Life in the Box: Deep Thoughts about Deep States
I’ve been in a deep state before… a deep state of meditation. That’s the kind of deep state I believe in and enjoy.
Now I’ve heard tell about a deep state that is bad, mysterious, and shrouded in evil. Apparently, there are people “in power” “in the government” that run things while ignoring the elected officials. Oh, that must mean people who do the job they’re supposed to do despite the jabbering of politicians who change from year to year.
Yeah, I’ve been in a government agency that was like that—always being used as a political football. We never knew from administration to administration if we’d have funding the next time, but we did our jobs and served the public and just ignored the chatter as much as we could.
Definition #1: Competence
If I was working in a deep state, it was a good one. In fact, it was rather a miracle that we got anything done, much less the many good things we accomplished on a bouncing shoestring-like tightrope. Away from the office, our supporters spoke up for us. We just did our jobs. Just like real people.
Recently, I got curious about what other people are thinking when they claim the deep state is at work in the United States. Does “deep state” have a real definition or is it a nebulous bogeyman?
I found a little history: apparently, there have been deep states in other countries. Turkey in the 1950s is given as an example, where the military establishment had more power than the elected officials. And present-day Pakistan has another shadow government that people fear. The kind of government that kills people who don’t conform. But America’s “deep state” is not that kind of deep state. Yet.
Definition #2: Those who sell and buy government contracts
In 2014, a career congressional staff worker (for the House and the Senate) named Mike Lofgren wrote an essay about how boring America’s deep state can be for those who work in it:
“Sitting and staring at the clock on the off-white office wall when it’s 11:00 in the evening and you are vowing never, ever to eat another piece of takeout pizza in your life is not an experience that summons the higher literary instincts…”
For Lofgren, the U.S. deep state is really just “groupthink,” based on “the twin pillars of national security imperative and corporate hegemony [undue influence]…” He argues that decisions about how our government spends money, how we interact with other countries, and matters of great importance such as war and peace are actually constantly being asserted in the open, by those who profit from and those who purchase government services. It is vast, but it is not a “conspiracy” as much as it is entrenched “business as usual.”
His illustrations are meaningful, and if you want to delve into his thinking, read his article (linked below) and his 2013 book, “The Party is Over—How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted.” I find his deep state definition to be mostly true, because it is complicated and convoluted and describes a fluctuating ocean of decisions made, based on human flaws more than political puff. There is no “great overlord” in his definition of an unintentional deep state.
Definition #3: Those who are not loyal to Trump
Fast-forward to Trump’s deep state definition. It’s simple, really. Trump’s deep state is anyone in the government that doesn’t swear a fealty oath to him; anyone that tells on him; anyone that disagrees with him; anyone that says they think he’s crazy, immoral, criminal, or stupid. In other words, just about everyone is in the deep state except his loyal followers. When you hear conservative media talk about deep state, this is it. And while there are many anti-Trumpers in America, the belief in a “deep state” of cruel liberals is really a fantasy–a make-believe world created to scare people and motivate them to vote Republican. It’s so vague and ill-defined, it defies honest description. It’s a bogeyman.
Definition #4: Those who follow Trump
From my perspective, there is an alternative, opposite deep state that is actually truly scary; Trump followers have created a cult-like deep state. It’s a shallow and superficial deep state based on faithfully following Trump through his every lie, while at the same time denying reality. This is a bad deep state.
In addition to loyalty to Trump, his administration has been keen to tear down the existing government. Every Trump cabinet member was someone who despised the branch they were in charge of, and who worked to undo decades of public good: in effect working to destroy the department they were in charge of. Trump was elected on an anti-government platform: government is bad: let me disassemble it. It is anti-competence.
Unfortunately, Trump has also been very pro-government when he could use his (governmental) office to fill his own pockets and the pockets of his inner circle. He’s really pro-profit-making, and anti- any laws that might get in his way. So, he has created his own deep state of profit, occasionally sending graft to people who he thinks of as his supporters. Ask the farmers of Iowa how many billions of Federal dollars have bought their votes, after the devastating trade wars nearly wiped them out. Strangely, billions were sent just prior to the election of 2020. Iowans voted for Trump in great numbers.
But, loyalty to Trump has proven to be a challenge for those who really know him. Many of the people he hired have walked out of office calling Trump an idiot. Even his faithful howling pet prime timers on Fox Cable News are now part of the anti-Trump deep state, according to Trump, that is: ever since they stated that Biden won the election. How times change!
