If we step back from the histrionics of impeachment and indeed, the past four years of political circus, we have to wonder if America’s democracy is little more than an elaborate simulation, a counterfeit democracy that matches our counterfeit capitalism (Matt Stoller’s term).
If we review the mechanics of our “democracy,” we find that swapping which party controls Congress doesn’t really change the policies of The Imperial State, the central state that oversees America’s global commercial and geopolitical empire.
Next, consider the high return rate of incumbents. Once in power, politicos can skim the millions of dollars in campaign contributions needed to win re-election.
Then there’s the some are more equal than others nature of the judicial system that serves the interests of financial and political elites: Bernie Madoff was free to continue his Ponzi scheme for years despite whistleblower attempts to instigate a federal investigation, and pedophile /schmoozer / “intelligence agency asset” Jeffrey Epstein was free to exploit underage teens and pile up $200 million after a wrist-slap conviction.
The corporate mass media is the PR machine for the Imperial State. If the state seeks to sell the public a war of choice, the media dutifully pounds the drums of war. If the Imperial State decides to disempower a president or other elected official, the media will hound the elected official until he/she is disgraced or buried, too busy fighting off the ceaseless media propaganda to function. The mass media excels at ruthlessly mocking political targets, reducing their stature in the public eye and undermining their “soft power.”
As for presidents: as long as the prez follows the Imperial minders’ orders, everything will be fine. Cross the minders and you’re out. The perfect presidential candidate from the perspective of the Eastern Establishment / National Security State was Bush I: Eastern Establishment blue-blood, Yale, combat military service, and stints in high offices, including high-level diplomacy and the CIA.
Bush I famously lacked “the vision thing,” but presidents only need “the vision thing” during the campaign–witness Obama’s “hope and change” slogan. Once elected, they just need to follow the Imperial script, which includes a permanent PR campaign touting “democracy” as a necessary facade for the actual workings of the Imperial State.
Bush I was the ideal Imperial State president because he understood the need for the velvet glove of diplomacy, the most important element of which is an orchestrated demonstration of Imperial restraint. This also includes healthy dollops of PR about the sanctity of our alliances, which are heavily promoted as the acme of win-win cooperation, etc. He also understood the essential role of America’s commercial Empire: the US dollar, US banking and US corporate interests around the world.
Imperial State handlers cannot tolerate loose-cannon presidents, those who keep their own council and who act outside the “recommended guidelines,” for example, trying to make peace with rivals and enemies that the Imperial State cultivates as “enemies” for its own purposes.
John F. Kennedy appeared to be the ideal Imperial State president: wealthy Eastern Establishment, Harvard, combat military service, informal diplomatic experience via his father’s connections, an enthusiastic supporter of the Imperial State’s Cold War and a youthful politician with superb communication skills who the mass media fell for hook, line and sinker.
Once Kennedy soured on the CIA, things got dicey. The ideal president quickly became less ideal as his independence grew.
The Imperial State and mass media always feared and hated Richard Nixon, a poker player who kept his cards hidden and who surrounded himself with loyalists and outsiders, a rogue politician who could upstage the Imperial State’s agenda by private diplomacy (opening relations with China) or expanding wars of choice (the invasion of Cambodia).
Nixon’s cabinet was well-stocked with Establishment pros, but they were largely figureheads when it came to the bold private diplomatic moves Nixon favored. In other words, Nixon was the Imperial State’s nightmare president.
Just to show that the Imperial State plays no favorites in party affiliations, the State and its media organs also hated Jimmy Carter, another independent who wandered outside the “recommended guidelines” and had to be destroyed via endless mockery and the undermining of his initiatives.
(Maintaining the circus entertainment of party politics is a core function of the mass media.)
The Imperial State was deeply distrustful of Reagan, hence the constant media mockery and the attempt to unseat him via the Iran-Contra Affair. But Reagan was smart enough to surround himself with insiders (Cap Weinberger, James Baker et al.) and popular enough to fend off the constant media attacks, much to the media’s intense frustration (hence their mocking description of Reagan as the “Teflon president.” How dare he survive our campaign to undermine and destroy him!)
Bush II was no Bush I, but he followed orders and never strayed from the “recommended guidelines.” The same can be said of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, telegenic communicators in the Kennedy mold.
Needless to say, the Imperial State and its media organs loathe Trump, the loosest cannon imaginable. Hillary Clinton had proven herself a reliable water carrier for the Imperial State, and so her election was elaborately planned and staged: potentially loose cannon Bernie Sanders was shivved in the primaries by the Democratic Party, and the champagne was chilled for Hillary’s victory.
Alas, the party was crashed in a most unforgivable fashion, and the Imperial State’s war on Trump has been unremitting and ham-handedly obvious.
Democracy is the coat of paint applied for PR purposes to the Imperial State. “Democracy” is only tolerated if it follows the approved script. The Republic is good PR, but the Empire makes the rules and the scripts that elected officials follow, and woe to anyone who wins an election they were supposed to lose or who strays too far from the “recommended guidelines.” (Imperial enemies must remain enemies until the Empire decides otherwise.)
Democracy has always been a “problem” for the Imperial State to manage, but now it is a hindrance to Imperial pretensions and power that is setting up an existential crisis unlike any other in American history.
Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format.
My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is a ridiculously affordable $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)
If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com. New benefit for subscribers/patrons: a monthly Q&A where I respond to your questions/topics.