Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people. From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare, they have become the tools of corrupt interests which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.  -Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was describing the Deep State, which goes back farther than I had realized.  In fact, it probably goes back as far as democracy does, to the conflict that has always been at the root of societies:  Those who have money and power want to keep and expand it regardless of the will of the people, and those who lack money and power want to get some.

Definitions differ, but there is enough consensus to get a pretty good idea, and understanding those terms also helps us understand what is going on with the Deep State and why it’s so difficult to move forward with a progressive agenda. (Note that these are particularly American definitions.  They have other meanings in different parts of the world.)

Neoliberalism:  In its original definition, liberalism was not about progressive ideas; it was about small government and individual freedoms.  Neoliberalism in the U.S. is based on that original definition of liberalism.  It evolved as a backlash against what we now think of as liberal policies, specifically FDR’s New Deal, which resulted in a decline in the share of the national income owned by the 1%. Their share peaked in the late 1920s, right before the Great Depression, then fell by more than half over the next three decades because of New Deal policies that helped the people, such as the Social Security Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, and policies that put limits on what the rich could get away with, such as the Glass-Steagall Act (repealed in 1999).  But the equalizing trends of the mid- 20th century have now been almost completely rolled back. The rich now hold as large a share of the national wealth as they did in the 1920s.  According to The New York Times, the “richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent”.

How did they do it?  Neoliberals argue that the best path to prosperity is free enterprise and the privatization of absolutely everything:  education, healthcare, the military, pensions, prisons, the Internet, national parks and public land, roads, water, food—really everything you can think of.  In addition to privatization, they promote deregulation; outsourcing; tax cuts for the rich and fiscal austerity for everyone else; elimination of trade unions; getting rid of environmental and consumer protections; increasing the role of the private sector; and reducing the role of government. When governments are required to provide basic public services like education, healthcare, and infrastructure, they do it by “market-friendly” methods such as vouchers and charter schools, tax incentives, Medicare Advantage plans, deductibles and copays; and giving government contracts to private corporations.  Inequality is seen as a good thing, a reward for hard work and talent.  Because free markets will insure that people get what they deserve, efforts to create a more equal society merely undermine morality and the work ethic.  The rich like to think that they obtained their wealth through merit, ignoring their advantages of education, inheritance, and social class.  The poor are expected to blame themselves for their poverty, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.  Neoliberals say that they oppose all forms of state intervention in the name of freedom. But to them, freedom really means the right to unconstrained profit for individuals and corporations without any concern for workers or the environment. The iconic neoliberals are Ronald Reagan in the U.S. and Margaret Thatcher in the U.K.

Neoliberals have succeeded on a global scale.  Institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and the Maastricht treaty imposed neoliberal policies on much of the world, often without the consent of the people. Neoliberal policies were also adopted among political parties that used to be leftist, such as the Democrats in the U.S. and Labour in the U.K.

Neoconservatives:  While neoliberalism is a global movement, neoconservatism is more uniquely American.  Beginning in the 1960s, “neocons” are best defined by their foreign policy agenda, which favors increased military spending, an interventionist foreign policy, and unconditional support for the State of Israel.  Neocons are largely responsible for the War on Terror, the right to preemptively attack governments that might pose a future threat to U.S. security, and the state of permanent war.  They also police their own citizens through increased surveillance, prosecution of whistleblowers and leakers, and reduced government transparency. Like the neoliberals, they use the language of freedom and democracy as a cover for their true intentions. Probably the best-known politicians associated with neoconservatism include George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and John McCain.

The main difference between neoliberals and neoconservatives is one of emphasis: Neoliberals’ focus is mostly on economics, while neocons focus on foreign policy and defense.  Other differences include social issues:  Neoliberals are generally not very concerned about issues like abortion and gay marriage, whereas neocons are, because of their evangelical base.  Another is their attitude toward trade: Neoliberalism favors free trade, whereas neoconservatism can sometimes be protectionist, favoring “America first.”  Neoliberals are usually in favor of immigration, since it can bring both talent and cheap labor; neocons tend to be anti-immigrant.

However, there are more similarities than differences. When Obama was elected in 2008, I was hopeful.   But despite a few progressive words and gestures, President Obama’s economic policies turned out to be neoliberal: He chose to bail out Wall Street instead of prosecuting them for their crimes, while refusing to bail out the homeowners and others who were Wall Street’s victims.  His signature healthcare program rejected single-payer in favor of enriching the insurance and drug industries.  While not as rabid as some neocons would wish, his foreign policy was definitely interventionist.  He bombed seven foreign countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria.  He expanded drone warfare that kills civilians. He sold massive quantities of weapons to foreign governments, fueling more violence in the Middle East.  On the domestic front, he increased surveillance of citizens and prosecutions of whistleblowers, he reduced government transparency, and he deported more immigrants than any previous president.  Most Democratic politicians were in support of all these policies.  The leading non-interventionists in the Senate right now are Rand Paul and Mike Lee, both Republicans.

