When Bannon listed the administration’s central purposes, the first two were unsurprising: “national security and sovereignty” and “economic nationalism.” But then came the third: the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Bannon explained that officials who seem to hate what their agencies do — one thinks especially of Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency who has sued it repeatedly to the benefit of oil and gas companies — were “selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction.”
Thus did Bannon invoke the trendy lefty term “deconstruct” as a synonym for “destroy.”
It reflects a long-standing critique on the right not just of the Obama and Clinton years but of the entire thrust of American government since the Progressive Era and the New Deal. Critics of the administrative state — “the vast administrative apparatus that does so much to dictate the way we live now,” as Scott Johnson, a conservative lawyer and co-founder of the Power Line blog, put it in 2014 — see it as unconstitutional because regulatory agencies make and enforce rules based on authority they claim was illegitimately ceded by Congress. It’s a very strange moment. Trump and Bannon are happy to expand the reach of the state when it comes to policing, immigration enforcement, executive branch meddling in the work of investigative agencies, and the browbeating of individual companies that offend the president in one way or another. The parts of government they want to dismantle are those that stand on the side of citizens against powerful interests.
In his CPAC presentation, Bannon accused Trump’s foes of being “corporatist.” But, in the truest sense of the word, the real corporatists are in the White House.
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