[I apologize for veering into the gaping abyss of politics but I needed to say this: “It’s not as malevolent as it seems.” Minor perceived (and real) asshattery in the halls of power which slows the transition of power isn’t irredeemably bad.]
There’s a significant portion of the populace that gets frustrated when President Trump’s (he won folks!) ideas are fed into the bureaucracy and emerge with a treatment somewhere along a spectrum from ignored, through mangled, and into misdirected. There’s another portion that thinks “thank God the system is correcting against lunacy” and applaud a spectrum from moderate, through adapt, and into mitigate. Same actions, different point of view. People’s opinions invert with laser-like speed whenever a new party takes the reins. That’s your big tell. It’s not fully real.
Never forget; one man’s “gridlock” is another man’s “cautious and measured approach”. Furthermore “bipartisan” can mean a “widely agreed upon common sense solution” or it can mean “a stampede of lemmings”. Sometimes it means “witch hunt”. Same activity, different point of view.
This all leads to my reaction to dark utterances about the nefarious “shadow government” or “deep state”. There’s less than meets the eye. If you’re worried about that particular evil, let it go.
Yes, of course, there’s internal resistance to a new president. People don’t like change. I get it. I’m still pissed about automatic transmissions and fuel injected engines. Change is hard.
Yet it’s bad juju when folks, desperate in their frustration, complain that everyone in the whole government is hopelessly against the President. They’re not all like that. Statistically it’s almost impossible.
The OPM (which is government personnel) tells me there’s a little over 2 1/2 million executive employees. It’s unreasonable to think every last one of them is a raving douche canoe out to subvert the new administration. Yes, I’m sure some are douche canoes* but most are ordinary people trying to do their job. To help me explain this situation, let me tell you about Ralph:
Ralph is a cog in the machine. Since January 21st Ralph has muddled though; trying to mesh current marching orders (still in place from a handsome Marxist with perfectly creased pants) with likely but as yet hypothetical and also possibly diametrically opposed orders that haven’t yet but eventually might trickle down to his level. Read that last sentence aloud and then think of poor Ralph.
His new marching orders may come from the new boss (who happens to be rather busy at the moment) in due time. Unless they never come at all. Which sometimes happens. Ralph isn’t sure but he thinks his job is partially funded by legislation dating to the Spanish American War… or perhaps it had something to do with Sputnik. Nobody is sure.
How abruptly does Ralph start charging up the hypothetical but seemingly obvious Hill A (the hill he associates with the newly elected boss in chief)? Standing orders insist the target is still Hill B. What if Ralph assumes the new orders will be all about Hill A and proactively acts? Suppose Trump flakes and unexpectedly orders Ralph to charge up Hill Q? Ralph didn’t know about Hill Q until Trump’s Hair started talking about it! Is Ralph’s erroneous concern with Hill A going on his permanent record? Will it get him transferred to the New Jersey satellite office where they send all the losers?
Ralph is supposed to do his maneuvering from a hamster wheel in cubicle 47B. It’s located on the fifth floor of a Soviet level ugly building occupied by a few hundred other Ralphs. Our particular Ralph works in the “nobody gives a shit” Department of the Bureau of “things that never make the papers”. Ralph has no earthly idea what his role in Trump’s “yuge win” will be. He decides it’s best to just do what he’s told (which is still Hill B) and wait for the hammer to fall. Is he shadow government? A resistant deep state? Is he an evil nasty bad guy? How can that be? Ralph’s only interests are lite beer and binge-watching Cake Boss. He’s just trying to do his job.
Suppose Ralph’s job (which he does with due diligence) is to compile statistics about barbed wire consumption in Nebraska as a function of EPA mandates on rototillers. Just how political is his job? Ralph is bitched out daily by Rush Limbaugh. Does Ralph deserve that? Rushbo calls Ralph a force of evil who uses his immense power to hold back the newly anointed messiah. Ralph isn’t even empowered to turn on the office coffee pot.
Ralf can’t make heads nor tails of it. All he knows is barbed wire and rototillers. He keeps muddling through and that’s the best of his limited options.
That evening, Ralph’s dog pees on his foot and his property taxes go up to support a new stadium. Then, because my imagination is vivid, I expect Ralph’s daughter will announce she’s going on tour with a Scorpion’s Tribute Band and his son will accidentally set the refrigerator on fire.
Ralph is fucked, but he’s not evil.
This, this thing I just made up…. is just as likely as an army of lock step shadow forces out to subvert all that’s good.
Also: hail hydra.
Back to my point, most organizations, regardless of who’s in charge, don’t stop on a dime. Indeed when you start talking about systems where millions of people are involved, the sum of the parts is almost certainly weirder than the parts themselves.
So the President’s orders grinding through the gears of bureaucracy only feels like a vast conspiracy of monsters intent on thwarting everything. A lot of “not gettin’ stuff done” is just plain inertia. Inertia is boring, a shadowy resistance is sexy; so guess which one we fret over.
It would be cool (possibly reassuring to some) if the “shadow government” really was a murky conspiratorial group that controls everything. But is it believable? Would James Bond Villains host their meetings at secret locations? What would happen at the meetings? Would the Illuminati show up to plan world domination and for entertainment do unnatural things to piles of innocent fiat currency?
I suppose a certain amount of that exists. (I wouldn’t know. I’m not invited to the meetings. You’re not either.) Presumably it’s less powerful than imagined. Clearly they suck at what they do. Otherwise they wouldn’t be lurking in the shadows. “Behold! We hold the puppet’s strings and control all! Yet our Cheeto tinted nemesis sits in the oval office? Whoopsie!”
So when a new idea is getting masticated in the gaping maw of a big bureaucracy lets not go overboard with fears of a “shadow government”. Surely there’s some of that but most of the workforce is chained to their desks as usual; filling out TPS reports, changing their budget plans, and wondering what was really in the office coffee pot. Ralph sure wasn’t invited to secret meetings of the people who control everything.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words I present the following images of what is most certainly not the shadow government (note: all three are linked to short videos):
*I love the phrase “douche canoe”. It makes no sense whatsoever.