Widely reported now in the media is this notion of a shadow government.
There is a difference between a true shadow government and the way our government is set up with two types of leadership.
- Career civil service are the regular public sector (government) employees.
- Political appointees are the people installed upon a new President by the winning party, and they are the most powerful leaders and policymakers in the government.
In a sense, the "winner takes all" and the political appointees become the heads of all the executive branch agencies--viola, that is power!
The vast majority are people of the utmost integrity and deserving of our respect and gratitude for their leadership and what they do for our country.
There are about 7,000 Senior Executive Service (SES) positions in the federal government, and about 90% are regular career civil service, and the remaining 10% are non-career political appointees.
Aside from SES political appointees, there are another 3,000 other presidential and confidential (Schedule C) appointees (for a total of 4,000 presidential appointees running the government).
In a normal situation, this works just fine and civil service and politicals work hand-in-hand to advance the interests of this great nations.
But when a nation becomes highly divided or an election looms and power is "up for grabs," then the leadership can diverge over the issues and perhaps some may even resort to extreme measures.
If you're a political appointee (and maybe even one confirmed by the Senate), you still sort of by definition represent the interests of one party and their leadership over another--that's the two party system.
And if your civil service, while you may have your personal leanings, as a professional, you're really there to do the best you can overall, that's your job!
What happens if the run-of-the-mill career civil service leaders have a hypothetical clash with political appointee leaders (such as before an extremely divisive election)?
Ah, that can be some of the worst of politics and bureaucracy!
On one hand, you could get told (i.e. ordered) to do one thing, but on the other hand, what if partisanship would be getting in the way of function?
While most of the time, "more is better"--like with the 3 branches of government and a 2 party system that serve as healthy checks and balances--in this unique situation, 2 may be dysfunctional at best. ;-)
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)