Wednesday, 15 December 2021 13:51

The Advent of the Cipher Presidency

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The Advent of the Cipher Presidency

Derek Suszko

Derek Suszko is a brand-new associate editor for The St. Croix Review.

December 2, 2021, produced a sorry sight in Bethesda, Maryland. Joe Biden, President of the United States, stood next to Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and each delivered in turn some comments on the state of the pandemic and the Administration’s plan to combat it. The stark nature of the contrast between the two men was obvious. Biden, as he does in all his public appearances, seemed frail, unfocused, and confused. His comments were punctuated by awkward silences. Most prominent was the sense of nervous terror that persistently animates the President’s expressions: he knows that in those moments of public scrutiny he cannot slip. And this thought makes him fear himself. When Fauci spoke, he was calm, confident, and projected absolute certainty in what he was saying. The highest-paid and most infamous bureaucrat in the country entirely usurped the stage presence of the elected President. When it came time for media questions, Fauci was the undisputed star. Biden himself vaguely seemed to understand the implications of the scene and joked: “Hey, look who’s President, — Fauci.”


The scene in Bethesda was a microcosm of what has been evident to honest observers over the course of nearly one year of the Biden Administration. Biden is not the President in any sense of the term as it has previously been understood. He is unable to understand the political situation and therefore cannot set a personal political agenda. He is in the early stages of senility and is incapable of projecting confidence or charisma. Unable to coherently speak on political matters or project any sense of the majesty of the office he holds, his handlers have wisely elected to limit him to prepared remarks only when absolutely necessary. It is unknown what preparations Biden requires for these moments in the public eye, but it is reasonable to assume that they are extensive and humiliating. At first glance, it would seem impossible that such a figure could hold the office of president. The president is empowered by the Constitution with so many assertive functions that it would be reasonable to assume that a purely passive president would spell disaster for national administration. And yet the “Biden” agenda rolls on apace, seemingly unencumbered by the reality that its putative head is both a nonentity and deeply unpopular. How can this be?


We may observe that in one very important sense, Biden is free. A sentient president, ambitious to be re-elected, is compelled by his awareness to alter course when the political situation has turned against him. But Biden benefits from the assumptions of both supporters and adversaries that he will not run for re-election. His obliviousness to political reality means that he will not reassess the tide of the agenda that has been grafted on him by his handlers and political allies. He is, in this sense, free from the normal persuasive force of political unpopularity. Granted, this agenda is on course to suffer a rout in the midterm elections of 2022, but the Democratic establishment has little to fear from a Republican Congress so long as it can assert a large part of its agenda before the midterms. Republicans are effective at obstruction and inadequate at repeal. Biden’s presidency will effectively terminate with the advent of a Republican Congress, but this is a suitable trade-off for the partisans of the Left, who know that time is on their side. All the permanent institutions of power are in their hands. They can spend the last two years of the Administration painting Biden as a helpless victim of Republican intrigue and begin paving the way for his successor. It should seem strange that a figure like Biden is desirable for the purposes of the establishment Left and their bureaucratic allies. But in truth, his elevation represents the blueprint for the advancement of their unitary factional interests: elevate a weak candidate to the presidency, one who will stay quiet and do what is required of him, and reap the benefits of a total operative independence in administrative and policy discretion. 


We may refer to this development as the advent of the cipher presidency. The bureaucratic offices have grown so autonomous that they no longer require executive direction to conduct and advance policy. More crucially, they have become ideologically in line with the interests of the establishment Left. If the permanent institutions of the government are capable of executive function and ideologically aligned with the goals of the Democratic platform, why bother at all with a strong, independent president, even one who appears to be in agreement with the party? When explained this way, we can now make perfect sense of the apparently inexplicable support accrued to Biden in the aftermath of the South Carolina 2020 primary. He was selected as the consensus candidate by the party because he was the most malleable, and would serve in the presidency as a cipher, or figurehead, through whom all their policy interests could seamlessly pass. This also serves to explain the elevation of Kamala Harris, a nervous, weak, and implacably awkward politician, who has never been popular with voters of any persuasion, and who will similarly do what she is told by political handlers. Pete Buttigieg, also, has risen in the ranks of the party at an astonishingly rapid rate solely due to his ability to play the perfect yes-man. It is no accident that both of these compliant figures, Harris and Buttigieg, can claim minority status. The partisan nature of the political landscape allows for the selection of such weak candidates. The personality of the candidate does not matter; so long as they are running on the Democratic side, they will win close to 50 percent of the electorate, and the Democratic establishment is confident that enough remaining voters can be won by appealing to the evils of the Republican opposition. They want nothing to do with such overly free-thinking figures as Sanders, Yang, or Gabbard. They have the institutional power and intend to consolidate and maintain it. A cipher president is optimal for their objectives. 


The advent of the cipher presidency presents a frightful reality: we have now reached a stage in the development of the administrative state in which the Constitutionally vested office of the presidency is marginal to executive function. The figure of the “incapacitated executive” has numerous precedents in the annals of history, many among the inbred lineages of the European royal houses: Tsar Feodor I, of Russia; Charles the Hexed of Spain; George III of England; Ferdinand I of Austria. Each of these figures was propped up by a bureaucracy of the nobility, which was happy to advance its own agenda and privileges through the cipher of the monarch. The position of the American president was intended to be one of dynamism and decisive projection of authority. It was designed to be indispensable to the structure of the constitutional government. Under Biden, the truth of the office has been exposed. The American government no longer requires a sentient executive. The sorry figure of Biden illustrates the shameful debasement of the principles of representative government dealt by the rise of the ideologico-bureaucratic state. It remains for a champion to be found with the will to entirely dismantle the vast structure of the federal bureaucracy, eradicate the destructive ideologies that guide it, and restore to the office of the presidency the high dignity and authority with which it was originally endowed.     *

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