Donald Trump and the ‘Deep State’

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has vowed to “destroy all of today’s establishment.” AP Photo, Evan Vucci.

by Rob Howard
Political Columnist

Over the last two months, we have heard the term ‘Deep State’ from the media, from some in the Trump administration and from far-right politicians who are prone to conspiracy theories.

But what is the Deep State? Gary Olson, a recently retired political science professor, writing in describes it this way: “It's a hybrid network of structures within which actual power resides. It includes the military-industrial complex, Wall Street, hordes of private contractors whose sole client is the government, national security agencies, select (not all) members of the State, Defense, CIA, Homeland Security, a few key members of the Congressional Defense and Intelligence Committees and so on.”

Though I couldn’t find an instance of presidential advisor Steve Bannon, former head of right-wing Breitbart News using the term, Breitbart’s website has several articles explicitly using it.

Breitbart News has a more simple definition: “The complex of bureaucrats, technocrats and plutocrats that likes things just the way they are and wants to keep them like that - elections be damned.”

I don’t think it would be a stretch that Bannon uses the term, too.

And no doubt, he would include the ‘Mainstream Media’ in the Deep State. After all, Bannon and Trump have both said the administration is at war with the media.

The right-wing media has developed a conspiracy theory that the Deep State is out to fight Trump at every turn and to make his presidency a failure. It’s not a stretch to say that President Trump is a strong believer in conspiracies and is not reluctant to spread them himself. Remember his campaign to claim that President Obama was not born in the United States?

It’s not hard to believe that Bannon and Trump believe in a Deep State. Why else the war with the intelligence community, bureaucrats for multiple leaks and the ongoing battle with the media? Bannon has promised to “destroy all of today’s establishment,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I can certainly believe there is resistance to Trump’s plans for the government. If you work in the State Department and look at the budget slashes Trump plans for them, self-interest would suggest that you make it clear to the public – through the media – what a catastrophe that would be for foreign relations.

And the scramble by senior Defense and State officials to reassure our allies about our commitment to NATO, even though they are Trump appointees, in spite of Trump’s campaign musings about NATO being outdated. By Olson’s definition, they are most likely part of the Deep State as well.

One part of Olson’s description baffles me; the inclusion of Wall Street in the list of conspirators. Trump has filled his cabinet with Wall Street powerhouses. Even Bannon spent years on Wall Street. Perhaps Bannon wouldn’t include Wall Street in the list of enemies. Or maybe they, like the power brokers in Germany who elevated Hitler to power even though he got far less than a majority in an election, think they can control him.

But here’s my theory on the Deep State, if it exists. Thanks to the words of my friend Paula Sophia in a column a few months back, I looked up the oath I took as an Air Force officer. It is similar to the oath taken by every office holder, every employee of the federal government.

“I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

To quote Paula, “[These oaths] haunt me because they didn’t have an expiration date, nor did they have exclusionary policies.”

Maybe, just maybe, all these people that Trump and Bannon think comprise the Deep State are just fellow citizens, trying to do what they have sworn an oath to do – support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

I hope so.

Copyright 2017 The Gayly – April 3, 2017 @ 1:20 p.m.