On the eve of the election, the New York Times published an editorial entitled “A Coup Against the Supreme Court.” All too predictably, the piece lambasted Republicans for politicizing the nomination process for a judicial body the founders intended to be non-partisan. In keeping with the Times’ professed affinity for the founders’ intentions, the piece even cited Alexander Hamilton’s point in Federalist No. 78 that since the court “has no influence over either the sword or the purse,” it maintains authority only through the public’s acceptance of its verdicts.
Of course, it is for precisely this reason that conservatives have long opposed judicial activism, which takes political decisions out of the hands of the people and into the hands of life-long appointed justices. The insistence by progressives on placing political power in an apolitical branch of government necessitates the politicization of its nomination process.
In retrospect, the editorial foreshadowed an overarching theme for the weeks to come following the election: actions have consequences. Progressives have spent the better part of a century dismantling our federal republic and replacing it with a powerful centralized state, all in an effort to force down their opinions on people who don’t agree with them. The institutions and structures that protected the rights of the minority – separation of powers, checks and balances, and states’ rights – were cast aside as burdensome constraints on ultimate power. With the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, progressives must be asking themselves what might happen when that power is placed in someone else’s hands.
Here are three possible outcomes of a Trump presidency: he could either 1) reduce the centralized state, 2) abuse its power, or 3) simply do nothing.
There is an array of areas in which Trump can chip away at the centralized state as president. First, he can repeal every single one of President Barrack Obama’s executive orders with the stroke of a pen. Second, by nominating a conservative Supreme Court Justice, conservatives would have a majority on the court, giving them the opportunity to overturn many of the judicial activist rulings of the past century, from Roe v. Wade to Obergefell v. Hodges. Third, he can clean out the federal bureaucracy and return regulatory power to the legislative branch. All of these actions would return power to congress and the states, giving the people a stronger say in the rules that govern them, just as the founders intended.
However, after the precedents the left established, Trump could choose not to dismantle the centralized state and instead abuse its power and push an authoritarian agenda. He could rule by executive order, nominate judicial activists of his own stripe, and expand the power of the federal bureaucracy. Because they removed checks against such power, progressives would be powerless to stop it.
This has left them hysterical, with California activists threatening to secede from the Union and celebrities threatening to move to Canada. Of course, with a limited federal government, California could remain exactly as it is, free from federal power, and celebrities could just live there, if they don’t already.
Or Trump could leave the centralized state as it is and do nothing to abuse its power. But as the saying goes, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Thanks to their disregard for the founders’ intentions, progressives can only hope that Trump has the character and good will not to use the power at his disposal.
Regardless of the outcome of Trump’s presidency, the lesson for progressives remains the same: do not accumulate power with the intention of controlling other people’s lives. Eventually, the other guy will wield it.