This article is part of a series; read the first part here
In part one the evolution of the deep-state was discussed in the context of the Cold War and America’s battle against communism. In this piece Donald Trump’s Presidency and its relationship to the deep-state will be elaborated on further as many of his supporters still cling to the idea that the deep-state is a structure that is almost exclusively anti-Trump. This conception is too narrow, and like other attempts at dissecting the history of the deep-state it cannot explain where it came from. By focusing their arguments around a figure like Trump the right reduces what are broader political discussions into simplistic word salads that lack the required historical perspective. As has already been stated, Trump is both a victim and product of the deep-state, and with a presidential term that is so contradictory it is hard to describe what it was that Trump wanted. Like most political figures, the drive for self-preservation must be understood when examining his presidency. The idea of Trump being “one of us” is nothing more than a sad projection by his followers as during his term in office Trump quickly showed that he was still committed to the needs of America’s ruling class (his tax cuts to the wealthy are something even Joe Biden has not fully reversed). When Trump consciously tries to frame the deep-state as, “Unelected, deep state operatives who defy the voters, to push their own secret agendas, are truly a threat to democracy itself,” here we find the same rhetoric his supporters use.
With his inauguration in 2017 and the announcement during his campaign that the wars in the Middle East were over, the attacks started to pour in. Instead of making concessions to that reality, Trump’s victory, a section of the media instead chose not to deal with it and in the eyes of many of his supporters they have lost their legitimacy forever. During an early press conference as Trump was asked to respond to questions regarding his victory and the stories about Russian interference he exclaimed, “I won. I won…the Presidency”. By refusing to see Trump as a legitimate President and to continue to engage in infantile mocking the media continued to feed the narrative that they were enemies of the political choices that got Trump the victory namely war, fixing the economy and rooting out corruption. Russiagate, which turned out to be a cooked-up narrative involving key figures within the Democratic Party and the intelligence community, represents a Pandora’s box for the political establishment. As soon as that information was revealed, it only reinforced the deep-state narrative that Trump himself utilised. With a large section of the public looking at what appeared to be a peace candidate it is not too hard to conceive of why many still rush to defend him. This also includes Trump’s comments over Hunter Biden and Ukraine, his attempts to establish ties with Kim Jong-un and Putin in order to de-escalate conflicts along with the undermining of his peace agreement in Afghanistan in 2019 (and later his plan for withdrawal in May 2021). These incidents again fuelled the idea of enemies within that were out to sabotage him.
The deep-state bias in favour of Trump by his supporters is itself one that evolved over time. The way civil society has been shaped by the deep-state due to the imperialist wars capitalism has initiated abroad has slowly created the conditions which allowed Trump to emerge. For many voters he was quickly welcomed with open arms. Someone who has already made this connection, and convincingly so, is the writer Max Blumenthal. With an emphasis placed on a timeline that starts with American support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s, and which then takes us up to the present day as America continues to fight the seemingly endless wars on terror. Blumenthal states that, “Trump’s election would not have been possible without 9/11 and the subsequent military interventions conceived by the national security state” as this gave Trump the opportunity to learn the “crude lessons delivered to the American public through trusted mainstream voices” which he “distilled… into the 2016 campaign”. With so many figures within the political establishment completely alienated from the struggles that many working people faced, Trump was able to give a fresh voice to those concerns and a new wave of conspiratorial politics as he repeated them throughout his campaign. Trump continued to appeal to that growing frustration as he manoeuvred past figures like Hillary Clinton who only seemed interested in engaging in wars Americans no longer identified with. With his inauguration in 2017 the use of the term “deep-state”, as documented in TV transcripts, shot up from 64 hits in 2016 to nearly over 5,000 in 2019. But Trump in many ways is no different from his predecessors as he quickly found his own boogeymen and how to use them in order to push for the changes he wanted.
His supporters continue to look to him as a peace President who sought to usher in a reign of prosperity and ultimately a new era of American exceptionalism. Trump is a product of the deep-state and as some might recall, the Trump before Trump was Sarah Palin (the running mate chosen by John McCain). Palin espoused political views that were equally as strange but were ideas a lot of the American public quickly identified with. While America was able to dodge that first bullet it was inevitable that another more extreme Palin-like figure would emerge from within the political climate that has long enveloped the United States. The chaos initiated abroad has evidently come home and finds itself manifested in a figure like Trump. Though he ran on an anti-war, anti-corruption and America first platform Trump has proven himself to be as gung-ho as his predecessors. Whether consciously or unconsciously Trump has done the work of the deep-state as he quickly succumbed to the same need to appear strong when dealing with foreign countries. By illegally pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal in 2018 with Iran, and by projecting the same military values as those before him, Trump helped ensure that the ideology required by the deep-state stayed within circulation and for this he was praised by the political class. Though he may have stuck to his non-interventionist promise in the Middle East, the sanctions he has initiated are arguably more brutal than military intervention itself. Here we see Trump continuing the same legacy with Iran that began in the 1950s and supporting the same national security policies former Presidents like George Bush have. This includes his support for torture which many experts pointed out doesn’t work and is morally reprehensible.
