Saturday, February 25, 2023

Biden Nationalizes the DEI Bureaucracy

By Christopher F. Rufo

How the president's recent executive order threatens to subvert the principles of liberty and equality

Last week, President Joseph Biden quietly signed an executive order that promises to create a national DEI bureaucracy and embed the principles of left-wing racialism throughout the federal government.

The order, titled “Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” relies on three key strategies: creating internal cadres and power centers through the deployment of “Agency Equity Teams”; funding third-party political activism through grants to “community[-based] organizations”; and weaponizing civil rights law by requiring federal agencies to use artificial intelligence “in a manner that advances equity.”

In this video, I explain how Biden’s executive order manipulates language and statistics in order to nationalize the DEI movement, suppress dissent from the new racial orthodoxy, and subvert the Constitution’s promise of equal treatment under the law.


President Joe Biden is overhauling the entire federal government along the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and it seems like nobody has noticed. Last week, he signed another executive order promoting DEI called “Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” There was very little news coverage about this, but I think that it is an extremely important development. It has ramifications for almost everything that we’ve been talking about the last few years, and I’d like to go into this in detail to really understand how this DEI ideology works, how it embeds itself in the bureaucracy, and what it means for our country, what it means for our constitution, and what it means for our government.

If you look at this document, there are really three key strategies that it pursues. First, he’s creating internal cadres of DEI officers. This is really important for shaping the culture, the personnel, and the budgeting process in the federal government, which controls trillions of dollars of public resources. Second, he’s using this initiative to justify funding third party political activists under the guise of so-called underserved communities or faith and community organizations. And third, he’s doubling down on the weaponization of civil rights law, this time with some very interesting and very modern twists. He’s pushing left wing ideology, even regulating things like the use of artificial intelligence, and this entire package is justified through this really intricate but unfortunately widespread statistical and linguistic manipulation, which I’ll get into at the end.

Creating Internal Cadres

So let’s begin. First and foremost—this is what I think is really the heart of DEI—is creating internal cadres.

In previous times, for example, in the Soviet Union, you’d have political commissars. These were political officers that were attached to everything from army units to bureaucracies to units of the higher administration, and they would work to maintain ideological conformity. They would push the political or ideological orthodoxy within the institution, and then monitor all of their colleagues for compliance, and then if you disagreed, straight to the gulag. This, of course, is different. It’s done in an American context. It’s not so dramatic, but it’s really the same kind of idea. If you want to have administrative power in the government, you need to have people that are loyal to your ideology that will advance it through the apparatus.

And so, in this executive order, signed on February 16, 2023, the Biden Administration is requiring all federal departments to do an annual “Equity Action Plan” and build “Agency Equity Teams” to push training, programming, reports, data, statistical evidence with the goal of “embedding equity into government-wide processes.” So this sounds very nice, right? Everyone likes “equity,” everyone likes “equality.” But when you actually dig into what’s happening—and I’ve done a lot of reporting on this previously during the Trump administration—this is pure left wing racialist ideology, using the linguistic frame of “equity,” which is a near-homonym to the principle of “equality.”

And when you actually dig into the specifics, you understand that the Agency Equity Teams, the Equity Action Plans are not anything that is sanctioned or mandated by Congress, but is an internal executive mandate to say: We want to push this ideology through every facet of the federal government. We want to have all of our policies, and programs, and funding filtered through the ideology of DEI and enforced by DEI bureaucrats.

These are hidden expenditures. If you ask the White House today, “How much money does the federal government now spend on DEI programs?,” they would not have an idea, because the idea is to decentralize it, the idea is to have it embedded everywhere in a patchwork manner that can’t be then accountable to the Congress, that can’t be accountable to the people.

And the goal of this, as I’ve seen in my reporting and talking to federal employees, is to shift the culture, so that there is a left-wing orthodoxy in culture that pushes the ideology of critical race theory, that pushes the principles of gender ideology, and then to systematically disincentivize or cast out any conservative ideas and even conservative personnel. In my conversations with people over the last few years that work in the federal government, they say, all of these trainings are designed to make me shut up, to make me back away, to kind of force me out. And I think that’s essentially what we get. If you have a conservative belief system, a conservative opinion, you want to pursue conservative priorities under a bureaucratic system of DEI, that’s going to be phased out, disincentivized, and then filtered out, for example, through the hiring process.

So when you have DEI statements required, like they are at public universities, really what that is, it’s a political loyalty test that filters out people who are dissenters from the orthodoxy of DEI, and when you actually start looking at how these things manifest in the bureaucracy in real life, you see a kind of circular process. You see a cycle of intensification of ideological purity, and so you have what amount to the fact that DEI jobs are fake jobs. Everyone knows this. They’re not adding anything to the productivity. They’re not helping people. They’re not innovating. They’re not creating new products and services.

