Back in the saddle again
institutionalism and anti-institutionalism
I’m back in the saddle again. I haven’t used this platform at all, and have had a placeholder for a few months, but I hope to write more regularly, probably with Monday evening being the target send schedule. I also hope to have a reason to put all this to paper!
Thank you for the patience. Today, just two items. First, a bit about me, and the point of this… newsletter, I suppose. Second, realistic expectations.
I am a lawyer, on the right. Mostly recently, I served concurrently as a lawyer in the White House (specifically as an Associate Director in the personnel office) and as Deputy General Counsel (and by operation of law, for a hot minute, acting GC) at the United States Office of Personnel Management. I was appointed to the Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States by President Trump (essentially serving as an independent agency head).
The point of this newsletter is to explore the human element of the ascendant Right. Things I have been harping on for years are now front-and-center. The postmodern left takes no prisoners and liberal arguments about speech are never going to work. Further, the soft Right doesn’t understand the stakes and is laughing as the gibbet is built before them. The conservative or rightist institutional response needs to be stronger.
I’ve been harping on these for years, and I think I’ve been ahead of the curve, and I have some rules I live by, but I’m a nobody. I’m the Forrest Gump of the Right, but I hope to at least regale you with some stories.
In this newsletter, I’ll be speaking about various concrete (and I mean concrete) things that need to be done on the Right, politically. It’s a shibboleth at this point that the Right “needs to institutionalize.” We need to “build.” Okay, fine. But at the end of the day there is no means-ends distinction, and saying “we” need to build could be met with a rejoinder—don’t we have a lot? What’s wrong with it? What do we fix, and what can we expect?
So I’ll be more clear. There is a strong majority, almost a supermajority, in favor of “upper left quadrant” politics. That is, socially conservative and fiscally “liberal.” This coalition has no institutions.
So we need to build some. But I always like to think a few Stratego moves ahead, and this means recognizing that even if you do the right things, bad things will happen. We need to be humble, and we need to be patient. Do your job, and stop trying to be the pundit.
I was at the American Moment launch at the Conservative Partnership Institute building last week— the desire to start a populist entry-level college-to-Hill pipeline is hugely important. But this is a project for years, and if AM is successful, they will be faced with institutional creep. They will have to deal with entryism and grifting (liars who want their imprimatur, or headhunting groups trying to be parasites, or Congressmen misusing them). They will have to stave off mission expansion (for example, trying to serve as a senior staffing agency, or doing headhunting soup-to-nuts, or trying to position as “the” transition vetting team). And they will have to be humble, and patient.
We need to build institutions, but we also need to recognize the part that stochasticity, chaos, God, and the human play in history. We can’t build a “populist ideological test” that is perfect. We can’t build an institution that can’t be captured (Olin knew this). And we can’t build Babel. So, one day at a time.