“That a republic may vanish is an elementary schoolbook fact.”

Since reading Garet Garrett’s The People’s Pottage 42 years ago, I have not really “believed” in the American federal republic. The three essays that make up the 1953 volume are “The Revolution Was” (1938), “Ex America” (1951), and “The Rise of Empire” (1952). While Garrett focused on the the revolution that was the New Deal in the first of these essays, the enormity of the revolution in the state became clearer to him over time, and I, since reading the book, have become aware of how right Garrett was. Though we are distracted from the anti-republican elements in American political governance by our quadrennial presidential election cycle and by the propagandistic efforts of major news purveyors, the reality is nevertheless revealed, though hardly fully revealed, to those who pay attention. The chiefest of these realities is the “Deep State,” which far from being a fictional entity or imposed category on experience, is the array of the bureaucracies and corporations that hide behind classifications of secrecy.

The dominance of these institutions preclude the terms “republic” or “democracy” as apt designators of These Benighted States.

My working model for American national government is that of a conservatorship, with the bureaus protecting the People from their own senile whims. The democratic elements are not at the root of our system any longer, the Administrative State is, the permanent government, especially the parts covered in protective secrecy. The Deep State, I hazard, is the firmware and the o.s.; the democratic parts are the GUI.

This conservatorship would be more comforting were it more competent, but the model requires that the real rulers come from the ranks of the benighted, and, with the recent fiascos of Russiagate, the Ukraine debacle, and the pandemic, it is quite clear that at least the public spokespeople for the real government are not merely deceptive, but foolish, their plans makeshift. We are not dealing with Evil Masterminds, here, though undoubtedly there are a few, who have been inducted into the deepest part of the Deep State

I am not saying that the U.S. ceased being a republic with the creation of the CIA. Garrett’s first essay is older. (Indeed, the Civil War, the Spanish-American war, and the Great War all subverted the republic profoundly.) Furthermore, there were multiple factors in the growth of the military-industrial complex that led to the current sub rosa conservatorship model. But as numerous major liberal figures in the 18th and 19th century repeatedly warned, a large permanent military presence and the practice of secrecy are utterly at odds with liberty, democracy, and citizen governance.

After the New Deal and World War II, Operation Paperclip, the multiplication of “intelligence” agencies, the continual parade of unwinnable wars, the cushy deals with armament corporations, the use of military bases as “pork,” and many other factors led ineluctably to our current ultra-fake republic, spurred by the witless partisans in the two major political parties.

And the only true “statesmen” are men and women in the deep recesses of power whose names you do not know. Our elected leaders, on the other hand, are a brummagem lot.

The comedy of democracy in the context of its actual diminished capacity is so great that it is often hard to keep a straight face. Most people manage by forgetting the context. It is great fun reading journalists who cover the Pentagon and Surveillance State beats knowingly narrate the budgets and bearing of the protected bureaus, and then pretend that “democracy is worth fighting for” by siding with one faction or another. But part of the comedy is forgetting. And to be an American intellectual is to be something of an amnesiac.

And as for the common folk? I have a great deal of trouble taking seriously a people who have voted into power, as putative maximum leaders,

  1. a sadsack peanut farmer
  2. an actor
  3. a former head of the CIA!
  4. a super-corrupt governor of a backwater state
  5. the witless buffoon son of a former president
  6. an identitarian poseur ‘community organizer’
  7. a ‘reality TV’ star
  8. a former bumbling senator of advanced age with obvious dementia problems and a family shakedown corruption scam, ongoing

But these are just the turds who floated to the top. Down below, it’s far more disturbing.