12/07/2017

#Resistance And The Crisis Of Authority In American Politics

James Wallner, Library of Law and Liberty

When Leandra English, former chief of staff to the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, asked a federal judge to block President Trump’s appointment of Mick Mulvaney to replace her departing boss Richard Cordray, and to install her as the CFPB’s rightful leader, Judge Timothy J. Kelly of the Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., denied her request. Yet English’s legal team, rejecting the idea that President Trump held the directorship in his hands pursuant to the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1988 and Article II of the Constitution, has since vowed to continue its resistance to the President’s action.

Regardless of what happens next in the CFPB matter, this episode illuminated a crisis of authority pervasive in American politics today. The dysfunction it laid bare tells us that we have forgotten what authority means and are thus no longer capable of identifying where it resides in our political system. The result is a post-political order that delegitimizes conflict and undermines the institutions on which we depend to resolve disagreement and forge compromise in a pluralistic society.

If asked, most people today would likely equate authority with power. Power is rightly understood as the ability to compel obedience through intimidation and force. But unlike power, authority does not compel through such coercion. Rather, it is self-evident; people submit to authority voluntarily. Authority, properly understood, transcends the back-and-forth of political life. In that way, it resides outside the government.

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