These are fake ideological and political jobs that are rewards for people who gain them, and then they have power within the company in private sector or power within the agency in the public sector to enforce ideology through training, through programming, through kind of a bombardment of daily emails, which result in a kind of ideological conditioning. You’re setting the culture by bombarding employees with a constant stream of ideological materials, programming, training, et cetera.

And so what you see is that they’re tasked with finding racism, and of course, as that is their task, they always find it, but what we see in many, many cases is that they’re not finding the kind of overt racism, intentional discrimination, or policies that are redlining, which is a form of overt kind of state sanctioned discrimination. They’re not finding any of that. What they’re finding is a couple things. First, they’re finding ephemeral discrimination, stuff like unconscious bias or microaggressions that’s filtered through a scientific language. But even the people who have come up with these theories, like the guy who was the principal inventor of the unconscious or implicit association test says no, no, no. This is an invalid measurement and shouldn’t be used in the context of diversity training.

Now you see that everywhere throughout the federal government, tens of thousands of employees in every department pushing these pseudoscientific concepts, and then you have through the form of statistical manipulation. So they’re saying any disparate outcome, if you measure two groups, you categorize people by race, you measure the outcomes, if there’s any difference between those two outcomes, it is by definition evidence of racial discrimination, which is, of course, a kind of absurd idea we’ll talk about, but you have then these two things—you have ephemeral racism, and you have statistical racism, both of which, if you submit it to a rigorous kind of analytical or logical test, fail under scrutiny. But they serve as justification to promote the ideology, and then, therefore, “embedding equity into all government-wide processes.”

Funding Third-Party Political Activism

The second priority that you find in Biden’s new DEI executive order is a mechanism for funding third party political activism.

Look, there are limits on the government, right? I can file FOIA requests. There are civil rights laws. There are other procedures. There’s the prohibition against doing partisan political activism because of our civil service laws, but those things are not applicable in the same way with the same intensity to third party nonprofit organizations, and so what you see in this executive order, and what you see really as a pattern since the 1960s, since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs—Reagan tried to take a hack at this, Nixon tried to take a hack at this, George W. Bush tried to appropriate it and redirect it towards more conservative organizations—but you see this longstanding policy being really brought to the forefront with this Biden executive order, and the concept behind it is to, “identify funding opportunities for community- and faith-based organizations working in and with underserved communities.”

Again, all of this language is benign. It’s soft. It’s compassionate. If you read it at face value, you’d say, yes, I agree with that. We should be helping people. We should be working with civil society in order to solve social problems. But what this means in practice, it means that they’re playing an inside-outside game. The insiders, the bureaucrats, the DEI officers, the commissars, they know that they can achieve their political goals at arm’s length through aligned and much more political and partisan non-profit organizations, and what they do is they take professional DEI activists. These are people like diversity contractors. These are people that run identity-based nonprofit advocacy organizations that, again, use this veneer of identity in order to push a very strict partisan line with which maybe even most of the people within that identity group disagree, but they use that as a justification.

And then what you get, at the end of the day, is you have political operators that can enforce external norms, just like the political commissars can enforce the same norms internally within the government. And so you are routing billions of dollars to organizations that are not subject to the same kind of scrutiny, not subject to the same civil service laws, not subject to the same FOIA or information requests. And these guys can take it, and they can run with it, and they can use federal dollars—that are taxpayer dollars—not because Congress specifically mandated them, but because they are now being used within the DEI bureaucracy. And look, most congressmen are very busy people. They don’t have this kind of line-item oversight capacity, and then what you get is this kind of explosion of publicly subsidized activist organizations on the outside that then legitimize narratives and the policy recommendations on the inside.

And so again it is an inside-outside game that is self-reinforcing, that creates the external and internal sense of norms, and that they can then reward their friends on the outside. And so, if you look at this very specifically and empirically, I did a story on a former kind of Soviet Union fellow traveler, an editor of a journal called Rethinking Marxism, someone who was a close collaborator with the kind of left wing and even left-wing militant organizations of the 1960s, getting now into the federal government, very chummy with all of the DEI officers and saying we’re all on the same team here. In the past, that was maybe—not this person, but others—would a Black Panther Party, would be a Black Liberation Army, would be pledging Marxist-Leninist guerrilla warfare against the central government of the United States.

In some cases, those exact same people are now brought in as outside diversity consultants to teach NASA engineers about their white fragility, or what have you. And then they’re saying, now we are on the inside. We’ve been brought in out of the cold, out of the ghetto of the kind of Marxist academic journals, and now we’re here. We are with the DEI officers. Now we are legitimized as outside activists, and we’re brought in on these kind of plum government contracts to tell—in this case with Johnnetta Cole—the Treasury Department employees that they’re all racist, that the country is irredeemable, and that they have to become left wing anti-racist activists in order to redeem the country, in order to redeem the policies at the Treasury Department. That was a story that I did a number of years ago.

