For those paying attention, there have been quite a few revelations about the state of governing in the United States and western democracies since the 2016 election. Most of those revelations have been unwittingly shining light upon what has been hidden for quite a while now. What have we learned?
Donald Trump has been the center of attention since the election, so that is a natural place to begin. What we have learned is that Donald Trump does not have a strategic policy agenda. Trump has only established broadly defined political objectives. Trump has been pursuing those political objectives in a tactical manner; similar to a day trader playing opportunities in short term stock trading. Trump has surrounded himself with tacticians, not with policy wonks and strategic thinkers. Since the tactical situation constantly changes, Trump’s tactical pursuit of objectives constantly shift. Trump does not pick and choose his battles according to any sort of strategic outlook. Trump fights every battle and shifts his tactics to match the shifting situation. Trump has only been inconsistent in a strategic sense; he has been very consistent and predictable from a tactical standpoint.
The implications are that the Trump administration will not create any new policy direction for the Federal government or the United States. Without lasting policy, anything Trump may achieve will not change government in the long term or cause any sort of irreparable damage to the United States.
We should have learned from the election that strategic outlook and policy are important. Voters have been demanding a strategic change in national policy and priorities. The politics of the United States and the west have depended upon increasingly stale policy outlooks established by leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher. Trump has challenged the remaining underpinnings of that stale policy outlook and has created a policy vacuum. Political leaders in the United States and the west have been caught flat footed and, apparently, do not know how to fill that policy vacuum with some sort of strategic outlook. Oddly, both the Republican Party and Democratic Party have deliberately refused to engage in any sort of policy development to fill the vacuum created by the Trump administration. The only player in western politics that appears to be pursuing strategic objectives has been Russia.
That is an obvious segue to include Russia in what we have learned since the election. Russia involving itself in geopolitics to pursue strategic goals is unremarkable. We have not learned anything new about Russia. What we have learned is how widespread the influence of mercenary lobbyists has become in our politics. Mercenary lobbyists are embedding themselves within political parties, election campaigns, and in government at the highest levels. Mercenary lobbyists are filling the policy vacuum with their influence; using their tactical skills to allow the strategic goals of the highest bidder to become governmental policy. We have learned that Russian influence has only been made possible by mercenary lobbyists influencing politics. However, the influence of lobbyists is limited to politics and politicians and has not successfully influenced all levels of government. Which brings us to the next topic of what we have learned since the election.
We have learned that there really is a shadow government, generally known as the bureaucracy. We have learned that the bureaucracy is a source of strategic goals in government; however, the bureaucracy is not a source of any strategic outlook that guides government or the nation. The bureaucracy influences politics in much the same way as lobbyists; however, the bureaucracy promotes and protects its own interests; engaging in fierce political fights to protect itself from partisan accountability.
Robert Mueller is a bureaucratic insider engaged in a political agenda to protect the shadow government; prompted by the firing of James Comey. Trump’s tactical attack on Comey threatened the nonpartisan (yet highly political) integrity of the aristocratic elite who control the shadow government. The appointment of Robert Mueller as an independent investigator focuses partisan accountability on Trump and diverts partisan attention away from the shadow government. However, the connections of the shadow government’s aristocratic elite within politics and media have allowed the informal sharing of information that directly influences partisan bickering in Congress and the country.
Which brings us to the final topic of what we have learned since the election; the journalistic media has become a primary means of spreading and strengthening tactical influence. The immediacy of the news cycle has forced news organizations to focus attention upon the tactical situation that is constantly shifting. News organizations have become reliant upon influence peddlers from the ranks of lobbyists, politicians, and the shadow government that use media to heighten partisan bickering for tactical advantage.
To be fair, news organizations have always been an outlet for spreading influence. However, news organizations are losing their contemplative capacity to gauge the importance of influence in providing strategic guidance. News organizations are no longer providing a venue for deeper debate of policy and strategic implications for the future.
The culmination of what we should have learned from the election are these:
The politics of western democracies currently operate within a policy vacuum; with no strategic outlook to guide our politics. Political leaders within the United States and western democracies appear to be incapable of filling the existing policy vacuum with a coherent strategic outlook. Our politics have devolved to responding to any situation for tactical advantage. As a result, our politics has become inconsistent and incoherent.
Influence spread through news organizations is being used to foster partisan bickering for tactical advantage. Those who control influence over partisan bickering are allowed to control government. Those controlling partisan bickering are taking advantage of the existing policy vacuum to use government in achieving the limited strategic goals of special interests.
Voters are at least vaguely aware of the existing strategic policy vacuum. Since political leaders are doing nothing to fill the policy vacuum, voters are becoming more active in trying to fill that vacuum with their ideas of what western democracies should stand for and the priorities that western democracies should pursue. The rabble has been roused. However, news organizations no longer provide a contemplative venue to allow a new strategic outlook to emerge. News organizations are focusing attention on partisan bickering; being fostered by influence peddlers for tactical control over government to provide limited benefit for special interests.