Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
By any reasonable standard, the presidency of Donald Trump has so far been a success. After eight years of Barack Obama’s sluggish recovery from the 2008 Great Recession, the economy is “blistering,” as MarketWatch put it, its vigorous growth creating jobs, raising incomes, and lifting the market’s “animal spirits.” Abroad, the “kick me” sign Obama and the progressives hung on America’s back is gone, with allies, rivals, and enemies alike now taking us seriously as the indispensable world power to treat with respect, rather than a daft rich uncle to bully and fleece.
Yet despite all these reasons for feeling good about the country’s getting its mojo back, the current mood is one of crisis and hysteria. We’re consumed by a special counsel’s show trials of marginal Trump associates whose actions had no material impact on the election or the public weal. Appointed to investigate “collusion” with Russia and foreign interference in our election, all that the two-bit Javert Robert Mueller can come up with are paltry financial crimes and duplicitous perjury traps. Consequential developments abroad, such as Turkey’s implosion and a war brewing on Israel’s northern border, are ignored so we can pick over the carcasses of a couple of bottom-feeding swamp-fixers like Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.
This lack of seriousness and failure to recognize this government’s successes have many reasons. Partly it’s a consequence of just how good we have it. Like most of our political dysfunctions, we are so rich and comfortable that we think we can afford to obsess over payoffs to porn stars and Playboy bunnies, and ignore more important issues. Our attention is hostage to a 24/7 virtual carnival and freak-show on social media, cable news, and the internet. We’re in the third generation of a failed educational system that exists not to teach basic skills, cultural knowledge, and critical reasoning, but to create the new Progressive Man who mouths social justice pieties as he keeps up with the latest fads and fashion. We live in a world of noisy, kinetic distractions, like mice in a maze scurrying to snatch the latest bit of cheese from Apple, Facebook, YouTube, and Hollywood.
But this modern version of bread and circuses serves the same purpose it did in ancient Rome: to distract citizens from their lost political power and autonomy. What the last two years have shown is that despite 63 million votes and 304 votes in the Electoral College, despite Trump’s victory won according to the Constitution’s political philosophy and structure, a shadow state is furiously working behind a smog of distraction to reverse that legal expression of the people’s will.
Call it the “deep state” if you want, but the shadow state comprises more than the federal agencies and bureaucracies built by progressivism’s concentration and centralization of power. It includes all those, whether in government or business, patron or client, who find their interests in a technocratic government that “robs selected Peter to pay collective Paul.” Those on the global left by definition prefer centralized power that reduces the autonomy of free citizens, whose principles of self-rule, self-reliance, and accountability interfere with the utopian fantasies of globalist millenarians. The nationalist populism of Donald Trump represents an enemy that threatens to restore power to the citizens and civil societies of distinct nations, alternative authorities that challenge what Thomas Sowell calls the “vision of the anointed.”
No, we do not have to trade in conspiracy theories. The wannabe technicians of our souls, as Stalin called them, don’t need to actively conspire; their harmony of interests spontaneously coordinate actions that all serve the same goal. They don’t need to send each other secret memos or coded messages: they all share the same enemy.
All you need, then, is for someone––The New York Times, CNN, YouTube, Google, Harvard, Goldman Sachs, the DOJ, the DNC––to say “Will no one rid me of this troublesome president?” and the swords will come out. Executive agencies answerable to the president will plot against him with impunity, and ignore the Congressional committees charged with holding them accountable to the sovereign people. “Independent” Pravdas like the Southern Poverty Law Center will draw up lists of proscribed persons and organizations guilty of political crimes disguised as “hate.” Corporations like Facebook, YouTube, Visa, and MasterCard––whose rapacious overlords share the same zip codes, credentials, and cultural tastes as the well-heeled “social justice” progressive elite––will censor the president’s supporters or, as has happened to the Freedom Center, banish them from using their credit cards to solicit donations. Media outlets will make sure the news is dominated by non-stop anti-Trump invective and fake news. Blue-state mayors and city councils will channel John C. Calhoun and nullify federal immigration law to turn loose feral predators on legal citizens as the price for building a permanent base of dependent voters.
All this frenetic activity is directed toward one goal: impeaching the president to stop his rollback of Obama’s “fundamental transformation” of America. Even before Trump took office his sins against decorum and manners––the camouflage of the bipartisan power elite––had led to calls for impeachment should he win. Since then the media and Leviathan deep-state have been working towards that end. The interests of the people, and the success of the country have not mattered; what matters is the recovery of the elites’ power and influence, and the restoration of their role as self-selected gate-keepers of political decency and correct ideology. Since they cannot dissolve the deplorable people and elect another, they will banish their leader.
All this has been clear for two years. What the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel calls “partial justice” has been obvious. As she asks rhetorically, “If there is only ‘one set of rules,’ where is Mr. Mueller’s referral of a case against Hillary for America?”
Federal law requires campaigns to disclose the recipient and purpose of any payments. The Clinton campaign paid Fusion GPS to compile a dossier against Mr. Trump, a document that became the basis of the Russia narrative Mr. Mueller now investigates. But the campaign funneled the money to law firm Perkins Coie, which in turn paid Fusion. The campaign falsely described the money as payment for “legal services.” The Democratic National Committee did the same. A Perkins Coie spokesperson has claimed that neither the Clinton campaign nor the DNC was aware that Fusion GPS had been hired to conduct the research, and maybe so. But a lot of lawyers here seemed to have been ignoring a clear statute, presumably with the intent of influencing an election.
Mueller’s writ referred to Russian campaign interference. Then why has it ignored the mountain of evidence implicating Hillary and the Dems, while spending more than a year and millions of dollars to nail small fry like Manafort and Cohen for breaking financial reporting regulations, or debatable violations of campaign contribution laws? Can you blame people for speaking of a “deep state” when its agencies so blatantly strain out the Republican gnat, but swallow whole the Democrat camel?
What makes it look like the deep state is winning is the absence of a national outcry against this egregious behavior, this trashing of the Constitution’s separation of powers and its foundational principle of equality under the law. Congress has struggled might and main to exercise its delegated oversight powers, holding investigations and examining documents, at least those pried loose from the arrogant DOJ and FBI. So far, nothing has yet come of all this labor, obstructed as it has been every step of the way by unelected functionaries. How is it that a Republican controlled government cannot compel federal agencies to respect the authority of the people’s representatives? And we wonder why so many voters speak of RINOs and squishes, of so-called conservatives who have more loyalty to their fellow swamp-creatures than to the people they’re supposed to serve.
What is troublesome is the lack of righteous anger over such blatant and arrogant abuses of power, the righteous anger over “a long train of abuses and usurpations” of the sort that fueled this country’s revolution. Perhaps to most normal people the “collusion” and “impeachment” media farce is mere sound and fury, gratifying the Dems’ revenge fantasies, but signifying another debacle for the pollsters, prognosticators, and consultants who are predicting a “blue wave” in the midterm elections. Perhaps those who support Trump and the renewal of our country will let their votes speak for them come November. Or maybe, just maybe the somnolent Jeff Sessions in October will reveal the results of on-going investigations, followed by indictments, into Hillary Clinton’s sordid catalogue of violations of her office and oath to uphold the Constitution.
One thing is for sure. If this slow-motion coup is not exposed and discredited, then our country will have taken a giant step down the road to rule by corrupt power rather than by the law. Those are the stakes if the deep state wins.