It’s hard to believe Richard Nixon, the consummate, disciplined insider, and Donald Trump, the shambolic, impulsive outsider, have anything in common, but it’s true. Both men shared the belief that winning a national election should convey political power.
Acting on the belief a national majority gave him a popular mandate to make changes in Washington cost Nixon his presidency. Just mentioning draining the swamp in passing is in the process of costing Trump his.
John Marini, author of “Unmasking the Administrative State,” pointed out this unlikely coincidence during a book discussion sponsored by Hillsdale College and the Claremont Institute. What made both men a target was the threat to the status quo enjoyed by Washington’s vast permanent bureaucracy.
Nixon’s “third-rate burglary” in the Watergate complex provided the bureaucracy and its allies in the Democrat Congress the pretext to drive him from office.
Forty-three years later the administrative state had grown so powerful that it required no cooperation from Trump to supply a crime. His investigation is based on speculation and conjecture supplied by political enemies and it began shortly after the swearing in ceremony.
Both investigations are designed to nullify an election by using the power of the administrative state to taint and drive from office a president who wants to change the way Washington operates.
As Henry Kissinger wrote, “Nixon provoked a revolution...For reasons unrelated to the issues and unforeseeable by the people who voted for what Nixon represented, this choice was now being annulled.”
As in usual in these matters, Alexis de Tocqueville — the crystal ball of the 19th Century — warned of the danger of the administrative state. He wrote that centralized administration is what despotism will look like in democratic times.
During his second term, Nixon planned to confront the permanent bureaucracy. In a November radio address he said, “If this kind of [bureaucratic] growth were projected indefinitely in the future, the result would be catastrophic. We would have an America top heavy with bureaucratic meddling, weighted down by big government, suffocated by taxes, robbed of its soul.”
Trump in his scattershot manner has spoken of eliminating entire cabinet agencies and moving the surviving headquarters out of Washington. That sentiment was one reason Marini had confidence in Trump, “his perspective was that of a citizen’s and a commonâ€’sense view of what politics should be.”
Both faced daunting obstacles. Nixon had a Congress controlled entirely by the Democrat Party. Trump had what Nixon earlier termed a “timid [Republican] party” controlled by Curator of the Senate Mitch McConnell. And both presidents were “resisted by the combined and determined inertia of Congress and the bureaucracy.”
Marini writes, “Although Woodward and Bernstein were lauded as investigative reporters they served merely as a conduit by which the bureaucracy [the FBI and other leakers] could undermine the authority of an elected officeholder.”
Disgraced FBI agent Andrew McCabe and his cabal of administrative state functionaries demonstrated contempt for the democratic process and “the instinct for selfâ€’preservation at all costs” when they began spying on Trump before the election and concocted “Russia Collusion” after.
All without a single pang of conscience, because the administrative state is convinced of its own rectitude.
The confrontation that drove Nixon from office and is paralyzing Trump is essentially a test of the consent of the governed. Our nation was founded on that principle. An unaccountable, unelected administrative state that makes its own law flies in the face of consent of the governed, because the governed have no way to challenge the bureaucracy.
Marini observes “Congress has stopped legislating and started delegating.” Congress is an “oversight body” given to theatrical displays instead of demanding accountability from the administrative state.
The only national referendum where voters have a say on the direction of the federal government is the presidential election. Michael Anton said at the event the people who elected Nixon and Trump “have a sentimental attachment to the Constitution” that swamp residents find quaint. Marini concurs and adds, “the people that elected Trump think elections should make a difference.”
It’s the administrative state’s central mission to prove those voters wrong. Currently, the bureaucrats are winning.