Three Cheers for the “Deep State”

When I first heard “The Deep State” mentioned, it caught my attention. The possible implications of the term were many. Former senior analyst for Congress, Mike Lofgren had discussed it on Bill Moyers’ website, posted in 2014. As I mentioned in a 2018 blog post, “The Deeper Deep State,” Lofgren was apparently the first to use the term.

His last sixteen years working for Congress as a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budget committees gave Lofgren a clear view of the federal government from the inside. The essay and interview with Bill Moyers evolved into a book, titled The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, published in 2016. That was all before the extreme right Trumpists appropriated the term to attack all but the most authoritarian elements within the federal government that support Trump.

But now, we find ourselves confronted by a rogue president and a new shadow government consisting of Trump’s anti-government anti-regulation corporatist political appointees. These corporatist ideologues are bent on destroying the departments and programs they “administer,” which were designed to protect the American people from the fraud, abuse, and ecological and climate devastation caused by an unbridled corporate elite. Trump has turned the entire executive branch into a collection of agents used to support and enhance his financial and political power, not the interests of the American people.

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So, first, let us give a cheer for the career foreign service officers who just could not stomach any more of Rudy Giuliani and his private foreign-policy operations designed to support Trump’s political power. Giuliani brazenly worked to secure business profits in Giuliani ran shadow Ukraine policyUkraine by leveraging his role as Trump’s “personal lawyer.” As the president’s shadow “diplomat,” he attempted to exploit Ukraine’s desperate need for the military aid Congress had authorized to fight off the Russian invasion. He was a key player in attempting to extort the Ukraine president to start a bogus “investigation” of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, to bolster Trump’s chances at re-election. The real American diplomats came forward and testified to the House impeachment investigators how the President and his agents had tried to extort Ukraine’s president to damage the man Trump felt was the main threat to his re-election.

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BaghdadiA second cheer goes out to those clandestine forces of the CIA and Delta Force operators who executed their mission despite the disruption of their plans by Trump’s petulant subservience to Turkey’s dictator in betraying the heroic Kurds, who have done most and suffered the most to defeat ISIS. The operation to take out Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS founder and murderous leader, had been in the works for quite a while. But it was disrupted by Trump’s order to move American troops out of Syria to allow Turkey’s dictator, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to invade northern Syria and drive out and kill our allies, the Kurds. Whether we agree or not on the various uses of clandestine forces to execute American foreign policy, these dedicated warriors risk their lives to do their job on a daily basis. To Trump, they are mere pawns to bolster his ego.

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The Constitution of the U.SThe third cheer is earned by the U.S. federal court judges who, despite some being Trump appointees, could just not tolerate Trump’s attempts to trample the Constitution by fighting against the separation of powers and the constitutional duty of the Congress to pursue an impeachment investigation when the House of Representatives deemed it necessary. That is their duty and right, just as is the duty of congressional oversight of the administration, which Trump has obstructed from the beginning.

Diverse members of the institutional matrix of the federal government have resisted Trump’s depraved trampling of the Constitution. While we must recognize the dangers inherent in the deep state as Mike Lofgren described them, there is also a great benefit in having a stable institutional structure in the federal government capable of resisting the dictatorial delusions of a rogue president. The three areas of conflict between the Constitution and this president mentioned above, demonstrate that the viability of our democracy and the constitutional checks and balances the founders so wisely created are only as secure as the commitments of patriots to uphold them against rogue attempts to subvert them. In this context at least, three cheers for the Deep State.

The Deeper Deep State

The “Deep State” is deeper than you think. I first ran across the concept when I read an essay by former senior analyst for congress, Mike Lofgren on Bill Moyers’ website, posted in 2014. Lofgren was apparently the first to use the term. He spent many years working for Congress, the last sixteen as a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budget committees. He knows the federal government from the inside. The essay and interview with Bill Moyers evolved into a book, titled The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, published in 2016. That was all before the extreme right Trumpists appropriated the term to attack all but the most authoritarian elements in the federal government.

Deep.State.book.jacketLofgren’s use of the term “deep state” referred to the complex web of coordinated entrenched interests both inside the US government and outside, especially on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, that profit heavily from congressional “defense” and other major budget decisions. Despite their appropriation of the term, the Trumpists support many aspects of the “deep state” as Lofgren describes it. Lofgren argues convincingly that the U.S. has become an oligarchy in fact if not in name.

The idea of a deep state, as Lofgren deployed it, is very similar to the phenomenon of “inverted totalitarianism” that Sheldon Wolin describes in his heavily documented study, Democracy, Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Wolin, a highly respected political scientist, argues that American democracy has morphed into a strange hybrid consisting of a shell of democratic formality surrounding a core of bureaucratic totalitarianism. He distinguishes between the traditional notion of totalitarianism, which involves overt authoritarianism by a dictator, and the emergent bureaucratic form that involves a complex merging of corporate economic interests and the entrenched powers of the state. Others may call this complex the “corporate state.”

Lofgren experienced the corporate state from the inside; Wolin examined it from the outside. Both conclude that the result is a fundamental loss of democracy. Now, the appropriation of the term, “the deep state,” by the extreme white nationalists and neo-fascists aligned with the Trump administration, is a political propaganda tactic used to attack any element of government that serves the public interest instead of the interests of the oligarchic elites that Trumpists serve.

The Trumpist use of “the deep state” is an element of the demagoguery that attempts to turn the public against any element of the government or the media that does not serve their interests. Any accurate reporting of Trumpist dissembling or destructive executive orders he deems “Fake News.” Notice that Trump’s appointments to his cabinet and agencies such as the Environmental Protection Administration, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Education, are all politically opposed to the very mandates of those departments and agencies. These neo-fascists are not so much interested in destroying the deep state as in taking it over.

The overwhelming majority of appointments to key posts Trump has drawn from Wall Street, the Military, and far-right politicians. He has attempted to turn the intelligence agencies into political operations. The deep state has become an even deeper penetration of oligarchic interests into the center of federal government operations. The deep state is now much deeper and more corrupt than before. Corruption is the essence of destroying democracy.