Weaponizing Civil Rights Law

And now the third key strategy or key principle in the DEI executive order is the extension of the weaponization of civil rights law.

Civil rights law, which promised, I think, a great promise to treat everyone equally under the law, to treat everyone as an individual, to not discriminate in our policies on the basis of race or identity really has been taken, and then in the implementation stage, used to advance a left-wing vision to the point where now you have universities, for example, explicitly violating civil rights law, racially segregating scholarships, saying: these racial groups can apply for the scholarship, these racial groups cannot apply for the scholarship, all in the name of civil rights, when in fact, these are explicit violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. But what you see is that it becomes a lever, and it becomes a justification to advance an ideological line that is actually in some cases in contradiction with civil rights law, but is not enforced because the actual bureaucracy of the civil rights apparatus is in the wholesale control of left-wing activists that share these political priorities.

The Biden administration is saying: How far can we push it? How can we anticipate the next political battleground? And how can we use the rationalization of civil rights law in order to gain political territory? And—this one is really amazing—they’re saying we have to affirmatively advance civil rights. Again, not providing a neutral single standard, but actually using it in the terms of “affirmative action,” which the critical race theorists, for example, interpret as the justification of a suspension of private property rights, the large-scale seizure and redistribution of wealth, land, etc. You’re taking civil rights law, which promised equal protection, but by juicing it with the word “affirmatively,” that adverb, you’re saying no, no, no. This is actually something that is going much further and actually contradicting the spirit of the law itself.

The Biden administration, though, is saying one of the battlegrounds that we want to play on is the battleground of information warfare. And they identify information control as what they call an “emerging civil rights risk,” and they task the federal government—this is actually amazing—with “protecting the public from algorithmic discrimination,” and, instruct the federal agencies to, “when designing, developing, acquiring, and using artificial intelligence and automated systems in the federal government, agencies shall do so, consistent with applicable law, in a manner that advances equity.” And so this, if you want to summarize it colloquially, is saying if the federal government is going to wage into AI, it has to be woke AI. It has to be ChatGPT that never says the naughty things, that would never praise the orange dictator Donald Trump, but would praise the great DEI advocate Joe Biden.

So it’s saying that we have to then use the power of the federal government to obliterate the entire conservative side of the discourse that is automated, that is presented through artificial intelligence, that provides policy recommendations. So they want to say we want to have a lopsided debate on the terrain of artificial intelligence by putting our thumb on the scales, not for the free flow of information, but for only for information that “advances equity.” I mean, this is basically saying, if you understand the terms, if you say that “algorithmic discrimination” is something that is a kind of Orwellian phrase, they’re saying that we want to incentivize not just public artificial intelligence use, but by nature of our contracts of private companies, edging into that private sphere, we want to have a system in which artificial intelligence artificially stacks the deck on behalf of our political ideas.

Linguistic and Statistical Manipulation

So if you take these three strategic priorities, really our strategic imperatives, creating internal cadres, funding third party political activism, weaponizing civil rights law, you have to ask: Well, what is their rational justification for all of this? How do they make the argument in favor of this? And I think that there are only two ways that they do this. As I kind of alluded to earlier, it’s a linguistic manipulation, and it’s a statistical manipulation.

So let’s actually read the language that they use and then break it down and parse it to try to understand not what they’re saying, but what they’re meaning, what their actual kind of latent content of these ideas might be. The executive order says, the mission is for “advancing equity for all, including communities that have long been underserved and addressing systemic racism in our nation’s policies and priorities.” Furthermore, they say that agencies “shall be responsible for delivering equitable outcomes.” Again, this is poll-tested, this is marketing language, this is political language filtered through the DEI bureaucracy that’s then also been filtered through corporate Madison Avenue language. You can imagine it on a splashy billboard with a Nike swoosh: Delivering equitable outcomes for all. Sounds very, very nice.

But let’s break down the phrases and let’s break down the argument that’s underneath these ideas. First of all, “systemic racism.” Look, the United States is not a systemically racist country in 2023, when this executive order was passed. But what they’re doing is that they’re setting an anchor that is the presupposition. They’re treating it axiomatically. They’re not proving that it is. They can’t say that these policies actively discriminated on anyone on the basis of race. They’re using it as a self-evident basis for all of the arguments that come. It’s a weak presupposition. We can discuss that and why it’s wrong at another time, but we have to understand that that is the kind of fulcrum of this. That is the grounds that they’re laying.

