Politicians come and go, but the permanent bureaucracy remains. When the American people elect representatives or even Presidents, what they don’t get to pick is the constellation of staffers, operators, advisors, and policymakers that must be hired in order to steer the ship of state.
This topic is as inside baseball as it gets. But it is critically important to examine the power infrastructure in this country. While the right for decades has complained about the size of government, the left has used every mechanism within its grasp to fill thousands of bureaucratic positions with dedicated footsoldiers for their disastrous agenda.
“Personnel is Policy” was one of the laws of the Public Policy process Morton Blackwell wrote decades ago. Often behind-the-scenes staffers and operators wield an outsized amount of power in government—deciding what and how particular issues get implemented. The failures of the Trump presidency in implementing his critically important agenda were often stymied due to the lack of dedicated and virtuous staff around him.
Here we have stitched together some of the seminal content on this issue, particularly related to the personnel issues that the Trump administration faced, in order to chart a path forward. Please browse and enjoy the series below:
- Podcast | Rachel Bovard on Moment of Truth | American Moment
- Our latest podcast, released today, features CPI’s Rachel Bovard who discusses the legislative process, the importance of personnel in DC, and how policy is implemented today. Listen here.
- Article | Too Few of the President’s Men | The American Conservative
- Rachel Bovard expertly lays out why “Personnel is Policy” is not just an old adage, but a law of politics which, if ignored, will cripple administrations present and future. Featured on AmCanon since our launch, this piece is a great primer for anyone looking to understand the underlying problems President Trump faced in finding dedicated leaders across government to carry out his agenda.
- Article | America Must Replace Its Failed Elites | The American Mind
- Our very own co-founders, Saurabh Sharma and Nick Solheim, write that “An influential class of leaders, policymakers, and staffers is an inevitable reality of modern politics. We must fill these roles with engaged, committed people whose allegiance is with the majority of the American people and the preservation of the republic.” Read more here.
- Podcast | What Happened: The Trump Presidency in Review | American Compass and The American Conservative
- “Ross Douthat, Rachel Bovard, Oren Cass, and Arthur Bloom discuss what happened: the degree to which personnel is policy, how the economy performed during the Trump presidency, and what a forward-looking, post-Trump agenda should encompass.” Watch the full video podcast here.
- Article | Trump Needed the ‘Boneheads’ More Than He Knew | The New York Times
- “Although populism casts itself in opposition to technocratic expertise, like any modern political movement it ultimately relies upon it. This is especially true in the present political environment,” Julius Krein wrote. “For populist policy reforms to succeed, populists — especially those on the right — need to drop their naïve and self-defeating pretensions of “dismantling the administrative state.” Populism should not be conceived as a rejection of all technocratic expertise but rather as a competing vision of how to use it, a concept that some scholars have termed ‘technopopulism.’”
- Article | Technopopulism and the Online Class War | The Bellows
- “Modern populist struggles not only need a critical mass of people, but technical expertise, as well,” writes Jonathan Culbreath.
- Book | The Hell of Good Intentions | Stephen Walt
- Stephen Walt critiques liberal hegemony and the foreign policy “blob” that continues to propagate it. While Walt does criticizes Trump’s foreign policy for a failure to substantially alter the status quo, he also takes aim at the “American foreign policy establishment’s stubborn commitment to a failed strategy. Walt ultimately offers another alternative, offshore balancing, as a new grand strategy for the United States. Learn more and check out the book on AmCanon.
- Article | Classless Utopia versus Class Compromise | American Affairs
- Michael Lind’s piece offers a theory on power and making change in this managerial regime. As in his book, The New Class War (2018), Lind argues that “As a result of the half-century decline of the institutions that once empowered the working class, power has shifted to the institutions the overclass controls: corporations, executive and judicial branches, universities, and the media,” and that only “class compromise can avert a never-ending cycle of clashes between oligarchs and populists and save democracy.”