“Donald Trump is a reaction not just to Democrats but to Republicans,” former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart argued in a recent post-election interview.
“He’s not a Republican,” Stewart added. “He’s a repudiation of Republicans, but they will reap the benefit of his victory in all of their cynicism and all of their — I will guarantee you, Republicans are going to come to Jesus now about the power of government.”
On that last point, Stewart is already being proved correct.
With power in hand, Republicans are rapidly embracing the executive authority they found so objectionable under President Obama. For evidence, we need look no further than the picks Trump has made for attorney general and chief of the CIA.
As Rare Politics editor Jack Hunter has explained, Trump’s AG choice, Sen. Jeff Sessions, has a well-established record of affection for big government. Sessions is a drug warrior whose enthusiasm for prohibition is only matched by his ignorance of the subject, and he has shown himself to be an eager and dishonest promoter of civil asset forfeiture, indicating a fundamental disrespect for private property, individual liberty and the rule of law.
Then there’s Rep. Mike Pompeo, whom the president-elect wants at the head of the CIA. Pompeo has argued Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who revealed to Americans how our government is engaged in unconstitutional mass spying on our digital communications, should be executed. Seriously.
Suffice it to say, neither of these nominees are likely to be champions of transparency, small government or our constitutional rights.
Meanwhile, now that they’ve lost power, Democrats are beginning to have their own come to Jesus moment about unrestrained government authority — just in the opposite direction. Politico reports:
Donald Trump’s election has triggered a whiplash-inducing role reversal in D.C. legal circles, as liberals who spent the past eight years defending President Barack Obama’s use of his executive authority prepare to challenge Trump’s plans on issues like immigration, the environment and transgender rights, while conservatives who railed against Obama for acting unilaterally on those fronts seem ready to back the new president’s moves. […]
“Whatever Obama’s pen and phone giveth, Trump’s Sharpie and Twitter can taketh away,” said Josh Blackman, a conservative law professor at the South Texas College of Law. “Obama has set all these dangerous precedents….All the shortcuts Obama took are now coming home to roost.”
Of course, I applaud any shifts toward greater accountability and dedication to the rule of law in Washington, and I’ve long argued that one silver lining of a Trump presidency is how starkly it reveals the danger of an unfettered executive to people who could not see the problem of a Barack Obama or even a George W. Bush wielding the exact same authority.
Still, the ritual switch — in which each of our political parties only care about responsible, limited government when they’re out of power — is why it is unrealistic to expect meaningful positive change in Washington any time soon. Stewart’s prediction would equally apply to the ruling party no matter how this election turned out, and that’s exactly the problem.