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Republicans and “the deep state”: What they really want



The term “deep state” is the perfect image for a manipulative, secret and all-controlling bureaucratic-dictatorial government-within-a-government that might come straight out of an episode of “Homeland.”

The term is said to derive from the Turkish “derin devlet,” a “secretive…network…founded in 1923…with the purpose of undertaking clandestine acts to preserve the current governmental structure.” Its American version includes intelligence agencies, such as the C.I.A., F.B.I. and Homeland Security, and other governmental entities, such as the Cabinet and its various departments and bureaucracies; it, “controls state policy behind the scenes, while the democratically-elected process and elected officials are merely figureheads.”

Such a notion fits in well with the conspiratorial paranoia that lards through rightwing America, as evidenced on Breitbart, Fox News and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. It’s nonsense, of course: since the beginning of history, people have complained about “Government” being unaccountable to The People (indeed, that was the Jews’ complaint against Rome in the time of Jesus). Indeed, every revolution and civil war, including our own, made such claims. Republicans in particular say they loathe Big Government, except, of course, when it’s on their side. Twentieth century American politics can largely be explained as the struggle between a Democratic Party pledged to help the poor, the working class and minorities, and a Republican Party hopelessly in thrall to the billionaire class. Let’s not forget that it was Ronald Reagan—the Right’s modern god—who famously declared, “Government isn’t the solution, government is the problem.”

As I said, for Republicans, government isn’t a problem when it seeks to outlaw abortion, stomp on gay and minority rights, demolish unions, stop minimum wage laws, support polluting industries, lower taxes on the superrich, crush campaign finance laws, repress voter turnout, and allow Christian conservatives to run things, in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. These are the acts of government Republicans love; whenever they have the power, they enact laws that enable those ends. Still, the GOP can conveniently pretend that it is against “Government” and thus appeal to their muddle-headed, low-information supporters in red districts, whose resentments find a ready outlet in denunciations of government.

Any Republican with substantial experience in governance—Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are perfect examples—knows that “the deep state” is a cynical fiction. Yet it is a useful fiction. Political issues are complicated; tariff policy, for instance, takes experts to understand, and the last thing Republican voters are known for is their interest, much less expertise, in the wonky aspects of issues. Thus, “the deep state” is a convenient hot button for Republican propagandists: it stokes their voters’ pent-up anger and jealousy, and doesn’t ask them to understand anything: just to hate. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page is a classic example of this sleight-of-hand. Its editors are educated enough to understand the details on most issues, but their job isn’t to explain things to readers, it’s to drum up support for Republican politicians and preserve their—and Rupert Murdoch’s–hold on power.

So here comes the latest example of how the Wall Street Journal promotes a Breitbart lie about “the deep state.” From yesterday’s paper, it accuses “the bureaucracy” of being “unchecked,” and urges Trump to get rid of government employees who don’t care about “constitutional and limited government” and replace them “people [the administration] can trust.” It also calls for “term limits” on “electorally immune…bureaucrats.”

Can we call this what it really is, a rightwing purge? I mean, Trump should fire all government employees he doesn’t “trust” and replace them with devoted loyalists? Wow. Perhaps Trump can orchestrate his own Night of the Long Knives.

The op-ed’s author, J.T. Young, was a hack who worked for George W. Bush at O.M.B. and now writes for The Daily Caller, a rightwing online publication; in a recent piece, he bashes, Breitbart-like, the notion of “diversity,” suggesting that those who are concerned about the equitable representation of genders, sexual orientations and ethnicities in America are guilty of “absence of thought”!! In another screed, Young tows the predictable rightwing line by excoriating Obamacare (which has given more people health insurance than any modern insurance program in U.S. history), calling it “abysmal” and accusing “the media” (another rightwing target) of being “a relentless apologist” for reporting on the Affordable Care Act’s success.

It’s always amusing when a media writer like Young bashes “the media,” but let’s put that irony aside and get back to “the deep state.” There is none. Many government workers may indeed dislike and fear Trump, but what’s wrong with that? Government employees, like the rest of us Americans, are free to have whatever political views they want. Republican complaints about a “deep state” are in actuality attempts to disenfranchise government employees who happen to lean Democratic.

There are millions of federal, state, and local government employees, and they are your mom, your dad, your brother, your sister, your friends, possibly you. These people are not mindless, faceless bureaucrats, organized by Hillary Clinton to communize America and drive God from our shores. They are working-class folks; the government is us, and We are the government.

Surely part of the Congress’s job is to make government more efficient and effective. But to tell lies about a “deep state” to unstable people who already have trouble thinking rationally is merely to stoke the simmering embers of Red State America and fan them into a wildfire. Perhaps that’s what the Far Right and its heavily-armed N.R.A. members really want. The question is, Why?


  1. Bob Rossi says:

    ” urges Trump to get rid of government employees who don’t care about “constitutional and limited government””
    But then Trump would have to fire himself.

  2. Exactly!

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