The latest Hollywood salute to the joys of enlightened despotism is nothing new. They’ve been fantasizing about an Obama dictatorship since the first year of his presidency, and swooning over the idea of Wise Leaders With Total Power for a long time before that. Part of this is due to the romantic allure of the Great Man fantasy. What an amazing character the maximum leader must be – a man of incredible intellect, magnetic personality, boundless wisdom, and (almost invariably) superior physique! Gwyneth Paltrow claiming to have been struck speechless by Barack Obama’s beauty is no different than leftists of an earlier generation growing light-headed in the presence of Fidel Castro, or their grandparents swooning over the epic figure of Benito Mussolini, who reputedly broke a different horse every day, and a different woman every night.
More interesting than this comically dimwitted love affair with Great Men is the way leftist philosophy inevitably reduces to some form of despotism. It’s a logical progression that begins the moment one accepts the idea of activist government – a State whose mission is to engineer the best possible society, rather than impartially safeguarding the inalienable rights of each and every citizen. As soon as those rights become negotiable – as soon as the rich man has less claim upon the dollar in his hand than the poor man, as soon as government is empowered to level outcomes instead of protecting equal opportunities – the slide toward despotism begins. It can take a year, a decade, or a century, but eventually the same conclusion is reached: only one man with vast power can implement Utopia.
Sorry, kids, but the Left forgot to tell you that representative self-government is utterly incompatible with their ultimate destination.
Oh, you can still have votes and such. But your votes should serve primarily as a last-ditch check on the power of the enlightened despot. If he goes completely off the rails – if you’re totally unsatisfied with his leadership – why, you can vote him out of office. That keeps this racket all nice and legal, see. It’s “democracy,” not totalitarianism or fascism, because the people can replace the maximum leader. He can’t very well oppress the people if they can vote against him, right?
But as for this business of representative self-government, well, sorry, but the Republic has got to go. For one thing, command economics are supposed to create a Utopia designed by the most brilliant among us… which, by definition, means you jokers in flyover country aren’t qualified to judge their performance, and neither are your elected representatives. We are to be ruled by Science, you see, and there aren’t many scientists to be found in Congress.
Also, there’s no way the Big Machine in Washington can work properly with 435 elected representatives throwing monkey wrenches into it. You hear a lot of complaining about how all of America’s problems are the fault of whatever residual resistance to the bureaucracy and Unitary Executive remain. Obama’s dead-end defenders are firmly convinced every one of his big plans would have worked great, if those rascally Republicans weren’t able to sabotage it from the House and Senate. (I’d be afraid to see polling numbers on the percentage of faithful Obama voters who think the Republicans already run both houses of Congress, and have done so since the President’s first inauguration.) Disobedient governors come in for the occasional thrashing, too. Everything wrong with ObamaCare, for example, is the fault of either Republican congressional sabotage, governors who didn’t get with the program fast enough, or even the backroom deals necessary to win enough Democrat support to pass the bill – which wouldn’t have been a problem if, as Gwyneth Paltrow put it, our beautiful President had simply been given the power to pass everything he needs.
Centralizing power was only the first part of the Left’s agenda. Now that a mountain of it has been built up in Washington, in part by weakening and even dissolving parts of the Constitution, it’s time to start thinking about gutting the representative republic. It’s not fair to hold the Unitary Executive responsible for the failure of his policies when he wasn’t given untrammeled power to implement them as he envisioned, is it? You don’t have to look hard to find that exact argument being advanced by Obama apologists, in every area from foreign policy to unemployment.
Sure, a lot of this is partisan butt-covering, but it’s also an inevitable consequence of believing in centralized power in the first place. The point of turning the states into minor administrative divisions of the almighty federal government was to make those central decrees universal and inescapable. There’s no opt-out, nowhere you can go to escape boondoggles hatched along the Potomac. That’s because the Really Big Plans our friends on the Left have concocted require one hundred percent obedience and participation. The ability to escape from power diminishes it. We’re only going to cross those last long miles to Utopia yoked together into a team, with the most enlightened hands holding the reins and whips.
Small-“r” republican government likewise diminishes power by giving the representatives of states and congressional districts the ability to resist, force compromises, and even thwart the will of the executive. This is very much by design. In fact, it was even more obviously a feature of American government before certain modifications to the Constitution were made, such as the direct election of Senators. They were originally supposed to serve as the voices of state legislatures in Washington, giving the states a powerful hand in charting the nation’s course. Now they’re an aristocracy of one hundred, who seem generally more interested in representing Washington to the states, rather than giving state governments representation on Capitol Hill.
We can’t very well have a centrally-planned Utopia if the bumpkins and hayseeds have some control over the process, some ability to compromise the vision of our brilliant national engineers with their selfish regional concerns. (There are still people in Kentucky who care about – ugh – coal. Can you believe it?) Much power has already been offloaded to bureaucrats who never have to stand for re-election, and the growth of government has been automated. Many issues have been taken off the table by inventing new universal “rights” that no man or woman can deny… or refuse to pay for. The last step will be diminishing the role of representative government so that we can have truly “clean” elections to choose a benevolent despot every four years. As long as he respects all of the absolute “entitlements” written into our vast legal code, with an ink of dependency that is much harder to erase than the work of quill pens upon the paper of the Constitution, the despot should be given the power to pass whatever he needs to pass. Only then can we truly judge whether his great plans worked or not.
The big thinkers of the Left have always known it would end this way, but of course they didn’t tell anyone until the groundwork for benevolent despotism had been laid. The bumpkins and hayseeds would not have understood their vision, and they have a distressing tendency to rebel against things they don’t understand.