Thank God For The Deep State, It’s On a Roll

FRANK BRUNI — President Trump was right about the “deep state” — sort of. There exist, in government, people and forces rigged to foil disruption.

But the deep state isn’t, as he suggested, a reflexive defense of a corrupt status quo. It’s a righteous defense against the corruption of democracy, which he continues to attempt.

And that defense is holding. Three cheers for the deep state.

Thank God for the quiet and then not-so-quiet resistance that has thwarted Trump’s worst impulses


“Deep state” isn’t the right term — its overtone is too clandestine, its undertone too nefarious — but let’s go with it, co-opt it. And let’s define it ourselves, not as a swampy society of self-preserving bureaucrats in Washington but as a steadfast, tradition-minded legion of public officials and civil servants all over the country, in every branch of government.

These officials and servants are distinguished by an understanding that the codes of conduct and rules of engagement become more important, not less, when passions run hot.

“Thank God for the deep state,” John McLaughlin, a former deputy and acting director of the C.I.A., said in October 2019 at a panel on election security that included other former leaders of the C.I.A. and F.B.I.

Deep state is a type of governance made up of potentially secret networks of power operating independently of political leadership. The range of possible uses of the term is similar to that for shadow government.

But my deep state is both deeper and broader than those agencies. It extends beyond the diplomats who played starring roles in Trump’s impeachment and those government health officials who also pushed back against the quackery…

They belong to a quiet and then not-so-quiet resistance that blunted, thwarted or tried to blunt and thwart Trump’s worst impulses when it came not just to public health but also to foreign policy, immigration, the environment.

With two months left of the Trump administration, career E.P.A. employees find themselves where they began, in a bureaucratic battle with the agency’s political leaders. But now, with the Biden administration on the horizon, they are emboldened to stymie Mr. Trump’s goals and to do so more openly.

That’s the deep state rearing up. That’s the deep state roaring. It should be music to our ears.

Read Frank Bruni’s unedited op-ed in the New York Times.