Former Republican congressional staffer Mike Lofgren has penned a disturbing essay on the Deep State, the invisible power structure within our government that goes beyong mere party politics and elected officials. Lofgren left Washington and the Republican party in disgust due to his experience of the Deep State, which he describes in this way:

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude.

This makes intuitive sense without much understanding of the complexity of the system itself, and upon closer examination, becomes more and more apparent. It seems the natural progression of a government such as ours, which thrives on the military industrial complex and public apathy and ignorance. As more and more money pours into the electoral coffers of our leaders, the hybrid power structure of corporate and national security interests becomes more pervasive. The Deep State has become so entrenched that it has become self-sustaining, no matter who is in office. It matters not who our elected officials happen to be, because they have bought into the very system that usurps any real power they might have to change it. Lofgren quotes Upton Sinclair to elucidate this point:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Deregulation, privatization of historically governmental functions, the economic crisis, and the erosion of our civil liberties after 9/11 has intensified even further the power of the Deep State. Our elected leaders often either do not know that they are puppets, or willingly participate in the ruse of democracy, since when they leave office, they are very often assured of lucrative careers within the very entities that have dictated their public policies. Lofgren, from an interview with Bill Moyers:

Wall Street is, perhaps, the ultimate backstop to the whole operation.  Because they generate so much money that they can provide second careers for a lot of the government operatives.  They’re going to make more money than they ever dreamed they would on Wall Street. And I think a good example of that is the most celebrated soldier of the last decade David Petraeus.  What did he do when he retired?  He went to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, a Wall Street buyout firm with $90 billion in assets under management.

Lofgren states that this results in an ideology neither Republican nor Democrat in nature. On the surface, there are some differences on social issues-what I call wedge issues: gay marriage, abortion, etc. Not least of these are issues which to many define the meaning of AMERICAN. It is my AMERICAN, God-given right to bear arms, refuse service to gays, or beat my child! Yet, too often we do not question why AMERICA is spying on its own citizens, arresting them for speaking their minds, and letting corporate welfare moochers deplete the public wealth while despising the poor for weakness. No matter what party affiliation, there seems to be some concepts that are universally accepted as gospel, which Lofgren characterizes as the “Washington Consensus”:

…financialization, outsourcing, privatization, deregulation and the commodifying of labor. Internationally, they espouse 21st-century “American Exceptionalism”: the right and duty of the United States to meddle in every region of the world with coercive diplomacy and boots on the ground and to ignore painfully won international norms of civilized behavior.

The “mainstream media” tends to support these inviolate principles without question, as it continues to focus on the fractiousness that seems to consume all of public attention and political discourse. American Exceptionalism is the true religion of this nation. To suggest that our nation is not divinely protected and beloved is heresy. It is repeated over again that no matter what mistakes our country has made, it is always with altruistic and benevolent intent. We have always held this truth to be self-evident, and so the Deep State has come into existence due to our own arrogance.

The frightening effects of this state of affairs is becoming apparent. Public infrastructures have long been neglected. A relatively mild snowstorm results in massive power outages, gridlock, and panic. Bridges are literally collapsing. We incarcerate more persons per capita than any other nation, often due to the failed war on drugs, which is nothing but an extension of the devastating effects of poverty. Record numbers of people are on food stamps as corporations enjoy record profits. SOMETHING IS WRONG HERE! Lofgren’s Deep State theory pierces to the heart of the problem:

The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction. Washington is the headquarters of the Deep State, and its time in the sun as a rival to Rome, Constantinople or London may be term-limited by its overweening sense of self-importance and its habit, as Winwood Reade said of Rome, to “live upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face.” “Living upon its principal,” in this case, means that the Deep State has been extracting value from the American people in vampire-like fashion.

The American people can not continue to feed this unsustainable vampire. Eventually, the system will be depleted of sustenance, but it could very well be too late the stop the cycle, for most of us are as yet still blind to its existence. History shows that once a society that has consumed itself in such a manner, it is often much too late to stop the terrible spiral even after it has become self-aware. And history shows that leaders, in the face of defeat, tend to double down on already failing policies, arrogantly refusing to admit a change must be made.

Lofgren offers a few disturbing glimpses of our future if the Deep State continues to dictate the course of our country. The first step to dismantling this destructive entity is to become aware of it, perhaps through an enlightened leader:

What America lacks is a figure with the serene self-confidence to tell us that the twin idols of national security and corporate power are outworn dogmas that have nothing more to offer us. Thus disenthralled, the people themselves will unravel the Deep State with surprising speed.

I had hoped that Obama would be this true agent of “change,” but he has proven to be yet another extension of the Deep State. I encourage you to read the essay and watch the accompanying interview with Bill Moyers. I welcome your thoughts and opinions.

7 thoughts on “Must Read: Mike Lofgren on the Deep State

  1. Amaya, thanks for sharing this. I think your Upton Sinclair quote says it all. You have a engine of people who survive any regime. They are the ones who know how to do things and how to placate new leaders that hire their new bosses. They are an engine of self-perpetuation. They are a military industrial complex, an energy industrial complex, and so on. The fossil fuel industry may own the GOP, but they also fund the Democrats to play both ends against the middle. The elected officials have to play ball as it costs too much money to get elected. So, the last thing this engine wants is campaign reform. It is scary to see it described so plainly. Well done, BTG

  2. Obama’s impotency makes one ask whether any executive could thwart the monied interests that really run this country. He has been a disappointment in so many ways, but one must wonder….

  3. As a Canadian viewing this , it is sad , frightening and actually not that surprising. Obama was a near perfect Canadian political leader. Compromise, balance, and a sense of social justice, both on a national & global level. He was up against the the natural grain of American political & business culture, what you call Deep State. From our relative distance/proximity the grain was always visible to some degree – Canadian Ironic vision ( our greatest strength and weakness).
    For us, the bitter irony is our present Prime Minister is a great American Republican trying to reshape our country into a corporate puppy – wagging its tail at big business and casually chewing away at the Canadian social safety net and all those vulnerable souls who get some form of comfort & protection from it.

    Fortunately, there is a slow shift in Canadian electoral perception as the Canadian leadership slips up and hits roadblocks. Unfortunately, damage is being done to the country.

    May both our countries survive the corrosion from within.

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