Each new election year promises change. We will choose a new president and new representatives in Congress; fresh faces will make their appearances in Washington DC, while old ones disappear. But what about the people who stay in power, one election after another, less exposed to the public eye?
The concept of a ‘Deep State’ has been around for a while, but rarely to describe the United States.The term, used in Kemalist Turkey by the political class, referred to an informal grouping of oligarchs, senior military and intelligence operatives and organized crime, who ran the state along anti-democratic lines regardless of who was formally in power.
I define the American Deep State as a hybrid association of elements of government and top-level finance and industry that is able, through campaign financing of elected officials, influence networks and co-option via the promise of lucrative post-government careers, to govern the United States in spite of elections and without reference to the consent of the governed.
These operatives use their proximity to power and ability to offer high-paying jobs to government officials to achieve outcomes foreclosed to ordinary citizens. As professor Martin Gilens of Princeton, who studied the correlation between American popular opinion polls and public policy outcomes, concluded: “[T]he preferences of economic elites have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do … ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States.”
America’s growing income disparity is not the inevitable result of impersonal forces like globalization or automation. It is the outcome of hundreds of trade, tax and regulatory measures that achieved the preferred outcome — enrichment — of economic elites who contribute to politicians.
Since the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, big money dominance of politics has gone into overdrive. Over half the money given to presidential candidates in the 2016 campaign comes from just 158 families.