It became one of the best-known chants on the 2016 campaign trail, and a powerful symbol of Donald Trump’s insurgent, anti-establishment campaign: “Drain The Swamp!”
The chant caught on because it captured something that everyone feels, even if they’re not familiar with specific examples: that for decades now, public policy in America has been distorted to favor the interests of the rich, the well-connected and the insiders.
This is elitism and it has been America’s ruling ideology regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats have held power in the White House, Congress or state capitols.
What a betrayal of the world’s oldest democracy, founded on that most beautiful political principle: people power. Despite the Constitution and the institutions it underpins, who would claim that American democracy today serves “we the people?”
Instead, our democracy serves The Swamp. Political legitimacy comes not from votes, but from money and influence.
As I wrote in my book “More Human: Designing a World Where People Come First”: “America, where the rich and powerful literally buy the outcomes they want from the political system, is no longer in any proper sense of the word a democracy, it is a donocracy.”
But The Swamp is about more than corrupt politicians and their donors. Much of the policy that affects our lives is not made in Congress or state legislatures but in the dreary offices of administrative agencies without even the pretense of democratic accountability.
Anonymous bureaucrats make countless decisions that seem dispassionately technocratic to them, but are make or break for those directly affected.
But these very different agents of the elite – the politicians and the bureaucrats – do have one thing in common. They in turn are the agents of lobbyists, who generously offer their time, research, and policy “advice.”
In many cases, the lobbyists literally write the laws or regulations that their paymasters benefit from. And who are the paymasters, the people really in charge? Big businesses and public sector unions that have the money and the political muscle to make their voices heard.
The mechanism that makes all this work – apart from money, of course – is The Swamp’s famous “revolving door” between special interests and government.
You slum it for a while in Congress or the executive branch on a public sector salary, then cash in by working as a lobbyist when you leave. And then it’s back for another stint in government, and so on around the revolving door.
The purpose of our regular “Swamp Watch” series on “The Next Revolution” on Fox News Channel is to document all this, to bring the hidden ecosystem of The Swamp out into the open. And as regular viewers know, we do it without political fear or favor.
Swampiness is nonpartisan: our targets are not Democrats or Republicans, corporations or unions – but elitists.
We champion the interests of working Americans who are left out of the cozy spoils-sharing of The Swamp. That’s what we mean by Positive Populism, the theme of our show.
And that’s why it’s so important for us to call out swampiness wherever we see it, including in this administration.
To be fair, President Trump has followed through on a number of important Drain The Swamp pledges: for example, a lifetime ban on government officials lobbying for foreign governments, and a ban on officials lobbying agencies where they worked.
And do not underestimate the impact of the president’s spectacularly successful deregulation agenda. That’s not just good for economic dynamism, jobs and incomes, as we are already seeing. It means that there’s simply less government for the corrupt special interests to bend towards their ends.
But there are far too many examples in this administration of exactly the kind of business-as-usual Washington swampiness that the president was elected to root out.
In department after department, agency after agency, you see lobbyists for special interests now in positions of power to regulate those self-same interests. We will detail them for you in “Swamp Watch” on Sunday. They should all be fired.
The most visible examples of swampiness, however, have come in the personal conduct of some of the president’s senior Cabinet appointees, who seem to have interpreted their public duties as an opportunity to cash in.
Thankfully, some of the worst offenders have already been fired by President Trump: Tom Price, the former Health and Human Services secretary, who had a penchant for costly and unnecessary private flights at public expense; and Veterans’ Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, who enjoyed a lavish taxpayer-funded trip to Europe with his wife that somehow included Wimbledon tennis tickets.
One serial offender remains in place, however – and his presence in this administration is now a daily setback for the President’s Drain The Swamp mission.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has not only spent taxpayer money in a cavalier fashion, insisted on preposterous personal perks and pushed for outrageous pay rises for his flunkeys. He entered into a dodgy deal with the wife of an energy lobbyist.
If a Democratic official had done this in the Obama administration, we would be calling for his head. The fact that it’s happening in this administration, elected on an explicit promise to clamp down on this kind of behavior, makes it even more important that we don’t tolerate it.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has announced he is investigating Pruitt, and that's good. But not enough.
For the sake of his Drain The Swamp agenda, President Trump must fire Scott Pruitt and throw out the lobbyists from his administration.
We’ll be debating all this on Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT on “The Next Revolution” – hope you can join us!