I'm not a big fan of Daniel Henninger, but every once in a while, he says what I'm thinking. And so it is on this day. I had intended to make this kind of thing, topic, my subject for Sunday, but this column came out today.
On Sunday I will extol upon it further.
From the WSJ, Thursday, January 19, 2017
The Trump Question
Will his presidency produce a new order or merely more disorder?
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Jan. 18, 2017 7:23 p.m. ET
After the most traumatizing presidential election in memory, conventional wisdom aligned to agree that Donald Trump’s victory brings a new political order. But on the eve of Mr. Trump’s inauguration, a question remains: Will the Trump presidency produce order or merely more disorder?
It is said that the Trump electorate wanted to blow up the status quo. And so it did. The passed-over truth, however, is that the most destabilizing force in our politics wasn’t Donald Trump. It was that political status quo.
The belief that Hillary Clinton would have produced a more reliable presidency is wrong. Mrs. Clinton represented an extension of the administrative state, the century-old idea that elites can devise public policies, administered by centralized public bureaucracies, that deliver the greatest good to the greatest number.
Future Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, in a 2001 article titled “Presidential Administration,” justified what soon would become President Obama’s broad use of executive authority as promoting “the values of administrative accountability and effectiveness.” This has been the lodestar idea of governments here and in Europe since World War II.
Today, that administrative state, like an old dying star, is in destructive decay. Government failures are causing global political instability. This is the real legitimacy problem and is the reason many national populations are in revolt. Some call that populism. Others would call it a democratic awakening.
Two case studies: Chicago’s crime rate and ObamaCare.
After decades of state-administered benefits and services being poured into Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, the Obama administration, in a consent decree, formally blamed the current anarchy on the police. This is a tacit admission of public failure.
ObamaCare is the climactic event in the history of the modern administrative state. It was going to provide health care for millions, delivered through a complex policy labyrinth. Its academic architects say now, as so often in the past, that it would work if given more time. That is what Hillary Clinton said. Time’s up.
The result of the clock striking midnight for this idea’s long reign is the Trump presidency, Brexit and volatile populations across Europe. In Asia, the reassertion of “one China” represents the most colossal claim ever for centralized elite control, and that region is in anxious ferment.
The idea of placing national purpose in the hands of these elites lasted because it suited the needs of elected politicians. They used the administrative state’s goods to mollify myriad constituencies. So they gave them more. And then more.
The state’s carrying capacity has been reached.
In the U.S. and in Europe, the political deterioration that skeptics of the administrative state predicted is evident, most notably backlash against unaccountable accretions of power.
In the election’s aftermath, the Democrats have argued that their long policy alliance with the public bureaucracies is fine but their “messaging” and outreach is flawed. They are deluded.
Their claims that a guided economy can meet the needs of the real economy have been undermined most obviously by the intractable grip of unionization on public education. Its leaden inflexibility ensured that the work skills of many voters or their children wouldn’t keep pace with the needs of an economy in rapid transition. People who went to schools in the inner city or in the nation’s Trumpvilles fell far behind.
Donald Trump’s nominations of Scott Pruitt for EPA and Betsy DeVos at Education are a brutal recognition that the previous order has reached a point of decline. Justice Kagan to the contrary, that was also the message of the Obama’s administration’s multiple losses in federal courts over executive authority.
The Trump presidency is a historic chance to reform and replace an ancient, failed regime.
But will it happen?
A Trump tweet on Sunday said: “For many years our country has been divided, angry and untrusting. Many say it will never change, the hatred is too deep. IT WILL CHANGE!!!!”
We are in 2009 again, hoping for change. Even liberals who haven’t joined the progressives’ resistance mobs hope the Trump presidency succeeds.
People seem both amused and unnerved by Mr. Trump’s social-media compulsions. We know that social media disrupts. What else it does at the summit of political power is not clear. One wonders if the hard, daily work by his colleagues to restore world order or a proper constitutional relationship between governing elites and the governed will be hampered by the turbulence of the Twitter storms.
Perhaps the wisest thing now is not to be distracted by the larger-than-life person in the Oval Office. There is going to be a public Trump presidency for mass consumption and a private Trump doing real work. While we know little about the private side, his cabinet nominees have revealed a relevant attribute, which is that Mr. Trump listens to them. Barack Obama listened to almost no one beyond himself.
Donald Trump is being inaugurated Friday into leadership of an unruly world. If he listens widely, we should be fine.