Thomas Jefferson famously charged King George III with sending over “swarms of officers” to the American colonies with the sole purpose of “harassing” and “eating out the substance” of the American colonies.
These would be called bureaucrats, or the “Deep State”.
The general government operated with a very small paid cadre of employees for most of the early federal period. Alexander Hamilton had ONE employee as Treasury Secretary.
By the time Andrew Jackson took office in 1829, the number of federal employees had ballooned to 20,000 or so, and he had the opportunity to appoint all of them. That became known as the “Spoils System.”
The new Democratic Party, mostly organized by Martin Van Buren of New York, helped provide lists of names to Old Hickory. These were loyal men who deserved jobs in Washington.
This remained the status quo until 1883. Just two years earlier, a disgruntled office seeker shot President James Garfield in the back. Congress acted by passing the Pendleton Act, a law that made virtually all of the 130,000 government employees at that time “civil servants.” The president could appoint about 10,000 of these people, but it became harder to fire and hire people based on their political background.
This, in essence, laid the foundation for the Deep State.
There are nearly 3 million employees in the federal government today, and that does not include the military and those whose job almost entirely depends on government contracts (hat tip to a listener for pointing this out).
Current presidents get to appoint less than one half of one percent of these people when they assume office. In other words, the entire bureaucracy is out of their control.
We’ve gone from presidents having full control of the executive branch to virtually no control. And the progressives love it. Why? Because it blocks any outsider from draining the swamp.
Enter Donald Trump. In the last days of the his administration, Trump signed an executive order moving large numbers of these parasites to non-protected rolls in the general government. What did this mean? He could either 1) fire them or 2) find a political replacement.
This would have gutted the Deep State. Congress knew it. So did Joe Biden which is why he rescinded the order almost immediately after taking office. Now Democrats are trying to codify the Deep State by making it illegal for a future Republican president to follow up on Trump’s move.
Other Republicans have pledged to follow Trump’s lead should they win the 2024 election. This scares the leftists. The government is their plaything, and after Republicans have skillfully taken over many of the federal courts, the only thing they have left is the bureaucracy.
Gut that and they would be powerless to maintain their stranglehold on the general government.
I discuss this prospect on episode 679 of The Brion McClanahan Show.