’ve seen the headlines: Biden holding migrant children in cages. Biden crafts plan to raise taxes. Biden does this, Biden does that. But who is actually doing it? 

No one believes that Biden is actually president. Forget for a moment the questions about the election itself, and focus on the man: Biden can’t speak coherently, can’t remember the names of his cabinet members, can’t be trusted to give a live press conference. He says he’s willing to take questions and they turn his feed off. So he’s not in charge. He’s not running the show. He’s not president. Who is?

The American press corps would like to think that it is they; which is why they’re willing to go along with the cover-up. They think they’re the ones running the country. And what exactly would be the difference between the current situation and an official government of the mainstream media? This administration promises to enact, as if by media direction, every single woke prescription and pipe dream. They couldn’t possibly do better if the New York Times editorial board were living in the White House. 

Hollywood thinks the same of our situation. As do the universities. This is great for all of them—it’s as though they are finally, collectively president of the United States. We have achieved what Buckley greatly feared: Not government by the first 2000 names in the Boston phonebook, but government by the faculty of Harvard. This is what an oligarchy looks like.

An oligarchy is an anti-liberal concept, when you use “liberal” in its classical sense as a philosophy of civil and economic liberty. But oligarchy is also the fondest dream of the modern Left—the social justice, cancel-culture, woke-crusading, anti-liberal Left. These people have never been pleased with the idea of individuals running their own lives. They don’t believe an average person has, frankly, the intelligence to choose his own doctor or take care of his neighbors or pick a school for his children or decide how to spend his own money. They certainly don’t believe the average person is intelligent enough to run the government. And by extension they don’t believe the average person is qualified to choose a national leader.

They do believe that the average person is stupid enough to accept a substitute for his right to choose, just so long as the substitute is credible. And with Biden they are holding on by the skin of their teeth. Biden is the elites’ idea of a photograph of a trustworthy man—a Big Brother who can be trusted to represent the interests of the people. Whether or not he actually exists is immaterial, so long as people are willing to accept that he does.

An oligarchy of unelected officials and ideologues—people who aren’t even politicians and who don’t need to be—gets to wield the real power. The oligarchy gets to wield it just as long as it can maintain the fiction of the Biden Administration. It gets to craft the agenda, the legislation, the words Biden will say. It tells him the words not to say. And if Biden appears too eager to make up his own lines, it can shut off his feed. Biden, essentially, is a prisoner of his own feeble desire to hold the office. He is a man who prefers the form to the substance of power. A prisoner of the people around him: People like his wife, Fake Doctor Biden, who should care about him but who turns out to care rather more about her own access to power.

If anyone in Washington right now does approximate, in substance, the president of the United States, it is not Biden, nor is it even Kamala Harris. It is whoever is in charge of Biden’s agenda. We don’t know this person’s name, of course, but we know he exists—the anonymous figure choosing who Biden sees and to whom he talks, and who controls where Biden goes. This person, whoever he may be, is our president. Hollywood used to make movies about this sort of thing, back when the idea of a government not actually of the people was supposed to be frightening.

And the elites—the nation’s wealthiest, most influential, most self-satisfied and superior people—get to be the proxy cabinet. They are going to show us just how smart they are by doing everything they’ve ever wanted to do. They’ll raise taxes and stop Keystone XL and let men compete on women’s sports teams and invite China to build our wireless infrastructure. They’ll make sure pregnant women can fly fighter jets. They’ll make you register your guns so it will be easier to confiscate them during the second Biden Administration. It’s going to be great.

But what can we do if we don’t like the sound of that? States can refuse to enforce illegal laws, as some have already shown a willingness to do. They can bring back the concept of nullification. The Supreme Court grabbed for itself the right to decide which laws are constitutional, and the Civil War accidentally confirmed its power, by melting states’ rights into the question of secession. 

It is a separate subject, and an important legal concept: States, through their elected leaders, rather than the Supreme Court, through their life-tenured potentates, may review the constitutionality of laws passed by the federal government. Without this important right, there is no balance of power between federal and state government. This is why all our modern textbooks talk about “checks and balances” between the judicial and executive and legislative branches of government, but none mention the “checks and balances” between national and state government: Such checks and balances have been utterly destroyed. As a young student I didn’t even understand why they might exist. The purpose of state governments was foggy to me. Now it is clear: Just as the federal government may restrain the excesses of individual states, groups of states may collectively restrain the excesses of the federal government.

And what can the individual citizen do? Simple. He can make fun of the Biden Administration. He can tease it, mock it relentlessly, refuse to take it seriously. This is what the Left fears most. They cannot tolerate being laughed at. This is why Mayor de Blasio asked just last week for New Yorkers to report “hateful” or “very hurtful” comments, so he could send the police to peoples’ homes to intimidate them: “I assure, you if an NYPD officer calls you or shows up at your door to ask about something that you did, it makes people think twice.” This is why Orwell used to say that fascism and the goose-step would never work in Britain: because people would laugh. Well, they’ve stopped laughing in Britain and Canada, where one actually can be imprisoned for expressing politically unsound views. Don’t stop laughing here. 

When the Left tries to claim there’s no such thing as gender, tell them they’re being stupid. When they want you to admit that a cartoon character is a rapist, tell them they’re acting like idiots. When they tell you that you’ve only succeeded because of your skin color, tell them to go jump in a lake. Because it is not enough for a leftist to get everyone following his commands: Everyone must admit that the commands are wise and good and correct. Anything short of that—even total obedience combined with a wry witticism—is unacceptable. This, incidentally, is why Solzhenitsyn was pulled off a front-line artillery unit fighting the Nazis and sent to prison for eight years for telling a joke about Stalin. It is why Stalin insisted that every accused man confess his guilt before being executed. You may wonder, if they planned to shoot the prisoner anyway, why did he have to admit he was wrong? To the Soviets, the admission mattered more than anything.The Left is simply a child that wants to be treated like an adult. An infant who screams and stamps his foot and shouts “I’m in charge now, take me seriously!” Don’t.

About Dan Gelernter

Dan Gelernter is a columnist for American Greatness living in Connecticut.

Photo: (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

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