Definition #5: Republicans who don’t give a damn
I’ve noticed another deep state, too. One that is very concerning because it is deliberate and bad for the country as a whole. This deep state began at least 12 years ago, when Republicans decided that they were going all the way in bringing down the Democratic party. Anything the Democrats wanted, no matter how good it was for all people (including Republicans) was a big “no.”
Republicans blocking Obama was obvious, and resulted in his need to use executive orders to accomplish the greater good, such as improving health care for millions. Blocking Merrick Garland for Supreme Court was an obvious and deeply flawed move that showed the Republicans’ deep state of disregard for “the good of all.”
McConnell’s deep state is loyal to only two things: disempower the Democrats, and empower and enrich the wealthy (themselves and their major donors.)
Under Mitch McConnell, the Senate became a Federal Judge replacement factory. His deep state didn’t require qualified judges, just Republican loyalists. Lifetime appointments have been made that will affect America for years. These judges are pro-big-business-owner conservatives, for the most part. And, in a whoppingly self-serving and hypocritical decision, McConnell and his troops pushed in a super-majority of Supreme Court judges that will skew the legal system against regular working stiffs, minorities, and the poor. That’s not what I call justice.
Despite strong evidence that the early federal assistance for people facing Covid19-related problems worked for both individuals and the entire economy, this deeply deranged Senate has avoided common-sense further pandemic-related measures.
Even worse, this group overlaps with the Trump deep state in that they embrace intentional violence and cruelty. What am I basing this on? There are lots of examples, including: stealing children from their parents, caging up legal immigrants in inhumane conditions, trying to end programs like Medicaid and Dreamers, spreading lies about “good neo-Nazis,” and releasing child molesters and other cruelty-mongers with Presidential pardons. Recently, this group has embraced wild spread of Covid19 because, “basically only older people die from it.” (Not true, and not compassionate even if it were true.)
And off-shoot organizations have acted to endanger several Democratic governors, with the blessing of President Trump and the silence of most Republican leaders. When American journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed, Trump defended the beheading, and there was a dreadful silence among American Republicans. It wasn’t just that Trump encouraged violence; he was supported by his entire party.
Not only are these ideas dangerous to millions, they are deeply supported by millions. Strangely, they believe that they are the good guys—and the rest of us are plunging America into some horrible Communistic hell-hole. They believe the opposite of truth with every cell in their bodies.
I call the McConnell/ Republican deep state the very bad deep state. It is a cult based on decades of anti-government, anti-Democrat, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-minority, anti-tax, and a slew of very intentional malicious teachings which have been expanded upon by the conservative talk shows and television cable stations. This misinformation is also spread by Russian bots and Facebook friends. Also known as “fear-baiting and rumor-mongering.” This is a deep state of poisonous vegetation that we have not been able to weed out and that is taking over our “garden.” I am most alarmed by it.
So, based on the 2020 election, about 47% of voting Americans believe that the government is bad because of a deep state that is against Trump/themselves/Republicans. Some of them are embracing so many conspiracy theories, it seems they will believe anything (see QAnon link, below.) About 51% of voting Americans think the government of Trump is bad because, well, it is. Some of these people never believed in the “evil deep state” before all of this, but are now wondering if McConnell and Trump have created one. And a bunch of folks don’t think of anything but how will I pay the rent with no job, and how will I pay my hospital bills.
There is no doubt in my mind that the term “deep state” is nebulous, and you can hang any definition on it you want to. But, when I hear it used, I will be asking myself: which deep state are you talking about: the good deep state that ignores politics and just gets the work done; the unintentional deep state of government contracts and zombie-like repeated actions; the bad deep state of loyalty to Trump; or the very bad deep state that is a cult of huge proportions that rejects the “common good” and embraces violence? Untangling the different states is about as easy as defining the state of humanity, which, I must admit, is all of the above. I will continue meditating deeply on these topics.
Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, narrating and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process and life issues, both inside and outside the box. Her opinions are her own, and are not necessarily those of this web site. This article was written in early December of 2020.
Grand Canyon Photo Credits: Free_Photos at Pixabay, PxHere, Cecilevanmeensel from pixabay
Continental Divide Photo Credit: Family Archives
Mike Lofgren’s 2014 essay, “The Anatomy of the Deep State”
Mike Lofgren’s book, “The Party is Over”
John Light’s 2017 essay for Bill Moyers “The Deep State Explained”
2018 Business Insider Article about Trump’s deep state
Longer article about early Trump claims of “Deep State”
What you need to know about QAnon from Snopes, August 2020
Lengthy article detailing long-term attempts to “reinvent government” and deconstruct the deep state (bureaucracy) in recent decades
Newsweek article Trump defends killing of journalist
Florida Covid19 scientist turned whistle-blower is raided by Florida police
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