April 11th, 2017 // 10:40 am @ Oliver DeMille
“No business plan survives
first contact with the customer.”
Party and Purpose
Alexis de Tocqueville famously taught that all governments and societies are divided into two major parties—the party of aristocracy and the party of the people. Another way to describe this reality is that one party is always the party of elite governance, while the other is the party of democracy.
The first, run by elites, seeks to keep things the same, consistently increasing its own power little by little. The second sees the current government and system as overreaching, corrupt, and untrustworthy, and wants to shake things up in order to give more power and economic opportunity to the masses.
This battle is constantly in motion. Sometimes it fights openly, while at other times it simmers and strategizes below the surface. But it is always there, the elite side strategizing ways to gain an edge, move ahead, and increase its influence over the regular people.
Most people see national political party divisions in literal terms—the Tories vs. Patriots, Federalists pitted against Anti-Federalists, Democratic Republicans against the Whigs, Republicans vs. Democrats. But the real battle—between those angling for elites to obtain more power, and those seeking more power for the people via a reduction of elite influence—is seldom the same thing as a clean divide between official parties.
The Five-Headed Monster
Today the Democratic Party is divided between the elitists (e.g. Obama, Clinton, Schumer, etc.) and the revolutionaries (e.g. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, etc.). Likewise, Republicans face a similar divide: elitists such as Bush, McCain, Paul Ryan, or Mitch McConnell versus revolutionaries like Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Newt Gingrich.
Moreover, because revolutionaries are…well…revolutionary, they care less about teamwork and more about principles and goals. This means they are constantly pointing out the differences between themselves and others, picking fights not just with the other party but with members of their own party as well. Indeed, Rand Paul or members of the Freedom Caucus often have more in common (in some ways) with Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren than with institutionalists (and fellow Republicans) like Paul Ryan or John McCain.
Add President Trump to the mix, with his blend of generalized idealism and big-idea pragmatism, and his inner team is far removed from the other four groups:
1) the Paul Ryan/Mitch McConnell/John McCain wing (Republican, elite)
2) the Rand Paul/Ted Cruz/Freedom Caucus wing (Republican, revolutionary)
3) the Warren/Sanders wing (Democratic, revolutionary)
4) the Schumer/Pelosi/Obama/Clinton wing (Democratic, elite)
This fifth group, the Trumpites (Republican, revolutionary), share neither philosophy nor methodology with the Ryan/McConnell group, nor philosophy, methodology, or even the ability to be civil with the Pelosi/Schumer/NBC/CNN group. On the other hand, they share a revolutionary “power to the people” approach—but almost nothing else—with the Paul/Freedom Caucus and Warren/Sanders groups.
Our government is now a five-headed monster, with constant battles between these five factions. Indeed, one of the biggest ironies of our time is that all four of the other groups battle against the Trump Administration—in differing ways, to be sure—without working together or agreeing with each other. There is, apparently, no coordination between the four groups; they largely despise each other. They seem to like Trump even less.
Even More Factions
A sixth group consists mostly of long-term bureaucrats who fill various government positions and make up the large bulk of federal employees—and do the lion’s share of the actual day-to-day work, in all three branches of government. Some of these are aligned with one of the other five groups, but many are more focused on their own agendas and aggressively (or, when it suits them, passive-aggressively) pursue their own interests. This is known by revolutionaries as “the deep state.”
There is, in fact, a seventh group with yet more conflicting agendas: the various special interests, lobbying organizations, agents of corporations and numerous non-profits, and others who keep K Street and its offshoots busily attempting to sway the government this way and that. The combined numbers of this many-tiered faction (in personnel and budgets) rival and in some things outpace that of the federal government. Add the national media from all sides, with myriad projects and agendas, to make an eighth powerful influencing faction.
The resources and expenditures that go into all eight groups and their efforts are astronomical. This is clearly the kind of “booming, buzzing confusion” that establishment thinkers in the 1970s predicted would allow the elite classes to rule the nation—quietly, firmly, from behind the scenes. The reason all eight groups (and the many splinters and sub-groups) consider such Herculean effort and expense worth pursuing is that the spoils—federal dollars and global power—are even more excessive.
