Vox: Ave, Imperator!

Occasionally a member of the chattering classes writes something that is not just wrong, that is not just irritating, but that is genuinely dangerous. Matthew Yglesias’s latest essay at Vox is just such a piece. Writes Yglesias:

From her adventures in cattle trading to chairing a policymaking committee in her husband’s White House to running for Senate in a state she’d never lived in to her effort to use superdelegates to overturn 2008 primary results to her email servers, [Hillary] Clinton is clearly more comfortable than the average person with violating norms and operating in legal gray areas.

This is, for him, a point in her favor:

Committed Democrats and liberal-leaning interest groups are facing a reality in which any policy gains they achieve are going to come through the profligate use of executive authority, and Clinton is almost uniquely suited to deliver the goods. More than almost anyone else around, she knows where the levers of power lie, and she is comfortable pulling them, procedural niceties be damned. 


She truly is the perfect leader for America’s moment of permanent constitutional crisis: a person who cares more about results than process, who cares more about winning the battle than being well-liked, and a person who believes in asking what she can get away with rather than what would look best.

I’m no shill for More Democracy™ — never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups — but “process” is kind of the whole bag in the United States. The arrangement of separated powers, checks-and-balances, blah blah blah, is predicated on that oldfangled belief that “all men are created equal.” Self-government is not just a sop to the commons to make them feel good; it’s a matter of justice, responsive to, in Jefferson’s words, “the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god.”

If conservatives get all antsy about the constitution — about lawless executive actions and statutory disregard and the rest — it’s because we believe that second-paragraph stuff. If liberals are comfortable dispensing with it, it’s because they don’t. The animating principles of American ordered liberty do not permit “results,” however desirable, to justify abrogations of “process.”

Furthermore, if the overriding aim of a political interest is simply to find someone who can “deliver the goods,” means-be-damned, then one should expect those deliverers to become more and more autocratic. Obama did the legwork of making “profligate executive action” politically tenable; why shouldn’t like-minded successors push harder?

Most modern liberals are training-wheel tyrants, if you scratch. But sometimes you don’t even need to scratch.

Ian Tuttle — Ian Tuttle is the former Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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