A recent Rasmussen/Heartland poll found that government workers were more likely to vote for socialist candidates and gun control. While only a quarter of Americans were willing to vote for a socialist candidate, a third of government employees were happy to do so.
That’s not a shocker.
62% of federal workers voted for Hillary Clinton. In October of that election year, Trump’s unfavorable rating among federal employees stood at 68%. Only 38% of federal employees who supported Trump did so fully rather than as a better alternative to Hillary Clinton. This did not bode well for his first year.
President Trump’s 100 days approval rating was at 42%. His rating among government employees was 37%. There was a stark divide there with government employees outside the Beltway giving Trump a 40% rating, close to the national number, while among Beltwayers, Trump was favorably rated by 29%.
Even among Republican government workers nationwide, Trump’s high 78% approval rating was lower than the 86% national Gallup number among Republicans, indicating that Republican government workers were less likely to support the President of the United States than Republicans were nationally.
67% of Beltway government workers disapproved of Trump, compared to 56% of government workers nationally. While government workers nationwide split on the Muslim terror nation travel ban, Beltwayers opposed it 57% to 43%. But where the Beltway crowd and non-Beltway government workers split at their sharpest was on Trump’s push to cut two regulations for every new regulation.
While 39% of government workers supported it and 42% opposed it, 53% of Beltway government workers opposed it, while only 32% supported it. Why? A majority of government workers nationwide agreed that there were too many government regulations. But a majority of Beltwayers insisted that there was just the right amount of regulation. And this is at the heart of the political and cultural split.
It’s not just about ideology, but power. Beltway government workers were far more likely to believe (66%) that President Trump did not respect them. Only 53% of government workers nationwide shared that same notion. This was less about Trump respecting their persons than respecting their power.
There has been a lot of talk of a deep state. But there’s more accurately a deep industry of government workers, concentrated in the Beltway, who are present in the national security complex, but also across the entire spectrum of D.C. government, who are jealous of their power and hostile to President Trump.
Those who happen to be in the FBI or the NSC just have a greater capacity to do him serious harm.
In the past, the federal workforce had been less radical. Federal employees had actually split between Obama and Romney. Obama’s real base of support had been with state and local workers.
Four years later, federal workers had tilted decisively against Trump because he threatened their power.
The reason for that tilt could be found in the Beltway. Trump had threatened to drain the swamp. To the large federal colony living in the swamp, that meant destroying their entire way of life.
There are two ways of looking at the subsequent entrapment and impeachment effort. One is as a partisan effort by Democrats to exploit their administrative powers against their political opponents. The other is a civil war being fought between elected and unelected officials for control of the government. Both realities are true and overlap to show the bigger picture of the crisis.
What is at stake is not always policy, but the fundamental questions of process. Who gives the orders? And, in the federal government, even more importantly, who decides how those orders are carried out?
The bureaucracy has always been the fourth branch of government. No matter how much the country grew, there would still be one man in the White House and less Supreme Court justices than you could count on your fingers. There were only so many members of the House or Senate that their respective chambers could accommodate. 99.9% of the growth took place in the rest of the government.
The three branches didn’t run the government. They provided general guidance as to how it ought to be run. Like the CEO in New York, who hardly ever makes it to the factory floor in Kalamazoo, what we think of as campaign promises, 1,000 pages of legislation, and even signed bills were really notes to the boys in the boiler room. And the boys did whatever they wanted with those grandly named notes.
Trump’s insistence on taking direct control threatened the division between the doers and the talkers. If elected officials insisted on actually running the government, what would become of the Beltway?
The explosion has been so heavily concentrated around foreign policy because it is the area where the President of the United States traditionally has the most latitude, able to effectively start wars on his own initiative, but also an area where few presidents know anything without a vast expert class. Every new White House resident arrives with some sense of domestic affairs, but often very little sense of the larger world and its bewildering complexities outside the borders of the United States of America.
The two most recent residents, Obama and Trump, however came with extensive (if very different) international experiences. Obama’s foreign background and Trump’s international businesses gave them a very clear sense of what they wanted done abroad. Obama was able to successfully steer the foreign policy establishment his own way through administrative legerdemain, building up the NSC, while using the ambitions of establishment Democrats, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, to control the Beltway’s foreign policy complex. That allowed him to occasionally override that establishment, as he did on Syria, but not without having to find a scapegoat in London, and go through the motions of backing the rebels.
This would not have been doable if Obama hadn’t shared a common ideology with the deep industry.
Trump wanted the same level of direct control that Obama enjoyed while butting heads on policy with the loyalists that Obama and Hillary Clinton had embedded to undermine him and maintain control.
This is the conflict with the deep industry that has hijacked our national politics into its bureaucracy.
But the larger conflict is between the Beltway and the country. Beltway government employees have formed a state within a state. A governmental entity with vast powers, and political and economic goals, that is not meaningfully accountable to the people over whom it rules. That is the nature of the crisis.
Growing partisanship and the opening of the Overton window will widen the clash between elected and unelected officials. The bipartisan consensus was often just another way of accepting the way that things worked in Washington D.C. The bureaucracy didn’t have to choose a side because it was its own side. That side might lean leftward, but it also offered the stability of tradition and procedural inertia.
A new breed of politician on both sides is uninterested in bipartisanship or the way things are done. And, the leftward tendency of Beltwayers will make radical changes easier to achieve for crusading left-wing Democrats like Obama, while going to war with right-leaning Republicans like Trump.
Government, by its very nature, trends toward more government. Government workers in the deep industry are more likely to want more socialism and more government control, whether it’s gun control or environmental control, because government is their business and control is their mission statement.
Meanwhile, Republican voters are tired of bipartisan excuses from the establishment and want results.
The conflicts between elected and unelected officials, the bureaucracy and the insurgency, have ushered in a new era in which political battles are being settled with legal, rather than electoral weapons. That conflict is at the heart of the impeachment drama which seeks to fight the populism of elected officials with the procedural weapons of the unelected officials who really run the system.
It’s not just the deep state we have to worry about, it’s the deep industry of government.