With government, process is important. Or why John Yoo is an idiot.
Well, look who it is! If it isn’t John Yoo, the Bush Administration lawyer who will be forever be known to history as The Guy Who Wrote Those Formerly Secret Legal Memos Justifying Torture, assuming such acts can still be criticized in the hypothetical future thus envisioned.
Here’s my problem.
Democracy is not a race for power. It is a process which keeps power in check, and a structure which keeps power in the hands of the people.
Now sometimes you get results you don’t like, such as the passage of California’s Proposition 8 opposing gay marriage. But the process by which that amendment was dismantled included an extra-legal mechanism (involving the failure of the Governor and the Attorney General in defending a direct democracy constitutional amendment) which gave the government an unforeseen veto–a veto which could have been applied to other previous amendments unpopular to the government, such as the older California Proposition 13, which severely restricted the power of California’s government to collect taxes.
Unfortunately in this day and age many people have forgotten that Democracy is not a race for power, and are now calling for dismantling those limits which help keep democracy on the rails because they don’t like the results. The ultimate dismantling of the safety limits is a coup d’etat, and many on the Left are now calling for it: Sarah Silverman asking in a tweet for the military to join the left wing to overthrow President Trump was the warm-up act, but that could be dismissed as some minor celebrity pandering to her fans. The real problem comes when the otherwise respected Foreign Policy gets in on the act::
The fourth possibility is one that until recently I would have said was unthinkable in the United States of America: a military coup, or at least a refusal by military leaders to obey certain orders.
There is a real problem with dismantling the safety rails which limit power.
The pendulum of power in this country always swings.
There will never be a political monopoly on power. And because of this, the mechanisms dismantled by one party (such as the Democrats’s triggering of the “nuclear option” in 2013) will inevitably be used by the other party. And a President who spent his entire 8 years expanding Presidential Power must inevitably hand over office to a opposition President who will make use of that power.
Worse, the naked grab for power over the past 8 years by the Left–a naked grab for power which has turned many media outlets deeply partisan, has turned those same outlets into shallow jokes of themselves.
Trust, as it turns out, is hard earned, and easily destroyed.
But it wasn’t destroyed starting in November with Trump’s election. It started more than a decade ago when we saw various news outlets go from full-on opposition to President Bush to full-on support of President Obama, over many issues where the two Presidents were entirely in sync, such as with the war in Iraq.
It started when the press got on board with the dismantling of the limits on power in order to engage in what many perceived as a permanent liberal majority.
It started, in other words, when Democrats believed they won the race for power, and saw those nasty little checks–Democratic norms which limit governmental power–were getting in the way.
And now Trump is President.
If John Yoo, who wrote a number of essays and legal opinions opining that the Presidency’s power could expand or constrict as needed by the President, truly believed his legal opinions about process–then while he may dislike the direction Trump is leading us, he wouldn’t be so concerned as Trump is simply following in the footsteps first outlined by Hamilton and trod by presidents from Lincoln to Wilson to Obama.
His worry, however, betrays the fact that he was never really concerned with form, but with power.
And if–God forbid–the Democrats who now call for a coup d’etat were to actually see one–I don’t think they would like the results.
Because remember which side of the aisle supports gun control–and which side generally has all the guns.
So in the future, if you see government officials leading us in directions which cause you to hold your nose–remember: you’ll get your turn in 8 years to set things right. Or better yet, support limits which prevent the government from doing things which cause you to hold your nose in the first place–even if that means your own progressive agenda must be accomplished through other means, such as persuasion.
Because government is force. And that force will inevitably be held by people you don’t like, once the political pendulum swings the other way.