I’ve been fascinated to watch the recent public conversation about the “deep state” unfold. I had been used to hearing this phrase from the far left, you know the type that wear sweaters and jackets with those leather patches on the elbows and give long-winded speeches at socialist enclaves on college campuses, those guys. They believe that the left is weak because of some kind of elaborate CIA-driven conspiracy to suppress socialism (and communism) that includes the deep state, the shadow state, the military-industrial complex, or some combination thereof.
I always found it cute, quaint even, how the far left had to invent a conspiracy theory to explain why their policies didn’t work or why they didn’t get what they wanted. It just had to be because of the monopoly man smoking cigars in the back room plotting with industrialists and the CIA boogyman. Today, it has been incredible to watch the right seize on this tired old trope of the left. Now the deep state is an entrenched liberal agenda inside our government, subverting Donald Trump and preventing him from, “draining the swamp.” President Trump isn’t getting what he wants because there is a conspiracy against him according to his supporters.
Jon D. Michaels writes about this subject in an article appearing in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs. He makes what struck me as an almost tongue in cheek argument, that yes, the deep state does exist but in America it is different and it is good. Outside conspiracy theory circles, Michaels rightly points out that the term deep state has also been used as political science jargon. In that context, the deep state is something used in reference to countries like Pakistan where there is a collusion between the state’s intelligence apparatus and mafia-like criminal elements.
Michaels tells us at once that there is no deep state and that the deep state in America is a good thing. He says that the US government is filled with too many middle class bureaucrats pushing their own agendas within their own agencies for there ever to be full-scale collusion. He also says that of course these bureaucrats wish to protect their institutions, safeguard foreign relationships, and defend their budgets. When you have statements from Trump administration officials like, “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment,” (from Steve Bannon in this case), it is no wonder why some government employees are on edge.
It all begs the question: is the illuminanti really that bad?
The answer to that question depends on where you sit. If you think that Donald Trump is literally a Messiah sent to us by Jesus who will one day rise into the heavens inside a pillar of pure white light, then the Illumanati is the work of the devil. If you are one of those people who believes that Trump is literally Hitler and is going to destroy America by ushering in race riots and bankrupting the country, than you are probably on the left and the deep state just went from your arch nemesis to your best friend.