Subtitle: A Government of Others. Chapter 16 to Book I of Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy is a handy field guide to President Trump’s cagefight with the Deep State.
Few politicians comprehend the historic lessons in organizing and maintaining republics. Oh, they might know of them, but not with true understanding. They know incidents and events at a superficial level. To the extent they think at all, they disregard imitation as not only difficult but impossible; they disbelieve the constancy in human nature since antiquity.1
“Men,” wrote Machiavelli, “aren’t to be trusted except out of fear, not love.” This dim view has a bright side, for it means men’s actions are somewhat predictable and the essentially repetitive nature of political actions can be a guide to contemporary events. While I don’t know the extent of President Trump’s grasp of history as a vast reservoir of models and guides, one thing is certain. President Trump knows human nature. 2
What he meant by hidden wickedness arising from a hidden cause perplexed me for years. Its cryptic meaning wasn’t clear until Donald Trump’s candidacy, which sparked the hidden Deep State to rise up, expose itself, and fight for its survival. While constitutional conservatives cheered candidate Trump’s powerful speeches promising to drain the swamp, Deep State operatives and globalists knew exactly what Donald Trump meant; if elected, he intended to destroy them.
A long chained beast, wrote Machiavelli, once set free in an open field, will not know what to do, and will soon be recaptured. Like beasts, few peoples released from harsh rule can keep their freedom. Early Rome, released from monarchy, was an exception. The Romans kept their new freedom because they were not thoroughly corrupted before setting themselves free.
Machiavelli dismissed saving a thoroughly corrupt society. It cannot live free, not even for a moment. He analyzed societies tainted, though not yet rotted through, when released from under the government of others. His turn of the phrase, “under a government of others” implies a people denied representation, yet exist under less than crushing servitude. At campaign rallies candidate Trump often called out the real sources of power in Washington DC. These others, outwardly under the forms of Constitutional government run the show and make the law and regulations for their benefit, not ours. In this sense, voting for congressmen and senators is akin to a charade, a placebo, in which we are led to believe our vote matters.
Against the odds in November 2016, in anticipation of releasing itself from a government of others, America soon exploded in prosperity and renewal.
Yet Machiavelli warned that should society revert from freedom and go back to a government of others, it is “under a yoke which is, in most instances, heavier than the one (before).” Yikes.
Here’s why. When society wrenches free government from a government of others, it creates both friends thankful for release, as well as enemies. Those whose previous advantages and wealth suddenly end or are threatened are now opponents. Having lost unearned honor and privilege, this Deep State will move heaven and earth to retrieve their previous status and money-train. They can never become classic citizens interested in the general welfare; they are pure partisans out for themselves. Should the Deep State reclaim power after President Trump, it will not make the mistake of losing it again.
What to do with this enemy within, those who claim the protections of citizenship yet plot to destroy society and overthrow the republic? In the tiny city-state of early Rome, the answer was simple: kill the conspirators. Anyone, wrote Machiavelli, “who undertakes governing a multitude of people . . . under a free system and does not protect himself from the people who are hostile to the new order, creates a state of short duration.”
Today, as in republican Rome and other ancient cities, a freed people want two things: 1.) Revenge on those who oppressed them. 2.) Continuation of liberty.
Even without major media coverage of Obama’s Deep State high crimes, the appeals to President Trump and Attorney General Sessions to prosecute these people grows daily. Seditious enemies within must, per Machiavelli, be put down.
As for restoring liberty, Machiavelli again demonstrated a thorough understanding of human nature and political science. Among the multitude desirous of freedom, a small portion of them also wish to command, to have the honor of leading free people. No matter the size or organization of the republic, no more than forty or fifty dedicated men are qualified for the task. Machiavelli advised putting these people to good use. President Trump appoints solid supporters to cabinet positions and holds huge rallies for supportive congressmen, senators, and governors. The vast remainder of the people, those outside the forty or fifty, simply want to live in peace and pursue happiness. To satisfy them, President Trump, per Machiavelli, should lead efforts to reform our governing institutions so that another Obama or Hillary cannot assume tyrannical powers.
Machiavelli closed this chapter with a summary that mirrors the efforts of the Convention of States movement. A free, yet insecure republic must correct its perilous situation. We must reform our institutions to keep free government. Those who allow the opportunity to pass will repent too late for not having done what should have been done. Unless we reform our institutions through a COS, we can count on the eventual return of a Deep State government of others. And next time, it will not repeat its failure in 2016.4
1. Machiavelli, N. (2008). Discourses on Livy, Translated by Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 16.
2. Ibid., xviii.
3. Ibid., 28.
4. Ibid., 62-65.