The “deep” or “steady” or “state within the” state

The New York Times today published an opinion piece from an allegedly anonymous public servant in the Trump administration, sub-headed “I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” In it, he writes things such as:

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.


Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.


This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

That last sentence is revealing because whether one calls it “deep state”, “state within a state“, or steady-state, as the author prefers, the result is the same. It’s non-elected individuals deciding to subvert the decisions of someone elected under the rules of their country’s political system. One can think of the Trump presidency however one wants but this is only marginally different from the Turkish deep state deciding that the Communists shouldn’t come to power, or from the Egyptian deep state that the Muslim brotherhood in power was unaccetable, or from German intelligence services deciding that right-wing terrorism shouldn’t be investigated.

It’s unelected individuals deciding that they know better than elected politicians, and by implication voters, what’s best for the country. It is notable that the unnamed public servant is in favor of certain policies of the Trump administration, e.g. deregulation, tax cuts, and militarization, so he’d probably be as opposed to a left-wing president and do everything to “thwart parts of his agenda”.

This entry was posted in democracy. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s