Eisenhower called the 1950s iterations of this kind of governance “The Military Industrial Complex”, what Emerson had earlier referred to simply as The Establishment. It has grown exponentially since these phrases were coined. More recently, Donald Trump referred to it as “The Swamp”, and promised to “drain” it.
But we’ve heard such promises before. Reagan assured us that he’d do the same thing, but instead the size and scope of government greatly increased during his tenure. This is a recurring theme. Candidates have frequently promised to prune the national debt and the out-of-control federal Leviathan back to more manageable levels, but once elected they have been unable to stem the tide of growing government.
Bill Clinton even claimed that the “era of big government” was “over”, just at the time he presided over a huge expansion of Washington’s Byzantine federal bureaucracy, debt, and reach. Both parties have exacerbated this problem. So far no party or leader—in the White House or on Capital Hill—has reversed or even noticeably slowed the growth of government overreach or the national debt.
How to Evaluate a President
How is President Trump doing? Forget how the media—liberal or conservative—answer this question. The truth is that our leaders can only be truly measured against this one great national imperative: get a handle on the out-of-control expansion of debt, bureaucracy, and big government. It is in this context that President Trump, Republicans in Congress, and all who lead the federal agencies and state governments must be judged.
No presidential administration or Congressional tenure since the 1920s has effectively scaled back the federal government or its mounting debt. During the Obama era, we more than doubled our troubling national debt. Before that, the Bush years had a similar disappointing record (much of this was hidden by keeping around $3 trillion of expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan officially “off budget”; add this number and all other “off budget” expenses to any national debt figures provided by Washington).
In short, the elites are winning the war for the future of our nation. If they get their way, the government will continue to grow, continue to increase our debt, and elites will keep consolidating their influence and power over the masses. Indeed, most people don’t clearly understand the reality: The government taxes the middle class to pay its debts—most of the money is owed and paid to members of the elite classes (both in the U.S. and abroad).
For elites, in other words, a growing national debt is their personal asset, an IOU from the American middle class and our children and grandchildren.
The mainstream media generally ignores this real story, instead preferring to issue reports such as the following:
- “Trump’s failing presidency has the GOP in free fall” (The Washington Post)
- “After 10 weeks, Trump teeters on the brink” (CNN)
- “Trump’s outlook going from bad to worse” (CNBC)
More conservative outlets, such as Fox News, who first pointed out the three headlines listed above as a growing trend, show a more balanced view, but the other networks and publications aren’t convinced. Listen to mainstream media reports and you’d think the Trump Administration is facing a full implosion.
But this simply isn’t true. The White House reports are very different, and conservative media reports are the opposite. For example, a Fox report, citing Pew Research, noted that 58 percent of Americans now think the current economic situation is good, while only 40 percent see it as bad. This marks the “best economic assessment since 2007” and “manufacturing optimism is at the highest level in twenty years.” (Fox) Why doesn’t the mainstream media report this openly? It’s some of the best news that’s occurred in a decade. Apparently only Fox and other conservative media are even interested in what’s actually happening on this front.
For many years I have recommended that people get their news from both liberal and conservative outlets, carefully comparing the differences in tone, what is reported as fact, and what is left out of the news. Now such an approach is essential. Those who only listen to the mainstream media only hear a selectively chosen portion of reality.
But the worst problem in all of this is the inability of Washington to tackle and solve big challenges. Why are the eight groups listed above unable or unwilling to come together and fix things? Why, when anyone sincerely attempts to solve our problems and get things going in the right direction, do so many block the path and refuse to allow real change?
The answer is, as one senator put it long ago in response to Andrew Jackson’s election win: “To the victor belongs the spoils.” Indeed, as long as the elite classes and their professional/expert/media collaborators enjoy wealth, status, influence and power from the current system, the less interested they are in change. They like the current system—in this system they rule and the masses unwittingly serve them.
Roadblocks and Bridges
Anyone (Left or Right) who effectively attempts to change this will face the full wrath of elite power: media, money, litigation, vilification, etc. The elite power machine is now in full swing. Indeed, it has been for a long time, consistently increasing elite power and influence, moving always toward higher levels of elite rule over the regular people.
