If the country ever wanted an abject lesson in the essence of “Progressive” governance, it has been living one for the past few years, and continues to see – exactly – what Progressives had hoped would happen. First, though, a history lesson.
At its simplest, the Progressive movement, which had its beginnings at the turn of the 20th Century, was the confluence of various strains of thought fashionable at the time. It sought to make government more efficient for the voters and run by those who are expert in the various operations undertaken. In short, it sought to build a “benevolent bureaucracy” that would keep government moving, efficient and benign.
At the heart of the movement in its theoretical outline was a pragmatism that was supposed to make life for the governed better. Severed from the vagaries of the electoral system, the professional state would work for the good of all.
The operative word to describe the professional class that would operate the government was and is “benign.” This benignity would stretch through all facets of the government, and be, to use a modern-day term, “user-friendly.” It is based on the belief that human nature would always work toward an agreed-to general welfare shared by all.
In the last few years, we have seen the entrenchment of the professional state, especially since the election of Donald J. Trump as President. But the inherent problems with such a bureaucratic class came to the fore four years ago. In fact, that benignity with which the professional state was to operate is a myth.
Human nature being what it is, we found that the professional state, unencumbered by the electoral bodies that produced them, become self-contained, self-absorbed, self-righteous entities that forget for whom they operate, and begin to belief they, rather than the electorate, know what is best for the nation. In other words, they operate just as intended. But rather than being unattached, disinterested agencies only doing the job they were intended to perform, they became infected with politics of a certain kind. That politics was elitist, condescending and frowned upon the very people paying the taxes to keep the agencies operating.
From the IRS scandal that broke in 2013 we found that entrenched professionals in that agency determined their fellow Americans were ignorant and dangerous if they opposed the policies of a Progressive administration. Tea Party organizations and other conservative organizations were slow-walked through the tax exempt process, and it was done in Washington by the professional class.
Most recently, we see the politicization of the Department of Justice and FBI to the point that a: a) professionals worked against the nomination, election and post-election of a candidate, and then worked against a sitting president. The memos of former upper-echelon operative Peter Strzok show the contempt help by members of the professional state, now called the “deep state.”
But it doesn’t stop there. For decades Presidents and politicians of both parties have complained the intelligence agencies and the State Department have worked against elected leaders, believing they, not the leaders, know what is best in things like foreign policy. These entrenched bodies have become a “government within a government.”
Add to that mix the Environmental Protection Agency, which epitomizes for many the zealotry that can infect an agency when allowed to move under its own power. Thankfully, this renegade arm of government has been lanced of the infection and is coming back under control of the Executive Branch. It should serve as a prototype of what should happen throughout the government.
Under the previous administration of Barack Obama, agencies that should have been monitored were left to their own devices. Contempt for voters and for Congress, always under the surface, erupted and showed itself.
“Draining the Swamp” is more than ridding Washington of entrenched politicians who forgot their people at home. It is cutting government bureaucracy down to size, ridding it of those who believe they know better than taxpayers.
Over the last several years, we have learned what the Progressive idea of governance is. As with most things, the theoretical clashes with the reality. All federal agencies need a personnel cut and a budget cut. They then need to be brought to heel, and forced to remember for whom they work.