Bannon’s Goal: A Deconstruction of the Administrative State

It’s clear that Steve Bannon thinks he’s smarter than liberals. A good portion of that is nothing more than hubris. But during his remarks at CPAC, he demonstrated that he understands something that liberals too often forget.

Bannon talked about the three “verticals, or buckets” on which the Trump administration is focusing.

One bucket is national security and sovereignty (interesting word choice, right?) The second is economic nationalism. Those are things we’ve heard about from this administration previously. The third bucket is something we’ve witnessed, but haven’t heard articulated this directly.

The third, broadly, line of work is what is deconstruction of the administrative state…

I think the consistent, if you look at these Cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason and that is the deconstruction, the way the progressive left runs, is if they can’t get it passed, they’re just gonna put in some sort of regulation in — in an agency.

That’s all gonna be deconstructed and I think that that’s why this regulatory thing is so important.

Many of us noted as we watched the Cabinet nominees unfold that a lot of them had spent their careers trying to undermine the very departments they were being tasked with leading. Bannon was clear that this was intentional. They have been brought in to deconstruct the administrative state.

The language Bannon used indicates that this goes way beyond what we’ve seen from Republicans in the past on the issue of regulatory reform. As I’ve written before, liberals too often forget that, under the separation of powers in our Constitution, the Executive Branch of our government is tasked with administering the federal government.  We saw that on display during the last two years of Obama’s presidency with his “pen and phone” strategy. But this goes well beyond the kind of executive orders the president issued.

We depend on the functioning of the federal government for things like product safety, public health, veterans care, a response to national disasters, environmental protections and a defense of civil rights – to name just a few. That is the administrative state that Bannon wants to deconstruct.

I have often said that the best defense of liberal values is a government that works. Those of us who believe there is a role for the federal government to play in a functioning society should be focused on the pragmatic task of making sure that is done effectively. While there is often plenty of room for improvement, liberals have too often either ignored how presidents function in that arena or have joined conservatives in complaining about it.

As we watch the Trump/Bannon administration deconstruct the administrative state, we’re likely to get a good lesson in just how important it has been all along.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.