AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel
Despite the best efforts of the media the midterm elections look to be a Red Wave. How big that wave is will depend on both how bad it gets in the next couple of months and whether enough Republicans run on something more than how bad it’s getting under Democrat rule. It could be very bad, which will likely convince GOP strategists that their goal is to simply get out of the way. That is a mistake. Republicans need to be running on promises about how they can actually mend what Dems have put asunder. But GOP politicians need to do more than come up with better policies, crucial as that is.
All the best policies in the world won’t execute or administer themselves. What often happened in the Trump administration—subversion of the administration’s policies by departmental officers and administrators at high and low levels—happens at all levels of government. The administrative swamp often drains Republican policies before the politicians can drain them. Thus, executives and legislators must identify able candidates for administrative positions in government or prepare to see their policies become dead letters or, worse, the means by which opposing policies are enacted. At all levels of government, the old saying is true: personnel is policy. Three new stories in three different states, one negative and two positive, demonstrate this truth. They are suggestive of what the GOP needs to focus on to win, not only elections but the policy battles that will ensure their constituents’ well-being—and further election victories that do not depend only on how bad the other side is.
Let’s eat the broccoli first and start with the negative. Idaho is a red state in which all major executive offices are held by Republicans, the state house has a 58-12 advantage for the GOP, and the state senate is 28-7. And yet the Idaho Freedom Foundation reported this week on the promotion of sex-education programs that are “developed and endorsed by Planned Parenthood.” Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) instructs, say authors Anna Miller and Scott Yenor, public health districts to implement a program called Reducing the Risk (RTR) that was produced by Education, Training, and Research (ETR), an outfit that also provides curricula that include “porn literacy,” “gender transitions,” and polyamory.
While IDHW responded to the report (see the update to this article at RedState) by saying that they only promote RTR and no other programs, that parents can opt their children out of the programs, and that the programs do cover abstinence, this doesn’t quite cut it. Miller and Yenor’s report indicates that other videos from ETR include Planned Parenthood representatives explaining how the RTR can be used to include lessons on IVF surrogacy, puberty blockers, and other topics not explicitly mentioned in the RTR curriculum. And that curriculum tees up the use of radical gender theory by using “gender neutral” names in its role-playing.
Miller and Yenor’s report shows that Idaho’s North Central Public Health District, which covers five cities including Moscow and Lewiston, not only uses the RTR curriculum but also includes links on its websites to the ETR training on “Porn Literacy and Queering Sex-Ed.” The training includes cartoon videos that are sexually explicit and aimed at children as young as third grade. Further, the website links to plenty of other offerings for kids that include polyamory, gender transitions, and the all-important topic of where students can get abortions. To add to all of this, though the IDHW statement in response claims that they do not seek out Planned Parenthood approval and only promote RTR, Miller, and Yenor show that the IDHW website links to Planned Parenthood itself, which means that the agency can hardly be “unaware of the radical intent behind the RTR curriculum.”
So far, so bad. But here are two stories of red states that have scored wins. The first comes from Idaho’s neighbors to the south and east. Montana is similarly red in executive offices as well as state legislative bodies, though one Democrat, Jon Tester, is serving a third term in the U. S. Senate. Yet the news this week from the Treasure State is very different. In 2021 Montana passed a law that mandated that any changes to a person’s sex on a birth certificate be accompanied by proof that the person’s sex had been “changed by surgical procedure.” As the Post-Millennial reports, a Montana judge halted the policy when two Montanans who identified as transgender sued the state on the basis of a violation of their rights to privacy and due process. The judge agreed that the law, which did not indicate what kind of surgery would qualify the individual to change the birth certificate, was “unconstitutionally vague” in this regard and discriminated against such people’s right to “significant control” over the disclosure of their “gender identity.”
Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) responded with a rule that just came into effect last Saturday (September 10), which is actually an improvement. The new rule simply forbids individuals, even those who have had cosmetic surgeries on their genitals, from changing their birth certificate’s sex at all unless there was an error. The rule includes some lines from the National Institutes of Health, clarifying that the objective reality of sex cannot actually be changed. “‘Sex’ is a biological classification encoded in our DNA. Males have XY chromosomes, and females have XX chromosomes. Sex makes us male and female. Every cell in your body has sex—making up tissues and organs, like your skin, brain, heart, and stomach. Each cell is either male or female, depending on whether you are a man or a woman.” In the notice of amendment issued, the DPHHS included this: “Science and medical knowledge recognize the difference between ‘sex,’ which is a biological concept (and a biological fact), and ‘gender,’ which is a psychological, cultural, and/or social construct.”
A big win for reality and actually following science that has a much better claim to being called The Science than the diktats of public health tyranny in the Covid era or the policies to limit carbon emissions by means that have been shown to increase them. And it came from a state agency of public health!
The second big win comes from the other side of the country, both geographically and politically. Virginia is, at best, a purple state at the moment. It voted for Biden, has two Democratic U. S. Senators, and a Democratic majority of U. S. Representatives. Republicans hold a slim lead in the state house (52-48) while Democrats have a slim lead (21-19) in their state senate. And yet despite not having all the cards as the GOP does in the two western states, Glenn Youngkin, whose stunning gubernatorial victory last year was due in large part to the education issue, has successfully mended the commonwealth’s education policies yet again. Or, rather, the Virginia Department of Education has.
New guidelines released by that department, according to a report by Just the News, will require that parents be the ones who determine what names, nicknames, or pronouns can be used for their children. Parents must also be informed and give consent before students are given any so-called gender-affirming counseling. Further, the guidelines indicate that all school policies should be enacted under the principle that parents are entitled “to exercise their fundamental rights granted by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children,” adding that the Code of Virginia “reaffirms” these rights. “Empowering parents is not only a fundamental right but is essential to improving outcomes for all children.”
Two wins and one loss in the policy arena. And all of them depended on the types of state agencies that are almost always filled with “progressive” activists.
For too long conservatives have, because of a perfectly healthy distrust of our bloated government and its largely unchecked administrative state, shied away from these jobs. They have talked only about getting rid of these departments. Rick Perry, one-time governor of Texas, famously talked in one 2012 Republican presidential debate about getting rid of three federal departments, listing Education, Commerce. . .and then forgetting what else. I sympathize with him, both for blanking on stage and wanting to get rid of these departments. I want to get rid of them, too. But until we do, Republicans are going to have to learn how to manage them in such a way as to make them serve the executive and legislative branches to which they are nominally responsible—or, at the very least, block the harm that they can do.
To do this, conservatives should make sure that they are paying attention to this continuous task: finding people who will fill the kind of administrative and bureaucratic roles that really make a difference. This does not have to be the exclusive task of the politicians or party. Think of the Federalist Society’s role in providing judicial candidates for Republicans. Though not every single one of them has panned out, think how many have. Dobbs v. Jackson owes much to President Trump, Mitch McConnell (I know—he has other problems, but not here), and the Federalist Society’s diligent work in training and identifying figures.
What we need right now is something like a Federalist Society for administrators to identify them, train them, and steel their souls so that they can be “in” but not “of” the swamp. We also need conservatives to emphasize that though the private sector is important and indeed more lucrative, government service is actually a task that can, even at the state level, stop the tide of gender madness from sweeping through our laws, keep it from being foisted on parents without their consent, and make sure the literacy being taught children is not about pornography. We need young conservatives to see that being ready to serve in these positions can be just as important to achieving conservative aims as campaign work, journalism, or running for office.
Should we drain the swamp? Absolutely. Just like the farmers who drain them in order to make the land more productive. But just as natural swamps can also serve the purpose of providing nourishment for other species, when we can’t drain the administrative one, let’s make sure that it feeds, and does not feed off, the nation politically.
David P. Deavel is an Associate Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Follow him on Gettr @davidpdeavel.