Opinion

Trump is converting the left to conservatism

Posted August 7

Many political progressives abhor President Donald Trump.

According to recent Gallup polling, the president has a shockingly low 8 percent approval rating among Democrats (among Republicans his approval rating is north of 85 percent).

Consequently, more than any Republican president in recent memory, Trump has catalyzed Democrat wariness toward executive power. If Republicans were reading the tea leaves, they’d be working double-time to take advantage of the singular bipartisan appetite to shift political power from the executive back to Congress or the states.

Last week, Trump tweeted out his intent, as commander-in-chief, to disallow transgender individuals from participating in military service. Although it’s yet to be seen whether the tweet will translate into an actual command, such a directive would reverse an Obama-era decision to allow transgendered people to serve openly.

Meanwhile, this week The New York Times ran a headline reading: “Justice Dept. to Take On Affirmative Action in College Admissions.” The news story — which revealed the DOJ’s plans to post a position aimed at investigating a specific affirmative action complaint — set off a fusillade of accusations that the Trump administration was attempting to reverse affirmative action (which is now settled Supreme Court doctrine).

According to the Justice Department, the Times story mischaracterized the department’s intent, stating that “the posting sought volunteers to investigate one administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015 that the prior administration left unresolved.”

This widespread anxiety, especially among Democrats, to these actions — not to mention Trump’s travel ban — demonstrate the newfound appetite on the left for limiting the executive branch.

In other words, Donald Trump’s presidency has had the unexpected side effect of making liberals a bit more conservative when it comes to presidential powers. Indeed, for the first time in decades some liberals are agreeing with conservatives that certain delegated powers should shift back to Congress or the states.

With such a golden opportunity, Republicans should seek broad bipartisan support for legislation like “The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act,” which would — among other things — require Congress to approve all major new administrative regulations before they go into effect.

Ideologically, the left has historically supported a strong executive branch as the most effective means of bringing about progressive policies. As the conservative economist Friedrich Hayek points out, for those eager to try to engineer greater economic equality through centralized planning, the parliamentary system is almost always an impediment. Sweeping executive power is far more effective. But, as progressives are now observing, executive power can cut both ways.

Recent presidential actions have so shocked Democrats that many are citing the the wisdom of checks and balances and limited powers.

To House Speaker Paul Ryan’s credit, he recently created a bipartisan Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs, chaired by Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, to “study ways to restore the proper balance of power between the federal government and states, tribal, and local governments, and eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens facing communities across the nation.”

Conservatives have long preached their desire to shift duties from the executive branch to Congress and the states. Now is the chance to act in a bipartisan manner, reminding Americans once again that, in the words of James Madison, the “powers delegated” are purposefully “few and defined.” It was Thomas Jefferson who famously wrote to Madison, in characteristic brevity, “I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.”

Hal Boyd is a student at Yale Law School and co-editor of the forthcoming, Psalms of Nauvoo: Early Mormon Poetry.

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