The Swamp

In my March 3 post I wrote about “bureaucratic tyranny.”

Conservatives like to label the Federal bureaucracy as “the swamp’, and conjure up images of alligators and venomous snakes that are poised to destroy any elected official foolish enough to contest bureaucratic control over the levers of government.

In truth, the bureaucracy is mostly composed of honest men and women who are interested in a secure, well-paying job in which they hope to perform some good for themselves and for society.  Many are conscientious, efficient and hard-working, others not so much so.  It is difficult to get rid of underachievers, so over time the various government agencies tend to become more and more inefficient.

Bureaucrats may become experts in the field in which they work, and some are zealots for a particular issue or program.   These zealots are the truly dangerous ones.  Elected official may come and go, but these extremists secrete themselves in the bowels of a large Federal agency until the time for action arrives.  That occurs when the views of the incoming administration coincide with those of the zealot.  At that moment, the zealot is in a position of great influence.  During other times, when the opposition is supposedly in control, the extremist can only impede or sabotage those program that he/she opposes.  There is little danger of their being punished for such actions.

Most elected officials are part of the “establishment.”  Democrat or Republican, they tend to be semi-professional politicians. They are familiar with Washington and are prepared to work with the bureaucracy.  They rarely make open warfare against denizens of the swamp.  As a result, unless the zealots are supportive, progress on those issues on which a candidate was elected becomes agonizingly slow.

Trump arrived in Washington as a true outsider.  He was anti-civility and anti-establishment and strove to limit the power of the bureaucracy.  Denizens of the swamp were horrified, and they allied themselves with the media to take him down.  As a result, Trump had to endure countless allegations of malfeasance, a massive investigation, and two impeachment trials.  Finally, in 2020, the establishment and its allies managed to remove him from office.

Unfortunately, the administration that succeeded him has proven to be totally incompetent.

What happens next? Only time will tell.

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