Be warned, this post has disturbing content. If it was a movie, I’d rate it “R,” not because of sex or violence, but because it concerns a penetrating essay on the current state of the US government. Change the channel now if you’re squeamish.
If you’re still here, good, because disturbing or not, I think everyone ought to read Anatomy of the Deep State, by Mike Lofgren, a former GOP Congressional aide who retired after 28 years as a staff member for Congress and the Senate. This article is a distillation of ideas he explored in his recent book, The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted.
Lofgren says what many of us have long suspected, that our visible political landscape is merely the tip of a much bigger iceberg – that our various issues, debates, and elections often have little to do with the real trajectory of power in this country. Much of this “real” trajectory is hidden in plain sight. With almost three decades inside the belly of the beast, Lofgren can show us where to look.
He cites many examples. During the political circus surrounding the 2011 debt ceiling “crisis,” our leaders had no problem finding money to topple Gaddafi. A few months later, during the government “shutdown”, while debates raged over canceling meat inspections and air traffic control, we gave $112 million to Syrian rebels, to keep that conflict going. And since 2007, as our bridges collapse, schools fail, and cities go bankrupt, we’ve spent $1.7 billion on an NSA building in Utah the size of 17 football fields. Its purpose is to house a yottabyte of data. A yottabyte, the largest number computer scientists have so far coined, equals 500 quintillion pages of text. “They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life,” Lofgren says.
The best news, according to Lofgren, is that what he calls the Deep State is far from invincible. He notes how sufficient ineptitude draws pushback even from allies, citing our two failed wars and the Snowdon revelations among other things. Past elites have often reacted to challenges in one of two ways.
Some have tried to “stay the course,” and Lofgren observes that,“The dusty road of empire is strewn with the bones of former great powers that exhausted themselves in like manner.” Others have followed reformers, as diverse as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle, and Deng Xiaoping. What each of these men developed in common was a deep understanding that their cultural stories and myths were ossified and that survival depended upon renewing both vision and action.
Mike Lofgren, a self-described “former proud Republican” now says, “there is…a deep but as yet inchoate hunger for change. 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.”
The first step in dealing with any problem is understanding its nature. In this time of deliberate political and economic obfuscation, I highly recommend Anatomy of the Deep State as one of the best and most succinct diagnoses I’ve yet seen of what ails us.