It’s 2019, so it’s perhaps time to update Ronald Reagan’s famous dictum that “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
The media and the left (but I repeat myself) have spent the past three years ridiculing the concept of the “Deep State” and those who subscribe to its existence. We have been told it’s a crazy right-wing conspiracy theory to believe that some public servants, mostly in the fields of intelligence, law enforcement and diplomacy, might cooperate in informal cabals to pursue their preferred policies regardless of who is in power and to protect their fiefdoms from oversight, interference and the executive, legislative and judicial control. To wonder whether some influential people in the federal bureaucracy, connected through a revolving door with the progressive establishment, might have contemplated preventing the election of their bete noire and his removal from office once their initial efforts proved unsuccessful invited accusation of delusion and paranoia.
This narrative is now officially old and busted. The new and hot one: the Deep State exists and it’s good.
As Michelle Cottle, member of “The New York Times” editorial board, writes in her op-ed “They Are Not The Resistance. They Are Not a Cabal. They Are Public Servants: Let us now praise these not-silent heroes”:
President Trump is right: The deep state is alive and well. But it is not the sinister, antidemocratic cabal of his fever dreams. It is, rather, a collection of patriotic public servants — career diplomats, scientists, intelligence officers and others — who, from within the bowels of this corrupt and corrupting administration, have somehow remembered that their duty is to protect the interests, not of a particular leader, but of the American people.
Fiona Hill, Michael McKinley and the whistle-blower who effectively initiated the impeachment investigation — when these folks saw something suspicious, they said something. Their aim was not to bring down Mr. Trump out of personal or political animus but to rescue the Republic from his excesses. Those who refuse to silently indulge this president’s worst impulses qualify as heroes — and deserve our gratitude.
Throughout the Trump presidency, there has been a trickle of fed-up individuals willing to step up and protest the administration’s war on science, expertise and facts.
Is that what it is! Just patriotic public servants trying to save the people from a democratically elected President of their own country.
I have no doubt that some of these people might even genuinely believe they’re knights in shining armour rescuing the American damsel in distress from the bad orange dragon; it’s certainly as good a rationalisation as any to get you through the day when instead of working as an agent of the executive you spend your time trying to frustrate and defeat your political masters.
The problem is that for all the left’s constant drumbeat the last three years about “this corrupt and corrupting administration”, Trump’s “excesses”, the “war on science, expertise and facts”, collusion, treason, and so on, the sound and fury signify pretty much nothing. There are no smoking guns, or even non-smoking guns, no evidence, no proof that would stand up anywhere outside the court of the left-wing opinion. And now after three years of baselessly accusing the President of being a Russian agent we have impeachment proceedings without an official vote to commence and without identifying which laws Trump is meant to have broken.
You could believe the whole “protect[ing] the interests… of the American people” shtick if after all this time and the incalculable amount of energy and effort expended on bringing down the President, all those patriotic public servants have been able to show something – anything – for it. So instead of disinterested paragons of civic virtue, it increasingly looks like the federal bureaucracy is full of hard core progressives and liberals who can’t stomach a non-Democrat usurper who doesn’t share their values, ideas and objectives.
It’s not a shocking revelation that public service is overwhelmingly staffed by left-of-centre people. Government work attracts the left the same way that private sector and military attract the right. The left believes in the power of government to affect change and implement its vision. Even the spooks are no different. A couple of years ago I wrote briefly about the myth that the intelligence community is a hive of shady right-wing types. In reality, the CIA – just like the Department of Education – has always been a liberal institution. That so many people believe that the intelligence community is some sort of a vast-right wing conspiracy instead of another part of the liberal establishment, is a testament to the narrative power of the far-left, for whom indeed anyone to the right of selves is right wing, including everyone from John F Kennedy to Hillary Clinton.
Most public servants can be professional enough to work under any government, even if they would clearly prefer that government to be of the left – forever. But others can’t stomach working for people whom they believe not merely wrong but positively evil. The honourable thing to do in such circumstances, of course, is to resign; if you can’t in good conscience work to implement policies you strenuously object to, you should make room for someone who can. But why quit your often lucrative job and watch from the sidelines as the country is in your opinion going to hell in a hand basket, when you can stay on and try to sabotage the government and save the world? Thus you can convince yourself you are protecting the people, even if in reality it’s the people who voted in your new, unsavoury masters. It’s easy if you try; like so many others in the recent past you can argue that the people did not in fact elect the government, which is therefore illegitimate, or you can default to the standard left-wing position that the people don’t know what’s good for them, so their democratic choice as expressed at the ballot box has no decisive meaning. We know what’s best for everyone, hence taking a different position is equated to “the war on… expertise”.
It’s an interesting, if of course also self-serving theory, that public servants don’t work for the government of the day, but for “the people”. As Cottle’s logic demonstrates, it gives you a licence to essentially do whatever you want instead of what your political bosses tell you. The problem, as I mentioned above, is that “the people” don’t vote for bureaucrats, they vote for their elected representatives, based on which policy program they like best – or hate least. Seeing that we – still – live in a democracy, the people are given the opportunity to judge their politicians every few years. If they consider that their interests have been negatively affected by the executive’s excesses, they will vote somebody else in. The problem is that the progressives only like the people if the people agree with them. By and large, however, the people can’t be trusted; like children or mentally handicapped they need someone – like the government, or if the government is in hostile hands, the public service – to look after them. It’s the unspoken technocratic mantra and it justifies the existence of an in loco parentis state, deep or otherwise.
As Matt Taibbi writes at the “Rolling Stone”:
Everyone is foreign scum these days. Democrats spent three years trying to prove Donald Trump is a Russian pawn. Mitch McConnell is “Moscow Mitch.” Third party candidates are a Russian plot. The Bernie Sanders movement is not just a wasteland of racist and misogynist “Bros,” but — according to intelligence agencies and mainstream pundits alike — the beneficiary of an ambitious Russian plot to “stoke the divide” within the Democratic Party. The Joe Rogan independents attracted to the mild antiwar message of Tulsi Gabbard are likewise traitors and dupes for the Kremlin.
If you’re keeping score, that’s pretty much the whole spectrum of American political thought, excepting MSNBC Democrats. What a coincidence!
Wild conspiracy theories about politicians used to be the domain of the absolute political fringe. During the bad old days at the height of the Cold War only the John Birch Society types contemplated that a president of the United States might be a “conscious agent of the international communist conspiracy” – and they were rightly shunned and ignored. But now, as Taibbi points out, this is the political mainstream. And so we have the liberals fully embracing Hofstadter’s “Paranoid Style in American Politics”, and thus animated and motivated going to war against their opposition inside and outside of the government. But don’t call them the Resistance and don’t call them a cabal; they’re simple disinterested heroes and apolitical patriots. It’s nothing personal or ideological, God forbid, it’s just that we’re all traitors.