Danielle Allen, a Washington Post columnist and Harvard political theorist, has issued a warning about former President Donald Trump’s ambitions to transform the American government system into a model reminiscent of Mar-a-Lago, emphasizing grandiosity over republican and democratic principles.
Amidst growing concerns raised by experts regarding Trump’s intentions to reshape the civil service into a loyalty-driven entity and deploy the military domestically, Trump himself has declared his desire to assume a dictatorial role “on day one.”
In her column, Allen highlighted the often-overlooked fourth locus of power in the government—various agencies responsible for rulemaking that significantly impact citizens’ lives. Citing examples like the Federal Reserve, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Federal Trade Commission, Allen revealed Trump’s proposal to integrate these rulemaking agencies fully within the executive branch. Additionally, he aims to alter civil service appointment rules, allowing the dismissal of appointees who do not align with the presidential agenda.
Allen argued that such a consolidation of rulemaking and enforcement powers in one person, namely the president, goes against the founding fathers’ intentions. The founders, she noted, did not anticipate the current extent of presidential powers, let alone the unprecedented ones Trump seeks to establish. According to Allen, the founders envisioned Congress as the primary decision-maker in the republic.
Drawing an analogy from sports, Allen stressed the importance of separating the roles of rule-making and enforcement, likening it to a soccer match where referees enforce rules set by someone else. Allowing one person to both make and enforce rules, she cautioned, would undermine freedom.
Allen called for a “democracy renovation” to rebalance legislative and executive powers. However, she expressed skepticism about the Trump campaign’s approach, characterizing it as an embrace of the imperial ethos of Mar-a-Lago, which she deemed detrimental to the nation.