16.3.16

THE LIMITS TO THE CULT OF THE PRESIDENCY.

My skepticism about the Cult of the Presidency has been primarily pragmatic: there are limits on what anyone, whether a Washington or a Roosevelt or a Reagan or a Fillmore or a Cleveland can accomplish.

Now comes Donald J. Trump, with the buyer of influence likely facing off against the seller of influence, to use a felicitous line from Senator Cruz's speech last night, himself making full use of the trappings of the cult.  And it's concentrating minds on the left, notes Charles C. W. Cooke, and in a good way.
Barack Obama’s extra-constitutional transgressions have been many and they have been alarming, and I do not regret my opposition to them. But their result, thus far at least, has been the marginal undermining of democracy and not the plain indulgence of evil. Will our executives’ excesses always take that form? Is it wise to appraise our current situation and to conclude that it will obtain for the rest of time?

To listen to the manner in which our friends on the left now talk about Donald Trump is to suspect that it is not. Time and time again, Trump has been compared to Hitler, to Mussolini, to George Wallace, and to Bull Connor. Time and time again, self-described “liberals” have recoiled at the man’s praise for internment, at his disrespect for minorities and dissenters, and at his enthusiasm for torture and for war crimes. Time and time again, it has been predicted — not without merit — that, while Trump would almost certainly lose a general election, an ill-timed recession or devastating terrorist attack could throw all bets to the curb. If one were to take literally the chatter that one hears on MSNBC and the fear that one smells in the pages of the New York Times and of the Washington Post, one would have no choice but to conclude that the progressives have joined the conservatives in worrying aloud about the wholesale abuse of power.
There might be a general principle at work, and its emergence is encouraging.
Having watched the rise of Trumpism — and, now, having seen the beginning of violence in its name — who out there is having second thoughts as to the wisdom of imbuing our central state with massive power?

That’s a serious, not a rhetorical, question. I would genuinely love to know how many “liberals” have begun to suspect that there are some pretty meaningful downsides to the consolidation of state authority. I’d like to know how many of my ideological opponents saying with a smirk that “it couldn’t happen here” have begun to wonder if it could. I’d like to know how many fervent critics of the Second Amendment have caught themselves wondering whether the right to keep and bear arms isn’t a welcome safety valve after all.
There's more in that vein at the article. By all means, read and understand.

If the polity follows through in the right way, there's something I posted a while ago that I would happily be shown to be wrong about.  "The gentry liberals, and the academic-entertainment complex, have done much damage, as have the rent seekers. But like any other ruling class, they will not relinquish power graciously."  Perhaps introspection is the first step back from hubris.

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