Seizing political control in the most advanced, economically sophisticated and wealthy democracy in the western world requires huge amounts of money, political manipulation, military and political control stealth, and raw power.
Taking political control is a process that has to be almost imperceptible until it reaches its near-final stages. Only then, when all the various institutions and power centers that control government, public opinion and finance reach their tipping points, does the process become more evident.
In a sophisticated democracy, this is not a linear process. There are many institutions, interest groups and social forces that can prevent, stall or reverse the takeover. But, if the anti-democratic opposing forces have the time, money and the takeover soldiers needed for the coup, they can make great inroads to derail the popular democratic institutions, interest groups and political activists that present a countervailing force to the takeover party.
This is the case today between the Democrats and what once known as the Republican Party. That party, the Republicans, now goes by the name of the “Trump Party,” but that is a misnomer. Trump is merely a popular figurehead who emerged from the field of Republican presidential contenders through showmanship, a mastery of a few politically appealing slogans (many of them taken from Bernie Sanders), as well as plain lies and distortions, many of them used against his own Republican presidential contenders.
Trump as a Figurehead
Basically, Trump is a popular figurehead, but the driving force behind this administration is the same political belief system that has been chomping through democratic institutions since the early-1980s: neoliberalism.
The neoconservative economic and political agenda has been deployed since the Reagan administration (1981 to 1989). The neoconservative agenda is plainly displayed and it has gained strength in the U.S. for almost 40 years. It has had many major goals, such as the deregulation of financial, voting rights and environmental rules and the takeover of judgeships by conservatives at all state and federal levels.
But the raw power of the neoliberal takeover, including its brute force, was fully evident during the second Iraq War (2003 to 2011) under George W. Bush. In this case, the main publicly-stated reason for the Iraq invasion was to confiscate Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. These WMDs were never found. It is now clear they never existed. This raised the question about why the invasion occurred. Many of the reasons stem from the neoliberal agenda.
First, Iraq had oil. It had the world’s second largest supply, much of it untapped, which was enough for then-vice president Dick Cheney to say that Iraqi oil would pay for the war. It never did meet the over $2 trillion the Iraq war cost (a conservative estimate since it does not include interest). Iraq also did not have a central bank, an essential institution for global finance forces to create and control in order to facilitate money transfers.
But the Iraq War also marked one of the first times two opposing government forces, some from what some call the “deep state”, fought each other as the neoliberal agenda was being forced upon Iraq.
Truth in a Movie
This was very well illustrated in the 2010 movie “Green Zone,” that showed the conflict between an objective Army warrant officer (played by Matt Damon), the CIA’s Baghdad station chief and a lying Defense Department special intelligence officer, whose task is to deceive everyone, including a compliant major newspaper reporter, into falsely pursuing locations about the WMDs when he knows they don’t exist.
While the plot mirrors the complicated political turmoil in war-torn Iraq, it starkly shows the tension between the deep state’s push to advance the invasion via the false stories of WMDs and the CIA station chief’s lingering suspicion that the whole invasion was based on lies.
If you inject political reasons into the film’s plot, you can see the countervailing political forces at play here and how one side was advancing the neoliberal agenda at the expense of traditional (non-neocon) state department and military standards.
The Iraq War only ended seven years ago and today the neoliberal agenda is still being played out in legislature takeovers in Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Washington D.C. If you think this is a far-fetched description, many political observers, including 44 former Senators from both parties, signed an editorial saying the country is approaching a constitutional crisis and “entering a dangerous period.”
If you think these events are not connected, think again. Baghdad may be 6,411 air miles away from Madison, Wisconsin, but the same raw political power grabs, less the airstrikes and firefights, are still claiming victims. The main difference is that today they are all Americans. The neoliberal invasions of Madison, Lansing and Charlotte are just the first and they have come from within U.S. borders, not from outside them.