Mirroring the Bush and Clinton years, Trump’s use of sanctions has done unspeakable harm to the civilian populations who reside in countries like Iran and Syria as the inability to access medicine during the pandemic has led to scores of preventable deaths. The 2017 sanctions Trump used against Venezuela are estimated to have killed over 40,000 people and for what? The sanctions sought out by Trump, along with the support given to Juan Guaido, have done nothing but lead to more misery. The failed coup attempt in Venezuela in 2020 during Operation Gideon sounds a lot like those that have come before. America’s claim over its South American “backyard”, as proclaimed through the Monroe Doctrine, had Trump again following in the footsteps of his deep-state orchestrators. If we examine his relationship with Saudi Arabia, Trump again conforms to the standards of those who came before him. By signing lucrative weapons deals worth billions of dollars with Saudi dictators he has helped prolong the suffering in countries like Yemen where they have been dealing with the Saudi initiated war since 2015. This includes their ability to fuel terrorist movements within the region which he lambasted Obama and Hillary Clinton for. With his recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, Trump has done irreparable damage to the Palestinian cause which is again standard practice for American leaders and the strategic interests of the deep-state. Trump’s sadistic foreign policy has been a ruthless but useful tool for the national security state. If we examine Biden’s foreign policy since coming into office the two are almost identical with Biden now using policies initiated under Trump’s term to continue to accelerate tensions between the United States and those states already mentioned.
Lastly if we examine Trump’s relationship with China, we see that Trump has come full circle bringing us back to the conditions which ushered into existence the need for a deep-state. In a 2019 interview Trump said one of the “most serious challenges” the world currently faces is socialism. So here we have the same debunked Cold War narrative that served as a catalyst for American expansionism. By attempting to smear Biden and the Democrats as “socialists” we see history repeating itself, “first as tragedy, and then second as farce” with the ghost of McCarthy being resurrected. Anti-China militancy, along with Russiagate, have merged as a co-project by both parties and ensured that the deep-state will continue to survive. The battle against communism is what helped create the deep-state and to continue to wage that war is to bolster those powers who benefit from it and their ability to oppress and control dissenting voices. If the far-right really wants to abandon the deep-state their commitment to destroying China will have to go with it. Anti-communism is an American pathology and Trump’s remarks have only ensured that what once was the paranoia over the “Russians” is now replaced by “China”. If we examine the war against China in light of the DPG document, we can see that this is just a continuation of the same policies that have brought America to where it is today. Trump, just like his predecessors, is one of “the crazies”.
In the end we can see that it does not matter whether it is Trump or Biden, the deep-state continues to function. Rather than “unelected officials” who seek to destroy American democracy the deep-state is in fact a tool used by American capitalism. The national security state has slowly guided America towards the conditions which have produced a figure like Trump and Americans who are unwilling to accept the truths about their own country are instead rocked to sleep with images of greatness and prosperity. Is Trump a fascist? Though the term has been abused in Trump we can see the rise of a neo-fascism beginning with his “America first” slogans and ending with his 1776 project. In the words of political scholar Michael Parenti:
“Fascism…is an instrument by the ruling plutocracy to distract the people with the accoutrements of a false revolution, there’s always a false populism and there’s a lot of…manipulation of symbols and sentiments and love of the state…Much of politics is the rational use of irrational symbols…So when people study fascism…they focus on it as a kind of insane movement that just happened carried on by this maniac…In fact what they [fascists] try to do is direct the real grievances of the people…towards irrelevant enemies”
The symbolism of “MAGA”, combined with the incidents on 6 January which served as a false revolution, and Trump’s irrelevant enemies – “Antifa” – when combined present a pretty compelling case.
The US has always been drifting towards what can be called an “imagined community”. The lack of unity now present within America is compensated for with a yearning for more ideological symbols. The over reliance on mythology is not just a Trump phenomenon, but he has certainly served as a catalyst and accelerated the drive towards nationalism as Trumpian politics have all the necessary ingredients for the fascistic populism that we see today. The emergence of the deep-state into conventional politics should be seen as a move to try and suppress what is very much an American creation. Trump, though ensuing chaos abroad, is evidently too much for an administration which counts on the veneer of stability as it conducts itself on the global stage. The oversight by the intelligence communities on the elections and their passing judgment on the candidates they think are best for the country sets a dangerous precedent as what we now have is CIA-approved Presidential elections. Instead of recognising what Trump really represents, his voters have chosen to abandon the traditional political procedures the US is used to, but this has only made their position worse. In the aftermath of 6 January, Washington DC looks like a city at war and the country continues on its charted course of tribal division between the political groups. It’s hard to imagine how a country fuelled by war will ever find peace. But, for the rest of us, when the far-right utilises political language that has serious implications like the deep-state, they reduce what are broader discussions by centring them around figures like Trump. In the process they rob from us the opportunity to engage with ideas like the “deep state” as they immediately become a taboo. When thinking about the rise of the deep-state, Michael Parenti again offers a clear way to view it: “Our fear that communism might someday take over most of the world blinds us to the fact that anti- communism already has”.
- Blackshirts and Reds – Michael Parenti
- The Plot to Attack Iran – Dan Kovalik
- The Management of Savagery – Max Blumenthal
- The Great Derangement – Matt Taibbi
- War in the Age of Trump – Patrick Cockburn
- War with Russia? – Stephen F. Cohen
- Republican Gomorrah – Max Blumenthal
- Alt-Right – Mike Wendling
- A letter on Russia – Karl Marx
- The Age of Jihad – Patrick Cockburn
- The Soft Cage – Christian Parenti
- The Fifth Risk – Michael Lewis
- Imagined Communities – Benedict Anderson