by Angelo Codevilla
Bernie Sanders—a supporter of Cuba’s and Venezuela’s Communist regimes, whose honeymoon idyll was the Soviet Union, passionate and earnest about his beliefs—now appears likeliest to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president. The number and quality of the young surrogates with whom he has surrounded himself show his seriousness about breaking a lot of America’s eggs to whip up his favorite socio-communist omelet. Were Sanders to be elected, his people—and no others—would take charge of the U.S. government’s every last bit, and place it behind their vision to reshape America and Americans.
As the New Hampshire primary was raising the prospect of Sanders’ transformative presidency, Donald Trump was contrasting his own administration’s unseriousness by transferring some 70 officials, mostly holdovers from Obama out of the National Security Council staff—almost four years after his election had empowered him to do it.
To underline the anomaly, the Wall Street Journal published an article by one of the very few Trump supporters the president had appointed to serve on the NSC, who had found himself submerged among the holdovers, and under Trump-appointed superiors who were in tune with the holdovers working in opposition to the president. He was fired. Fast.
The few other pro-Trump appointees to the NSC either had their security clearances delayed ad infinitum, or withdrawn outright because of their criticism of the deep state. President Trump ended up presiding over an NSC composed almost exclusively of people such as the Vindman brothers, the CIA’s Eric Ciaramella, and his friend Sean Misko, who teamed up with House Democrats to impeach Trump.
Up and down and across the bureaucracy, with the exception of the Departments of Treasury and Commerce, the story is largely the same. Deep state people had governed before the 2016 election and continued to govern after it as if it had never happened—except that now they also spend their time vilifying Trump and his voters.
The Justice Department may be the worst of all. Its career prosecutors facilitated and failed to prosecute the obvious violations of law from Hillary Clinton and her associates as well as those from elements within the FBI and CIA, while making a horror show of “process crimes” committed by Trump associates. Most recently, four Justice Department prosecutors resigned in public protest because the attorney general had overruled their persecution of one such person, enabling Democrats and their media to scream once again that Trump’s management of the executive branch violates the rule of law.
Blaming the deep state for all this makes no more sense than it does to blame rabid dogs for biting. The problem is that Donald Trump, unlike nearly all previous presidents—and most unlike Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders—did not enter the presidential campaign with a clear notion of what he meant by American Greatness, what it would take to restore it, and which individuals he could trust to help him do the job.
Nor does it seem he has gained such a notion since. Ever since Andrew Jackson, every president has tried to bring into office people who share his vision or are willing to follow his lead so that he may govern as he was elected to govern. Not Trump.
Why this is so is beside the point. In November 2020, the Democratic Party will present a candidate who, if elected, is ready, willing, and able to place every last one of the U.S. government’s levers in the hands of people who are intensely committed to doing a lot of harm to most of us and to our way of life.
On the other side is Donald Trump, who barks loudly, but then mostly submits to being bitten and as the rabid pack bites us. His measures are little, late, and defensive. His enemies and ours have suffered no harm.
If he were to conduct his second administration as he has the first, and when the inevitable recession comes what, other than force, may prevent a Sanders-focused ruling class from turning our country into Cuba, Venezuela, or, if we’re lucky, Argentina?
Since we are unlikely to prevail on Trump to prepare an alternative to a ruling class that is ready to meld with the Sandersistas, it behooves conservatives to put together our own plans and lists of people to implement them.
Governing takes a team. It’s up to us to create one that suits us.
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Angelo M. Codevilla is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).