Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and the New American Populism vs. The Old Order
By Jeffrey Lord
Bombardier Books; hardcover; $27.00
Jeffrey Lord is a former political director in Ronald Reagan’s White House and was recently a CNN contributor, columnist, and author.
In his new book Swamp Wars, Lord examines how Donald Trump rode a wave of populist anger, conservatism, and fervor for reform all the way to the White House.
Trump’s campaign was notable for who it was aimed at: The Swamp, the entrenched powers-that-be in Washington and elsewhere, the Old Order of an elite government-media-academia triad.
Swamp rulers have set the tone for American politics with little challenge for a generation. They are now caught surprised and flat-footed by the populist revolt that threatens their stranglehold on our nation’s policy and politics.
Swamp Wars are nothing new, as Lord writes, “Arguably the first Swamp War was the 1987 Senate confirmation battle over President Ronald Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. As a young White House associate political director at the time, I saw close up how the first Swamp War worked. No sooner had President Reagan stepped away from the podium where he announced the nomination that Bork was under assault.
“In the ferocious, unprecedented campaign that was suddenly launched against Bork – which eventually acquired the descriptive term ‘borking’ – Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy began with a now infamous speech on the Senate floor conjuring the imagined horrors of ‘Robert Bork’s America’ that summoned wildly false images of racism, sexism, and worse. For the first time in history, there was a television commercial attacking a Supreme Court nominee, replete with narration by the immediately recognizable voice of Hollywood A-list actor Gregory Peck. In declaring war on the Bork nomination, the Old Order of the day effectively instigated the first Swamp War…
“Since that first Swamp War in 1987, Swamp Wars have become a standard, weaponized feature of the Old Order elites and what Bork calls the ‘authoritarian character of that movement.’ And authoritarian it is.
“Two other Supreme Court nominations that followed Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork – George H.W. Bush’s nomination of Clarence Thomas and Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh – were savaged in their confirmation battles…
“A measure of the depth of the Old Order obsession with cultural and political control could be seen in the hearings surrounding the Senate confirmation of Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court – a full twenty-five years after the Thomas Swamp War. With the 2018 midterm election only weeks away, Old Order Senate Democrats and the left-wing interest groups that control them had to know that televised hearings that featured shouting protestors disrupting the hearings when not literally storming both the Capitol and Supreme Court buildings or shrieking from the Senate gallery were not an election asset for those Senate Democrats up for re-election. So too did Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have to realize that their own disrupting of the once orderly committee proceedings and badgering of committee chairman Senator Charles Grassley was not helpful to their larger cause. The televised images were anything but flattering.
“They had to know as well that Kavanaugh would fight back. Just as Clarence Thomas had fought back in riveting, scathing testimony, so too did Kavanaugh…
“When the hearing was finally finished, even South Carolina Republican senator Lindsey Graham, a usually calm and decided Senate bipartisan institutionalist, angrily pushed back against what he was seeing, snapping to his Democratic colleagues as he spoke to Kavanaugh, the latter sitting at the witness table:
“‘What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020. You’ve said that, not me. This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics. Boy, y’all want power. I hope you never get it. I hope the American people see through this sham. God, I hate to say it, because these have been my friends. But let me tell you, when it comes to this, you’re looking for a fair process? You came to the wrong town at the wrong time, my friend.’
“And there is was. Graham’s words echoed the meaning of Bork’s point thirty-one years earlier that this Swamp War was really about ‘fighting over more than one judge.’ Said Graham: ‘Boy, y’all want power.’ Power is exactly what Swamp Wars are all about.”
While these Supreme Court nomination fights have been intense, that is nothing compared to the monumental battle that is Trump’s presidency. Lord feels that the Old Order has been out to delegitimize the New Populism by defining legitimate popular dissent as an outgrowth of racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry, while executing vicious personal assaults on anyone who speaks for the movement, whether it’s members of the Trump administration, his few supporters in the media, or even average Americans who have the audacity to speak out.
Lord writes of how Swamp dwellers reacted to Trump’s election, “Eleven days after the new president took office, The Washington Post ran the headline ‘Resistance from within: Federal workers push back against Trump.’
“The story reported: Less than two weeks into Trump’s administration, federal workers are in regular consultations with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back against the new president’s initiatives. Some federal employees have set up social media accounts to anonymously leak word of changes that Trump appointees are trying to make…At a church in Columbia Heights last weekend, dozens of federal workers attended a support group for civil servants seeking a forum to discuss their opposition to the Trump administration. And 180 federal employees have signed up for a workshop next weekend, where experts will offer advice on workers’ rights and how they can express civil disobedience.
“That this would happen, shocking as it should seem, is not a surprise. As Jonathan Swan, then of The Hill, reported in late October 2016 as the Clinton-Trump campaign neared its tumultuous ending: Federal government employees are opening their wallets to help Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump on Nov. 8. Of the roughly $2 million that federal workers from 14 agencies spent on presidential politics by the end of September, about $1.9 million, or 95 percent, went to the Democratic nominee’s campaign, according to an analysis by The Hill.
“This is another way of saying that the bureaucrats who run the so-called permanent government in Washington were and are liberal activists as much as they are government employees. They are Swamp Warriors…
“If Los Angeles was built on the movie industry, Detroit on cars, and Houston and Dallas on oil, Washington’s ‘industry’ is government. And government has been booming. If nothing else, Washington, D.C., is not just the nation’s capital. It has become the Swamp. The capital of America’s Old Order.
“But what does the Swamp look like? What makes it the Swamp? A geological swamp is a murky wetland generally fed by a larger water source, and depending on where it is located it can be alive with some combination of alligators, snakes, turtles, frogs, fish, and trees, the latter dead and alive. The Washington version of this – in which the alligators and snakes and the rest come in human form – has a source as well, and it isn’t the surrounding Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. It’s big government.”
Swamp Wars shows that this battle, with the presidency of Donald Trump as the backdrop, is all part of a larger battle for the heart, soul, and future of America.