New Delhi: The force of Establishment does not often figure in geopolitics but it should. The Establishment has cut to size popularly-elected leaders like Donald Trump and Narendra Modi, turned Theresa May into a political asthmatic who finds breathing strenuous, and it has at the same time propped up Angela Merkel on a ventilator. From these examples, it may be divined that the Establishment cannot be constricted to one definition, and that it is a composite of several factors which exist in different proportions in different political climes. The force of Establishment can work in positive and negative ways. On one hand, it can limit the damage to polity by the likes of Modi and Trump. On the other, it makes it impossible for rude political forces to decimate a leader associated with growth, liberalism and decency like Merkel.

Despite its multiple manifestations, however, there are certain core and unchangeable constituents of the Establishment. These constituents may inhere in the state or the larger body politic. It could also reside in adversarial form outside all this, typically like the anti-government mainstream media, for example. It is scarcely a coincidence that the mainstream media in a majority of liberal democracies is positioned against the state and its coercive structures. The mainstream media, therefore, provides a considerable check on the powers of popular politicians and demagogues in a democracy. This is the Establishment at work. After railing against the mainstream media and having failed with his considerable presidential powers to rein it in, Trump has finally admitted defeat to it. He believes the media has derailed his presidency and successfully turned the needle of suspicion against him in the scandal of Russian meddling in the last US presidential election.

Narendra Modi is far too much in control of his public emotions to give any credit to the mainstream media for derailing his first term, but the fact of a derailed first term, both self-inflicted and caused by outside agencies, can no longer be denied. There are no cheerleaders for demonetization any longer, for instance. And while the media played its part in exposing its idiocy, the credit really goes to mainstream economists, also part of the Establishment, who smashed through the quackery. Ditto for an extortionate GST and the senseless tax on mutual funds and equity LTCGs. Modi has been similarly punctured on hyperbolic East and West Asia outreaches and respecting hyper-nationalism and jingoism in relation to China and Pakistan. Rahul Gandhi correctly says Narendra Modi looks over his shoulder all the time. The forces of Establishment have turned Modi wary of the future. Modi is so psyched up about re-election in 2019 that he can barely get through a work day today. He has run out of steam. It is the handiwork of the Establishment which won’t permit more blunders from his side.

The Establishment carries a detached view of popular elections and referendums. For example, Theresa May fought on a Brexit platform and did surprisingly badly in the general election. Even if she had done well, Brexit couldn’t have been smooth; now it will be harder. The UK Establishment opposes Brexit. Largely situated in London, it believes, rightly, that Brexit will ruin Britain. Political economists are convinced Britain is too tiny to survive on its own and without the luxury of empire. The European Establishment is equally horrified about Brexit and exerts a powerful magnetic force on UK’s Remain Establishment. The Establishment is predominantly for remaining within the European Union which is why Theresa May cannot get her act together for Brexit. Most of her party opposes it.

In Germany, the Establishment is directly challenging the election results. Merkel should have cohabited with the Far Right but that will not happen. The Establishment has conspired to keep her as chancellor even though she may be a broken one. The alternative to Merkel is chaos and a race to the bottom for the German powerhouse; the German Establishment would resist that. The Establishment likewise is resisting Trump at every turn. Not one of his cabinet secretaries takes him seriously. Agencies like the FBI have hit back the more he attempts unconstitutionally to undermine them. American geopolitics is on auto-mode. Another way to look at it is that America today is virtually leaderless. Establishment momentum is getting things done. The same, to a degree, is true for India. If India still works despite Narendra Modi’s policies, credit the Establishment. It has also limited his blunders and put him on notice for 2019. The Establishment has become the guardian angel of democracies that have slipped into wrong hands or elected good leaders with weak mandates. No analysis of geopolitics can now be complete without assessing the growing weight of the Establishment in multiple political theatres around the world.