By the time of the 2016 election, many Americans were fed up with endless war and rule by the rich for the rich.  Bernie Sanders filled a deep need, but the Democrats blocked him.  While the rise of Trump must be primarily blamed on the Republicans and their encouragement of racism and the Tea Party, Democrats should also recognize their role.  While Hillary Clinton gave lip service to a few humanitarian policies such as student debt relief and immigration reform, it was always clear that her allegiance, like Obama’s, was with Wall Street and the military industrial complex.

Donald Trump, in contrast, did not look like a Wall Street shill; he even promised to “drain the swamp.” He had never been implicated in destroying countries or bombing civilians.  He had never been seen chuckling over the death of Muamar Gaddafi nor blamed for the death of an American ambassador.

Neofascism (the politically correct term is Populist Nationalism):

 This group sees American identity as white and Christian, and they want to keep it that way by restricting legal as well as illegal immigration and curtailing the power of minorities.  They favor economic policies that protect American businesses and workers from foreign competition; in that respect, neofascism is the opposite of neoliberal globalism.  Although they distrust intellectuals and those they view as elite, they are pro-business like the neoliberals, and they tend to have very close ties to neocons and the military industrial complex.

Several of Trump’s appointees could fairly be called neo-fascists (The following is quoted from How the Trump regime was manufactured by a war inside the Deep State by Nafeez Ahmed)

Steve Bannon was founding executive chair of Breitbart News, “the platform of the alt-right” according to Bannon himself. Breitbart is widely known for its publication of “racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material.” Bannon himself is also a prolific film producer, and has made or contributed to a range of xenophobic films….

Bannon’s associates include:

Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism: In 2015, Emerson was described as a “complete idiot” by then Prime Minister David Cameron for claiming falsely on Fox News that Britain is full of Muslim “no go zones” (like the entire city of Birmingham), and that London is run amok by Muslim religious police who beat and wound people who refuse to dress according to a Muslim dress code….


Walid Phares, who advised Trump on his national security team during the presidential campaign, and Robert Spencer: Both are connected to the Washington DC-based Center for Security Policy (CSP), a far-right think tank run by former Reagan defense official Frank Gaffney, where they appear regularly as guests on CSP’s ‘Secure Freedom’ radio podcast run by Gaffney. Phares is also a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy.


Frank Gaffney’s CSP commissioned the original flawed opinion poll that was cited by Trump to justify his ‘Muslim ban’ when he first announced it in late 2015. So it’s clearly no coincidence that Kellyanne Conway, the pollster who carried out the flawed poll, is now Counselor to the President.


Gaffney thus has a significant degree of ideological influence on the Trump regime. He has appeared at least 34 times on Bannon’s Breitbart radio program. His work has also been cited in speeches by Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor.


Alarmingly, Gaffney has disturbing connections to full-blown neo-Nazi groups across Europe, such as the Danish People’s Party (DPP) and the Vlaams Belang (VB) in Belgium.


But he simultaneously has close ties to the US military-industrial complex. In 2013, CSP tax records showed that the CSP had received funding from six of America’s biggest aerospace and defense contractors, namely Boeing ($25,000); General Dynamics ($15,000); Lockheed Martin ($15,000); Northrup Grumman ($5,000); Raytheon ($20,000); and General Electric ($5,000). The CSP has a particularly close relationship with Boeing, the second largest defense contractor in the world, which still provides Gaffney’s group with “general support.”


Michael Reilly, who has been Director of Federal Budget and Program Analysis at Boeing since 2010, was previously Gaffney’s Vice President for Operations at the CSP.


These incestuous ties with the US private defense sector comprise one prime reason that fully 22 officers or advisors of Gaffney’s CSP ended up having appointments in the George W. Bush administration.


Jeff Sessions is Trump’s Attorney General. Gaffney’s CSP awarded Sessions the annual ‘Keeper of the Flame’ award in 2015. Sessions has previously expressed sympathies for the Ku Klux Klan. He has closely associated with far-right anti-immigrant organizations founded by John Tanton, a driving force in America’s white nationalist movements. In 1993, Tanton declared: “… for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” Yet Trump’s new Attorney General is known for frequently quoting from Tanton’s groups, showing up at their press conferences, and has even received recognition and campaign contributions from them.


