President Trump loves a good conspiracy theory. He did, after all, launch his political career with the fabricated birtherism accusations against President Obama. And during the campaign, the voting was “rigged” against him. Now, the investigation into his administration’s meetings with Russia is a “witch hunt.”
The result: For a party in complete power of Congress and the executive branch, Republican politicians — and their supporters — are unusually invested in their own perceived victimization. The most popular riposte: They are victims of the “Deep State” — career government employees who are working under the surface of the federal government to bring them down. The idea was widely spread during the 2016 presidential campaign by the alt-right-affiliated site Breitbart.
There is no evidence that the Deep State exists. But supporters of President Trump blame it for a number of ills, largely the leaks surrounding the FBI investigation into Trump’s Russia connection.
— Last week, Infowars’ Alex Jones blamed the “Deep State for the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise.”
— “Comey is part of the Deep State. Comey is part of the sickness,” said Republican Newt Gingrich of the whistleblowing fired FBI director on June 16.
— On special counsel Robert Mueller’s staff: “Partisan hacks, they’re part of the Deep State, and they have a different agenda, which is to destroy this president,” said former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on June 18.
— On June 16, Trump retweeted Sean Hannity’s tweet about his upcoming “monologue on the Deep State’s allies in the media.”
What does “Deep State” mean, anyway?
According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll on April 28, the “Deep State” was defined as “military, intelligence and government officials who try to secretly manipulate government policy.” Forty-eight percent of respondents said they think the Deep State exists, while 35 percent say it’s a conspiracy theory.
Those who’ve studied and analyzed the concept conclude that it ranges from ridiculous to deflective to dangerously close to gaslighting the American public.
Duke professor Timur Kuran, who’s studied an alleged Deep State in dictator-led Turkey, told Rolling Stone that the allegation is a feature of authoritarian regimes.
Even some conservatives don’t buy it. Washington Post columnist and Fox News analyst Charles Krauthammer said the claims are “ridiculous” and “part of the natural human desire to order the world.”
Others note that the Republicans aren’t complaining about the deepest Deep State of all — the proven efforts by Russia to help elect Trump in the first place. “If you think there’s some irony in people complaining about a shadowy government conspiracy working through an undemocratic political system after their candidate benefited from intervention and leaks from the federal investigative service and then won despite coming in second … well sorry, irony is dead in Washington,” wrote Robert Schlesinger in the Washington Post.