Here’s a bracing essay by Michael Pack, a Trump administration appointee to run the Voice of America, who was defeated by the Democrats in Congress and then by the permanent bureaucracy — perhaps the “baizuocracy,” an entity administered by white leftists (in Chinese, “baizuo”) — at the agency he was tapped to run. Here’s the most important part:
What to do about it? I do not accept the two favorite solutions put forward by conservative reformers.
The first group says the problem is that Donald Trump did not get enough qualified, experienced, government professionals in key political appointments soon enough. Next time, we need to have a government in waiting, ready to serve. Surely, this is a good idea, but far from sufficient. In my agency of 4,000 people, I could bring in about 10 political appointees. We were outnumbered 400-to-1.
As near as I can tell, all my mid-level and senior managers were partisan Democrats or not very political. Many lower-level workers, especially technicians, were more evenly divided, but they did not lead the agency. Those who did lead the agency made their opposition to President Trump and me personally very clear. No amount of management genius by a few could overcome this concerted opposition of the many who were out to undermine us. Only hubris could persuade otherwise, hubris which is likely to lead to ineffective and weak leadership. Usually, those who think they can manage the bureaucracy end up instead making an implicit deal with them: They are allowed a few conservative pet projects to burnish their credentials with their base, but they agree to let the bureaucracy run the remaining 95% of the agency — a recipe for a peaceful and “successful” time in office.
The second, more radical group of reformers advocates firing huge numbers of career bureaucrats in a short time. Some say we need to fire 30% in the first weeks of a new administration, an appealing slogan and rallying cry, but no more likely to succeed than a “good management” solution.
I highly doubt that this ambitious objective could be achieved, given the size and nature of the modern federal bureaucracy. Government bureaucrats have powerful civil service protections. In eight months, I could not fire a handful of people whom career adjudicators recommended terminating for cause, such as gross mismanagement leading to security lapses. I put them on administrative leave with pay and then started the process of removal. All have been brought back among those who wanted to return. Republicans often promise to eliminate entire departments. For example, candidate Ronald Reagan ran on eliminating the newly created Education Department. Not one department has been eliminated. Most grew in size, including the Education Department.
Even if the new administration could institute a 30% across-the-board cut, the wrong people would likely be fired. The best at scheming, the most committed ideologues, are the most skilled in surviving reductions in force. Declaring war on the bureaucracy, unless you have a real plan, will mire the new administration in endless internecine battles, in court and on the Hill, distracting it from the rest of its agenda. Remember all the supporting institutions, like the media, the courts, and whistleblower law firms? They would have a field day.
Biden is proving to be so hapless that I would not be surprised if Trump was re-elected. Do you think Trump will be any more competent at fighting this the second time than he was fighting it the first? Has he shown himself to have learned any lessons? Is he out building the kind of machine that can root out these loyalists with the effective ferocity of US Marines clearing tunnels on Iwo Jima? Don’t make me laugh.
Do we on the Right expect that of him? No, we do not. Most of us want nothing more than emotional validation over and against our political enemies, even as those enemies keep winning actual, substantive policy conflicts within key institutions. One side has built up a whole cadre of commissars to staff every major American institution, and can literally ruin people’s livelihoods; the other side makes liberals cry on Twitter and chants, “Let’s go, Brandon!”
On the other hand, I complain about this all the time, but what solutions do I offer? None. But then, I don’t have a mind that understands how bureaucracies work, so I wouldn’t have the faintest idea about how to go about dismantling the ideological biases in the one we have. Is it even possible? Is it even possible to create a federal bureaucracy that plays it straight? And if not, what does that say about our country and its government?
Maybe the best we on the Right can do is to elect a president who can somehow govern without the bureaucracy on his side. Maybe we can elect a president who can walk on water.
Seriously, though, do any of you readers have an idea how a future Republican president could strike a serious blow against the permanent biased bureaucracy? If you were a strategist working within the GOP to figure out how to effectively fight the “Deep State” — I use the term advisedly — for the next time your party came to power, where would you start?
And again, if the battle is futile, if the federal government is a baizuocracy, a permanently occupied territory, what does that tell us?