Progressive Failure

The current imbroglio over the impeachment of Donald J Trump, and the various investigations associated with it combine to present a text book example of why progressivism, better described as managerial socialism, is doomed to failure. Like all forms of socialism. It is doomed to failure because, seen through the progressive lens, the world is simply a series of challenges to be met on the road to perfection. Human nature, in the progressive mind, is infinitely elastic and challenges along the road can be met by scientifically discovering and implementing the right policies designed to achieve the correct outcome, which is ultimately the  perfection of man and society.

Speaker Pelosi

Progressivism has no understanding of, or framework for coping with the tragedy of the human condition. The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (properly deconstructed of course) is simply a story of a problematic lack of communication between the Capulets and the Montagues. Nothing that a Blue Ribbon Panel and a little diversity training couldn’t solve. And so in the end, progressivism becomes a soulless and soul crushing bureaucracy. Managed by experts, of course. 

This is where the problem lies. The belief that we can “solve” problems emanating from the imperfections of human nature if only we adopt the right policies and procedures necessarily leads to coercive bureaucratic behavior. It won’t “solve” the problem because it can’t, but it will inevitably lead to more and more bureaucratic coercion as managers adopt tighter and tighter restrictions on individual freedom in order to achieve their desired ends.

Which brings us to the impeachment of Donald J. Trump.

It is often said that people argue process when they are losing the substance of a debate. That is probably true. And there should be little doubt that Trump & his sycophants are arguing a lot of about process these days. But consider this: we do not seek either justice or freedom in the abstract; we seek to achieve both in a real world that is imperfect. That requires a delicate balancing act. As part of that balancing, we require the state to meet several procedural tests before it may properly resort to coercion. And the severity of those tests ascends with the consequences of state action. 

Because the legal system takes into account the foibles of human nature, checks and balances are built into it. For instance, a person charged with a crime has the right to an attorney and the right to confront his accusers. The state may not apply new law ex post. Persons may not be made subject to double jeopardy. A person may not be compelled to testify against himself, and a refusal to testify may not be considered as evidence of guilt. The state must prove guilt, the defendant is not required to prove innocence. The state must get a search warrant from a court before conducting a search.

Norms, policies and procedures developed over time to protect the rights of the accused were obliterated in the Trump investigations, particularly by the FBI in its pursuit of evidence against Trump in the Russia collusion case. It was from this soil that his impeachment came for charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

Which brings us to the FISA Court. 

The FISA Court is unlike any other in the United States. By law it operates in secret and when the FBI seeks a warrant from the Court, there is no defense attorney to contest it.  That, and the misstatements contained in the Carter Page FISA warrants, is why Judge Rosemary M. Collyer observed that the FBI has a higher requirement of candor when submitting a request to the FISA court. In the case of Carter Page, that is a requirement the FBI spectacularly failed to meet. As a result, on December 17, 2019 Judge Collyer issued a blistering order telling the FBI to report to her by January 10, 2020 on what it has already done and what it will continue to do in the future to reform itself. The order can be found at this link. 

Which brings us to why progressivism, best described as managerial socialism, is bound to fail. For its implementation it necessarily relies on independent agencies managed by Platonic philosopher Kings divorced from the hurly burly of politics and political accountability. The predictable result is policy failure and more centralization of power in an increasingly coercive central bureaucracy whose raison d’être eventually degenerates into the accumulation of political power for its own sake. All in the name of managerial efficiency in the pursuit of an unattainable end; namely the perfection of man and society.  

None of which is to imply that Trump is innocent of abusing the power of his office. Of course he did. So did Barrack Obama and George W Bush, unless of course you think it’s just fine for the President of the U.S. to have on his desk a kill list of U.S. citizens to be summarily executed by drone strike. Or perhaps turn the IRS loose on political opponents as in the Lois Lerner affair.

But let’s go to President Clinton for an example of behavior that is more directly comparable to the behavior for which President Trump has been impeached, but Clinton was not. (He was impeached and acquitted for a whole other set of alleged misdeeds). This instance concerns a memo leaked to the Washington Times, as reported by the Washington Post. The relevant paragraph is quoted below. 

“The memo, as quoted in the [Washington] Times, said Clinton pledged to work with Yeltsin to maintain “positive” relations with the United States as both men seek reelection this year. One way to do this, the memo quoted Clinton as saying, is for Yeltsin to stop restricting poultry imports. Clinton said “this is a big issue, especially since 40 percent of U.S. poultry is produced in Arkansas,” the memo said.” See the Washington Post link here. 

So with respect to Nancy Pelosi and Company “having no choice” but to impeach Trump, spare me the sanctimony. Sure, his judgment and behavior  have been, and probably will continue to be appalling. So what else is new? But let’s not pretend that this is anything other than a progressive power play designed to court the base and short circuit voter preferences before the elections on November 3, 2020. 

Democracy doesn’t die in darkness. It dies on the front page in plain sight of all those willing to look. 

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Joe Benning