One of the more encouraging (?) developments in Acceptable American Discourse over the last five years or so has been the gradual acceptance, even among Serious Media Outlets, that American voters no longer have any real control over their own government, and more broadly, their collective destiny.
In April 2014, Princeton University published a study which found that « economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. »
Then in October of the same year, a Tufts University professor published a devastating critique of the current state of American democracy, “National Security and Double Government, » which
catalogs the ways that the defense and national security apparatus is effectively self-governing, with virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. He uses the term “double government”: There’s the one we elect, and then there’s the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.
The Boston Globe’s write-up of the book was accompanied by the brutal headline, « Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change. » Imagine a headline like that during the Hope and Change craze of 2008. Yeah, you can’t. Because nobody’s that imaginative.
Yes, people are beginning to smell the rot — even people who watch television in hopes of not having to confront the miserable reality that awaits them once they turn off their 36-inch flatscreens. In September, Jimmy Carter warned Oprah Winfrey:
« We’ve become now an oligarchy instead of a democracy. And I think that’s been the worst damage to the basic moral and ethical standards of the American political system that I’ve ever seen in my life, » the 90-year-old former president told Winfrey.
The live audience were probably hoping for free Oprah cars. Instead, an ex-president told them that their democracy is in the gutter. What a bummer.
The latest canary in the coal mine is none other than ex-longtime GOP staffer turned best-selling author Mike Lofgren, whose new book, « The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government,” confirms what is already painfully apparent:
The deep state has created so many contradictions in this country. You have this enormous disparity of rich and poor; and you have this perpetual war, even though we’re braying about freedom. We have a surveillance state, and we talk about freedom. We have internal contradictions. Who knows what this will fly into? It may collapse like the Soviet Union; or it might go into fascism with a populist camouflage.
Some excerpts from Salon’s recent interview with Lofgren:
On how the deep state operates:
Well, first of all, it is not a conspiracy. It is something that operates in broad daylight. It is not a conspiratorial cabal. These are simply people who have evolved [into] a kind of position. It is in their best interest to act in this way.
And given the fact that people would rather know about Kim Kardashian than what makes up the budget or what the government is doing in Mali or Sudan or other unknown places, this is what you get: a disconnected, self-serving bureaucracy that is … simply evolving to do what it’s doing now. That is, to maintain and enhance its own power.
On who (and what) is part of the deep state:
The key institutions are exactly what people would think they are. The military-industrial complex; the Pentagon and all their contractors (but also, now, our entire homeland security apparatus); the Department of Treasury; the Justice Department; certain courts, like the southern district of Manhattan, and the eastern district of Virginia; the FISA courts. And you got this kind of rump Congress that consists of certain people in the leadership, defense and intelligence committees who kind of know what’s going on. The rest of Congress doesn’t really know or care; they’re too busy looking about the next election.
Lofgren goes on to explain that the private sector works hand-in-hand with the deep state, regardless of which « party » is in power. According to Lofgren, « There are definable differences between Bush and Obama. However, the differences are so constrained. They’re not between the 40-yard lines; they are between the 48-yard lines. »
Of course, millions of Americans will still enjoy rooting for the candidate whom they would most enjoy drinking Bud Lite Lime with, but probably deep in their hearts they all know they’re doomed.