If the masses knew what was happening to them, some say, they wouldn’t stand for it. But the people have their own struggles in today’s world. Specifically, a large majority of the people want the government to scale back and end government overreach, but they don’t agree on what budgets and programs should be cut. Nearly everyone wants major changes in our government, but almost no individual voter supports a reduction or termination of any government program that directly benefits him/her personally. Thus, no deal gets done, not in any big or lasting way.
Given all this, here’s what we now know about the Trump years, even though we’re only a couple of months into his presidency:
- The intense media war against anything and everything Trump is just warming up. It will last a long time. Indeed, those fueling it will never give up. The truth is, the intensity is going to drastically escalate in the months and years ahead. If you think it’s been bad so far, just wait.
- The good news in all this is that more and more citizens, on all sides of the political aisle, are realizing just how untrustworthy much of the media actually is. The mainstream media is losing its once-solid monopoly over the way most people think about important issues. This is a win for the people.
- The battle between those who want to increase elite power and those who want to increase the power and economic opportunity of the masses is the real issue, and it is much bigger (though not nearly as open or vocal) as the conflict between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, the partisan battles and skirmishes are largely a smokescreen, a distraction meant to keep the American people from focusing on the real problem and the real goal: to bring more power back to the people.
- Both of the major political parties are dominated by elites, who support elite goals and don’t want the system to change very much. The Establishment is strong and growing stronger.
- The Establishment is, in fact, much stronger than candidate Trump realized, or at least more than he let on. His promise to bring real change to Washington is going to be monumentally difficult. Candidate Obama also once promised real change, and assured us that “Yes We Can.” But the problems, debts, and divisions in Washington got much worse during his presidency. The same happened to Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson…
To Fix or Not To Fix
To get different results, the Trump Administration will have to do something different. Probably, to be realistic, it will need to do something drastically different. It is unclear what this will be, or if they’ll figure it out. But this is the only thing that will make the years just ahead any different in substance than the last four decades. According to the media, nearly everything about the Trump era is different. But according to the size of the federal government and our national debt, things are still headed in the same direction. The real Trump legacy will depend on whether or not the President can actually reduce the debt and downsize Washington.
To start this process, for example, it is likely that the new Administration will now seek friends and allies in surprising places. The first attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare showed the White House that there is more going on beneath the surface in Washington than the obvious division between Democrats and Republicans.
Much more. And as long as those who want to reduce elite power and give more power and opportunity to the people do things the same old way, they’ll get the same old results. The glaring truth: Elites in the GOP are as much the enemy of needed change as Democratic elites.
Again, to really bring change, something very different will be required.
The question is, has the new President and his team figured this out yet? And do they know what to do? Truly out-of-the-box originality is needed if they are to actually deliver on their promises. We don’t know how President Trump is doing so far, because we don’t know if the President and his team have made this transition yet—or if they ever will.
I think it’s possible that they are trying. They showed a penchant for surprising innovation and inventiveness during the election—bringing a win that shocked the old-way establishment. But bringing real change, and making it actually work, with so much stacked against them, so much leaning in the other direction, is going to take a miracle.
So, am I hoping the new Administration pulls it off and reduces the size of government and the national debt? Absolutely, yes. First, because our nation desperately needs it to happen—whoever leads it. I would have been thrilled if Obama, Bush, Clinton, or anyone else did it. It simply must be done. Our future literally depends on it.
But there’s a second reason I hope the Trump Administration succeeds and makes it happen. Regardless of how anyone feels about Donald Trump, a lot of people voted for him as a last ditch effort to bring real change. In specific terms, this means reversing the debt and decreasing the size and overreach of government.
If this doesn’t happen, a lot of voters are going to entirely give up. If and when the regular people in America lose hope and decide they’ll never get the kind of government they want, we’ll see the full implementation of elite rule. If this happens, we’ll be an aristocracy, in law as well as culture, within a few short years. Such a development will spell the end of the American Founders’ dream, and the end of many of our freedoms.