Second, they want to advance “equity for all,” while at the same time they’re saying they want to advance equity to “underserved” and” underrepresented” communities. This is incompatible. So what they’re doing is they’re saying, “equity for all” is a very nice slogan. It polls well. It seems consonant with our principles from the Declaration, the Fourteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights Act, that everyone has equal protection under the law as an individual, but then they say at the same time—which again is total contradiction of the terms,—but we’re going to go for underserved and underrepresented communities and deliver them equity, meaning in practice, and you see this in corporations, in universities, in government programs, that they’re actually not serving everyone equally as individuals, but they’re categorizing groups on the basis of race, sexual identity, et cetera, and then tilting the playing field or treating people separately to two separate or actually multiple separate standards, based on the theory of intersectionality, where they’re saying we categorize people by groups, and we treat them differently through policies, through hiring, through promotions, through government contracting, through grant funding, through the distribution of assets, through, for example, BIPOC-only basic income programs that some cities have deployed recently.

And then so you have what Ibram Kendi says more honestly is “anti-racist discrimination.” So yes, we want to discriminate on the basis of race. That’s really what it means to do this. He’s at least honest about it, and we’re justifying it on the basis of systemic racism. Okay, so you have the justification. You have the argument or the actual policy. And then what is the desired outcome? What is the kind of telos of this system? It’s “equitable outcomes.”

“Equitable outcomes” means, if you want to make the language more plain, equal outcomes. The goal, the stated goal and the stated definition, even axiomatically, is that we will not be systemically racist in the United States until we have equitable or equal outcomes on the basis of racial categories. And so when everyone has the same income, when everyone has the same number of college degrees, when everyone has the same achievement along a whole series of metrics, then we will have a society that has been redeemed from systemic racism, then we will have equitable outcomes, and we will have served “underserved” communities or “underrepresented” communities to the sufficient point that our objective is met.

The DEI Bureaucracy Can Only Lead to Tyranny

But ultimately, the problem with the theory of equitable outcomes is that you can only achieve this through bureaucratic tyranny. The Founders knew this. The Founders when they talked about diversity, they said so in this beautiful phrase, the “diversity of faculties.” They knew that human beings, as individuals, some were gifted in some things, some were gifted in other things, some lacked gifts in the same categories, and they said that if we tried to level or to equalize outcomes along all of those various faculties, all of those various achievements, you could only do so through crushing excellence, through having a kind of unequal process, and then by having a government that was so strong that it could enforce it only through tyranny.

This is not to say, to be clear, that it is not our moral duty to eliminate all forms of racism and racist policies from our government, from our society, from our laws. I think that is a noble goal. I think it’s consistent with the founding vision, and I think, for the most part, we have moved our society over the last 250 years much closer to that vision. But now the question is this: do we want to fulfill that promise of the Declaration, the Fourteenth Amendment, the promise of civil rights, or do we want to diverge from that promise with this theory of kind of critical race ideology, with this theory of anti-racist discrimination, with this theory of equitable outcomes, which throughout human history has always ended in bloodshed, tyranny, and misery, and misfortune?

The political left says: Let’s give it a try once again. We’re going to put a statistical dashboard. We’re going to call it equity now. We’re going to equalize outcomes, but because we are sophisticates of the twenty-first century, we’re going to avoid all of the errors and misfortunes of the past.

I’m not so sure. But more importantly, what I am sure about is that this can only be achieved by actually abandoning the principles of our country, the principles of equality and liberty, which are really those two sides of the same coin, and the guiding light of the last 250 years. That’s not to say that we always had it in practice. That’s not to say that we’ve always lived up to it, but I think we’ve always moved towards it. And some might say, Oh, Chris, you’re a kind of naive Whiggish mind, who says that we’re moving towards it. But look, Lincoln thought this, the great leaders of our country have thought this, so I feel like I’m in good company.

But if we go along the lines of Biden’s kind of racialist bureaucracy or government not by the will of the people, but government by the will of the DEI ideologues that are embedded through the federal agencies, we’re going to be subverting our Constitution, not by passing constitutional amendments, not through the process that has been handed down through us, but subverting the constitutional order with a death by a thousand cuts, by ceding, or delegating, or really abdicating, our authority to these DEI bureaucrats that go then, cut by cut, piece by piece, dismantling the principles of liberty and equality, demolishing the foundation and moral and philosophical underpinning of our Constitution, and then doing it by changing the meaning of language and misleading the public.

And so with this video, with the work that I’m doing looking at the DEI bureaucracies, right now in universities, I hope that I can give you the tools to parse the language, the tools to understand the concepts, and then hopefully the tools to start fighting back, because we can only solve this problem through the political process, through the legislative process, and through courageous political leadership. And we have to wholly reject the ideology of DEI. We have to abolish the DEI departments in every facet of our government. And we have to make the case for those great principles of liberty and equality rightly understood, and this is the fight of our time.

This is the great constitutional battle, sand I think that we are not only right on the politics, but we are right morally, we’re right philosophically, and we are right by the highest meaning of our Constitution. Let’s get to work.