by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Ben Shapiro writes at National Review Online that critics of President Trump should stop trying to decipher his “master plan.” Take, for instance, the rollout of Trump’s immigration order.
Instead of chalking up the executive-order debacle to inexperience or incompetence, members of the Right suggested that this was all part of a Trumpian 4D chess play: Trump had suckered the media into becoming unhinged, thereby promoting his agenda to keep America safe.
Meanwhile, huge swaths of the political Left determined that it had to be part of some broader, more nefarious scheme, too. The media immediately labeled the executive order a “Muslim ban,” even though it clearly didn’t ban all Muslims. Trump, according to Medium columnist Yonatan Zunger, had launched the executive order as an early “trial balloon for a coup.” Racial activist Shaun King quickly tweeted out the piece, and it trended on Twitter.
So, according to the Right, Trump and his team are heartbreaking geniuses of Newtonian magnitude. And according to the Left, Trump and his team are evil geniuses of Darth Vader magnitude (to be fair, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon believes this about himself).
This isn’t anything new. During the Obama years, Obama supporters convinced themselves that every Obama move was a masterful manipulation of the political system; when Obama failed, it was the American people who had failed him, not the other way around. Meanwhile, the Right attributed to Obama Satanic powers — he couldn’t just be screwing things up like a self-assured narcissistic control freak. He had to be a political alchemist intent on securing a third term for himself in the White House, a man on the verge of opening FEMA camps.
But here’s the sad truth: All these interpretations are idiotic.
One of the oddest elements of the Trump administration for me is the feeling of personally knowing so many high-level members. Some members of the administration are smart and hard-working. A lot of them are dolts. But no matter the administration, we tend to think of those in the halls of power as more competent than we are: smarter, better, more sophisticated players with higher levels of knowledge. If they’re on our side, we trust them to take care of us; if they’re on the other side, we trust them to plan our demise.
But all of that’s an exaggeration of reality. Most of the people in government are fools and dolts and well-intentioned people suffering delusions of grandeur, people who think they can handle the rigors of power and handle the levers with grace and acuity. They can’t. Adults handling government are no different from adults handling everything else: they muddle through, but they’re generally not much better than passable.
Which is why the proper answer would be to minimize government power altogether.