We've been having a discussion in the previous post about this thing - or supposed thing - the "Deep State." It's become the favourite whipping boy of the politically engaged, from left to right and everything in between. It's this mysterious cabal of backroom types who truly pull the levers of power.
To Donald Trump, they're the guys who run the intelligence/security apparatus. They're the fuel for Trump's paranoia, forever leaking information that usually refutes his favourite communication technique - lying.
To the left wingers such as Greenwald, the Deep State quests for nothing less than control and, as such, represents a grave threat to American democracy. John Light of BillMoyers.com offers this less than entirely helpful synopsis.
I don't buy much of this Deep State business. Here's why. Yes there are senior people in the US government who have little good will toward Trump. Yet the oath they have taken is to the country, its Constitution, not the president. America has no monarch. If they see their country imperiled, even by its president, they're sworn to defend it. They're caught up in a situation never confronted before.
There has never been a president whose loyalty to the country was questioned and so obviously. Trump is damaging the United States in several serious ways. He's undermining America's alliances. He's left Washington's intelligence partners, the 5 Eyes, doubting his integrity. He could be putting America on course for a major war. Domestically and internationally he's untrustworthy, unreliable, sometimes less than rational.
The intelligence/security community released two open letters, one during the primary campaign, the other during the election campaign. Those letters were signed by prominent officials, recently retired, almost entirely Republicans. They didn't pull any punches. They declared Trump a grave threat to American security and to world peace. I think those are conclusions they could easily come to in good faith. When you have reached those beliefs what do you do when you then see your expressed fears being played out?
In our system of Parliamentary democracy, we've always had this top bureaucrat class, sometimes called "mandarins," who soldier on from one government to the next. They're the keepers of the keys, the "institutional memory" gleaned from their mentors as they climbed the civil service ladder. Think of the BBC series "Yes, Minister."
Sure they have a history of sometimes turning on their masters. Documents get leaked, tales are told. Harper was utterly paranoid of their power. However they're not some gang of shadow warriors. They're pretty much upfront.
Trump has triggered an exodus of these mandarins from the State Department and, with them, some chunks of the department's institutional memory have been lost. That has had a seismic effect on the foreign policy community who understand what it means to America when diplomacy is taken over by neophytes such as Jared Kushner. In the process the White House has destabilized America's relationships with allies, rivals and adversaries alike.
Unfortunately today the term Deep State is used as a handy way of setting up straw men and they're always shaped to suit the immediate need and circumstance.
The other part of the premise that troubles me is this supposed mortal threat to American democracy. What democracy? When did America last have a functioning democracy?
The question was thoroughly hashed out by two professors, Gilens (Princeton) and Page (Northwestern) in a paper released by Princeton in 2014. If you're not interested in wading through an academic paper, here's the BBC's report on it. The authors' conclusions were challenged in various media outlets prompting them to issue this persuasive rebuttal defending their conclusions.
I think they make a compelling argument. The United States has become a land not just of massive economic inequality but of comparable political inequality. It's an autocracy.
Worse yet, in this digital era of data mining, consent is today manufactured as never before, not even back when votes were bought with cash and liquor. See here, here and here.
It's become a Potemkin democracy, something apparently lost on Greenwald and company. It's a rotten business beginning with a "bought and paid for" Congress, proof positive of political capture. That now extends to regulatory capture where the composition of boards and bureaus of regulators are packed with representatives of the very industries being regulated. The voice of corporatism alone will be heard.
Teddy Roosevelt mused over the constant struggle between labour and capital and how government had to regulate these competing interests. Well that's over. Labour is out, capital has won, not just a battle or two but the war itself. America is an autocracy, one very much in the service of capital.
So what's all this "threat to democracy" business? What democracy? If anything the Deep State appears to be a grave threat only to the current order, the post-democratic American state for there is no other state for them to threaten. Only if you overlook these things - political capture, regulatory capture, the truly insidious manufacturing of consent and the confounding of the electorate - could the fanciful notion of the Deep State as a threat to democracy be anything but laughable.