The John Tanton connection opens up a can of worms. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s Counsellor, is also connected to Tanton. Her polling firm was previously contracted by Tanton’s anti-immigration platform Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).


Numerous other officials involved in the Trump teamLou Barletta, Kris Kobach and Julie Kirchnerhave direct organizational ties to Tanton’s FAIR….


Stephen Miller is a senior policy advisor to Trump. He previously worked as communications director for Jeff Sessions in his senator’s office, and crafted the strategy to defeat a bipartisan immigration reform bill in 2013. During his university days, he worked closely with the neo-Nazi leader Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alternative Right” as a new way of capturing a movement about white racial identity….

However, the Trump team’s ideology is not solely neofascist; it’s a blend of neoliberal, neoconservative, and neofascist.

Trump’s cabinet consists largely of billionaires from the private sector who are following a neoliberal agenda.  For just a few examples: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is working to privatize public education.  Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta, appointed to the National Labor Relations Board by George W. Bush, consistently decided with employers and against workers during his term. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, hedge fund manager, former partner at Goldman Sachs, and former board member of the financial holding compay CIT Group, is working to further deregulate Wall Street.

Trump’s defense appointees and advisors are part of the military industrial complex.  For example, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of security firm Blackwater (now Academi), notorious for its slaughter of civilians in Iraq.  Secretary of Defense, General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, was on the board of General Dynamics, one of the biggest defense contractors in the world. Secretary of Homeland Security, General John F. Kelly was vice chairman at the Spectrum Group, which lobbies for defense contractors, and on the boards of Michael Baker International and Sallyport Global, both private Pentagon contractors.

Trump’s administration and the Republican and Democratic parties differ in some ways, but their main agenda is identical:  enrich the corporations and use the military to expand the empire. The Democrats have a more progressive facade, softer about things like abortion and gay marriage that don’t really matter to them, while Republicans take a harder line to appeal to their evangelical and neofascist base.   But when it comes to the really important issues, both parties are the same.

Many people voted for Trump because they thought he was an outsider who would change the status quo.  However, it turns out that the Trump administration, like the Republicans and Democrats, is embedded in the Deep State, although with a more white nationalist flavor.  Here is Wikipedia’s definition of the Deep State:


Deep state has been defined in 2014 by Mike Lofgren, a former Republican U.S. congressional aide, as “a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.

The thing is, the trajectory the Deep State is on is unsustainable.  The neoliberal paradigm is pretty clearly leading the world to another financial collapse.  The neocon paradigm of perpetual wars to aggrandize the American empire is also unsustainable. Taxpayers will not continue to bear the financial and moral burden, and those targeted by U.S. attacks will fight back with terror or whatever other means they have.  It probably won’t be long before drones start coming our way.  Continuing on the same course is likely to lead to the collapse of the American empire, which will bring down the financial system too.  Add in the human and financial disruption that climate change will bring, and the picture is not pretty.

We need a paradigm shift, and this will not occur by voting for a regime belonging to either Democrats or Republicans.  The shift has to occur at the level of the Deep State and the neoliberals, neocons, and neofascists who run it.

What can citizens do to bring about a change?  First, we can recognize that neoliberals, neocons, and neofascists are people just like everyone else, and that they can be influenced by other people. We should proceed to work on bringing about the change we want to see.  If we want to address the electoral system, we can work for representation by citizens instead of by professional politicians.  For example, we could work for public funding for all elections, for setting term limits, and for ending undemocratic practices like voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the use of proprietary voting machines that cannot be audited.  Another thing anyone can do is work for whatever stirs our passions, whether it’s politics, children, animals, corporate accountability, food safety, income inequality, campaign finance reform, or the environment.  We can use whatever skills we have in the service of our cause, whether it’s fundraising, graphic design, writing, community organizing, filmmaking, counseling, teaching, gardening, caring for animals, children, or the elderly, knitting, baking, or just giving money.

While some people will want to work on their own or start their own organization, most people will probably want to join an ongoing effort.  One way to do that would be to notice the emails you get from organizations asking you to sign petitions or donate.  If you are interested in a particular organization, you can go to their website and find out whether they are asking for volunteers, and see how you might fit in.  If you have questions, you can contact them.  If you have no idea what you might want to do, you can go to a website like Volunteermatch.og and see what the opportunities are in your local area.  You can try different things until you hit one that feels right.

Whatever we do has a ripple effect that may do more good than we imagine.  In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell explains how remarkably few people it can take to instigate what eventually becomes a widespread cultural shift.  Our job is not to predict outcomes; our job is to do what we can with what we have.