Welcome to America’s Managed Democracy

Welcome to America’s Managed Democracy
The suspended Twitter account of U.S. President Donald Trump appears on a laptop screen on Jan. 8, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Patrick Basham

The populist disruptor, an unapologetic rough diamond, won a surprise victory with massive working-class support. In power, he battled overwhelming odds to keep his campaign promises, such as an anti-war foreign policy, fighting corruption, and challenging media bias.

His political enemies within both the partisan opposition and his own government were legion. The bipartisan political class’s resistance metastasized as it allied itself with powerful media and corporate actors to coordinate and choreograph his removal from office.

Desperate to preserve its dominant position, the political class sought to foil the new leader’s efforts at every turn. Unable to dent his popularity on policy grounds, it falsely claimed the new leader governed under Russian influence.

The preceding doesn’t summarize recent American political life. It’s a précis of the 1988 British TV series, "A Very British Coup," adapted from Chris Mullin’s novel.

Harry Perkins was the fictional socialist prime minister whose battles with right-wing British elites eerily foreshadowed—and appear to be the playbook—for the contemporary center-left American political class’s years-long mugging of the nation’s outgoing president.

A Managed Democracy

The past four years vividly demonstrate the American republic is rapidly regressing from an imperfect, self-governing “liberal democracy” to a mere “managed democracy.” America’s political class long derided Russia as the poster child for managed democracy and its attendant ills. Now America’s become what she has long criticized another for being.

Liberal democracy requires a particular political culture—including an appreciation of inviolable liberties, especially freedom of speech, assembly, and petition—clearly in rapid retreat across U.S. institutions, from government, media, and technology, to the courts, multinational corporations, and public education.

A managed democracy allows the ruling class to control politics while providing the semblance of liberal democracy. Elections are carefully orchestrated, which ensures outcomes are superficially democratic. To wit, social media oligarchs now fund the very instruments of the new election infrastructure that remove the guardrails protecting the system’s integrity.

In Russia and the United States, the state acts as the political and regulatory patron of corporate actors. The state befriends them, advances their commercial interests, and leverages rent-seeking and crony capitalism’s aberrant incentives to ensure corporates facilitate the state’s agenda.

Other key elements of managed democracy include the political class’s symbiosis with legacy and social media outlets. Hence the revolving door of lobbyists and policy advisers between Big Government, Big Tech, Big Media, and Big Business.

This results from the synoptic globalist worldview among establishment politicians (Democrat and Republican), multinational corporations, and journalists, as well as the Damoclesian regulatory sword dangling above the heads of the Big Tech oligarchs.

Practitioners of managed democracy copy the Russians, but view the Chinese model as ideal: complete political control, cheap (effectively slave) labor generating export-led wealth for the ruling class, digital platform censorship, and propaganda distribution via social media.

Central to managed democracy is the Kafkaesque administrative state, that is, day-to-day governance by unelected, tenured establishment-minded bureaucrats, who translate legislation into regulatory fiat and enforcement.

America’s nascent managed democracy, dependent upon the administrative state, has a penchant for massive overreach. Contemporaneous examples abound of the political class’s vulgar exercise of power.

Weaponization of Government

Through its inappropriate and vindictive use, impeachment has been weaponized as a political tool to punish a departing president. The perverted process will culminate in an arguably unconstitutional Senate trial of a private citizen no longer holding public office.

This abuse of the Constitution seeks to prevent a former president from again seeking the presidency, such is the political class’s enduring fear of effective populist leadership.

Here, America’s political class takes additional inspiration from Moscow. The Kremlin often chooses “acceptable” candidates (in part, by toxifying “unacceptable” candidates) from tame opposition parties to contest elections. Executing this Machiavellian play, the political class counts on Republicans to send a defanged and declawed candidate to certain defeat in 2024.

Alarmingly, on Jan. 8, the speaker of the House of Representatives asked the nation’s military leader to withhold the nuclear codes from the president and to stop him from initiating military action. Isn’t this the very definition of an attempted bloodless coup d’état?

The American people are clearly at the arbitrary mercy of their rulers. Going forward, the danger is two kinds of criminality: the right and the wrong kind. The right kind literally topples the nation’s heritage, burns and loots cities, and is bankrolled by billionaires and Big Business. Cheered on by the political class, it’s perversely heralded as advancing social justice. The wrong kind is potentially any act, deed, or word the political class deems detrimental to its interests.

So Americans can look forward to the weaponization of the federal government to target political opponents and threaten livelihoods via employment terminations, investigations, audits, closed bank accounts, and no-fly lists.

Throughout this political cleansing, pressure is applied to advertisers, donors, book publishers, radio stations, and cable TV providers to boycott, ban, or censor businesses, politicians, authors, hosts, and networks deemed "guilty" of supporting either the outgoing president or his public positions.

One Truth

Given Big Tech’s monopoly over digital speech, collusion to control the flow of information will be central to managed democracy. In practice, this requires gatekeeping, crude censorship, and algorithmic manipulation on Silicon Valley’s part.

American-style managed democracy is inherently statist and features an orgy of political correctness and intellectual conformity. The dramatic decline in diversity of thought reflects a new political theocracy where only one Truth is permitted.

The impending war on domestic "terror" will not be a war on, for example, violent white supremacists targeting blacks and Jews; instead, it will be a war on law-abiding citizens who hold political views deemed incorrect by the nation’s unofficial Ministry of Truth.

Systematic “lawfare” will be unleashed against transgressors of illiberal new speech codes, because dissent from The Truth, as parroted by the political class, is inherently heretical behavior. Institutional actors must act in concert to repress, even cancel, such heresy.

Social media companies will continue to defer to the genocidal Chinese regime, affording freedom of speech to a communist dictator’s propaganda accounts. But the outgoing, democratically elected U.S. president is censored and banned, although it’s clearly in the public interest to read his tweets. Equally revelatory is Big Tech’s disingenuous purge of thousands of individual conservative voices whose social media accounts have been suspended, blocked, or banned.

The Declaration of Independence argues that “the consent of the governed” is a prerequisite for government legitimacy. Today’s woke political class views popular consent as an anachronistic notion. It knows that truly democratic elections are a risky business because the self-anointed angels don’t always win. Just ask the European Union.

At the conclusion of "A Very British Coup," Perkins’s mother asks him: “Letting the people decide. Do you think it’ll ever catch on?” Sadly, it may not, with 2020 the new template for managing American democracy.

Patrick Basham is founding director of the Democracy Institute, a Washington- and London-based, politically independent research organization. He’s written extensively about American elections and democratization in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Africa.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Patrick Basham is founding director of the Democracy Institute, a Washington- and London-based, politically independent research organization.