The Next President Must Prioritize Destroying the Deep State | Opinion

At CPAC in Dallas this past weekend, former President Donald Trump asserted that a "key priority for the next Congress and the next president will be to drain the swamp, once and for all." Then, reiterating a point made in a keynote address to the America First Policy Institute last month, he specified that Congress "should pass groundbreaking reform empowering the president to ensure that any federal employee who is corrupt, incompetent, or unnecessary for the job can be told, 'You're fired.'"

Such legislation would essentially formalize and strengthen President Trump's Executive Order 13957, which President Joe Biden rescinded during his first week in office. But there's a problem: The chance of even a Republican-controlled Congress carrying out this type of reform is close to zero.

You see, Congress itself created—and, indeed, has since protected and bolstered—the Deep State, so there's little reason to believe it would now reverse course and eliminate it. A few decades ago, members of the legislative branch began delegating their constitutional lawmaking authority to the myriad federal agencies that constitute the executive branch. (Incidentally, no one knows the exact number of entities that make up the branch. The best estimate is somewhere around 400. Four-hundred!)

Why? Members decided that it would be easier to avoid being judged by their records if, well, there were virtually no records to judge. Rather than be required to spend time and energy informing themselves about a range of policy issues that might be put to a vote, legislators simply passed the buck to the bureaucracy—a permanent class of purportedly altruistic "experts." This way, members of Congress are also freed up to focus on far more important tasks of governance, such as voting to rename schools and postal facilities—all while keeping the many accoutrements of influence that come along with a comfy seat on Capitol Hill.

If the delegating of that broad legislative authority were not unconstitutional, then the devising and implementing of policy that impacts virtually every aspect of our lives by bureaucrats is almost certainly unconstitutional. Welcome to the fourth branch of government. As such, the existential threat to the republic is that America is no longer governed by elected officials, but rather by the Deep State—an entity of literally unmeasurable proportions that is almost entirely unresponsive to the will of the people.

Let's begin with simple math. The federal bureaucracy consists of well over two million civil servants. Once in office, a successful presidential candidate has the opportunity to fill roughly 4,000 "political" appointments, as detailed in The Plum Book. That means a president's picks represent just about 0.002% of the total number of federal public servants at any given moment. For Democratic presidents, this isn't a problem because the civil service leans markedly left. For Republican presidents, however, 4,000 political appointments are a drop in an ocean—one in which basically every square inch is filled with either a bloodthirsty shark or razor-sharp coral that impedes nearly all movement.

Conservatives have thus long fallen for a progressive trap—an emphasis upon top-down, centralized power—by placing such tremendous weight on capturing the presidency. Seeking the White House is very much a worthwhile pursuit for the Left. But without a clear plan, it is increasingly a fool's errand for the Right.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump applauds upon
Former U.S. President Donald Trump applauds upon arrival at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole on August 06, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The American civil service was formally established with the Pendleton Act of 1883. The people responsible for its creation—and, even more so, who ensured its expansion—were progressives obsessed with "rationalism." They were also, in turn, deeply opposed to popular government. The governance of a great nation, they believed, was a duty too important to be left to uninformed and impulsive citizens. It instead ought to be the task of "professionals" capable of weathering the storms of elections and other messy democratic processes. Only today, the members of that permanent class are beholden to someone else: other elites in think tanks, lobbying firms, and academia.

The civil service explicitly sought to annihilate the "spoils system," and it wildly succeeded—to the detriment of representative democracy. But if to the victor the spoils do not belong, then what's the point of an election? That is the crucial question.

President Trump is right: The only solution for genuine, lasting change is for Congress to reassume its constitutional duties. Congress alone controls the purse, and, therefore, has the sole capacity to starve the Deep State. That's obviously a generational undertaking, so we must also consider a complementary near-term strategy.

First, the next Republican president needs to grasp that winning the election means almost nothing, in terms of change. He must be ready to bust out the wrecking ball on Day 1. He needs to reimplement Schedule F and arm himself with a comprehensive playbook, filled with executive orders and innovative legal strategies. That, short of Congress rediscovering and embracing its proper role in our constitutional structure, is the best shot we have at returning the power to the people not only quickly, but also in a principled manner.

The truth is that there can be no restoration without revolution. If the next Republican president truly desires a return to the principles of the American Founding, he must be oriented toward disruption rather than business as usual. That person must be in favor of the spoils system, the one and only constitutional system of governance, rather than our current extra-constitutional system of technocratic rule.

To be clear, there is room for career civil servants in non-policymaking roles (e.g., mail carriers and meteorologists). Yet the tens of thousands of civil servants who devise and implement policy—those acting as all-powerful legislators—must either be forced out or made answerable to the commander-in-chief, who is, after all, the head of the executive branch. The executive branch was not designed to be a check and a balance against itself.

So, if like the vast majority of your fellow citizens you're sick and tired of inflation and high gas and grocery prices, the beginning of the fix isn't voting out your representatives in Congress. Rather, it's supporting a presidential candidate who will, from the outset of his administration, eliminate the large swaths of the federal bureaucracy that reign over our national affairs and constantly muck things up from behind the curtain without consequence.

Jonathan Bronitsky is co-founder and CEO of ATHOS, a Washington, D.C.-based publicity firm and literary agency. He served in the Trump administration as chief speechwriter to the U.S. attorney general and as principal director at the U.S. Agency for Global Media. Follow on Twitter: @jbronitsky.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.