Trump Protests
Anti-Trump and pro-Trump demonstrators square off at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC, on November 13, 2020. Image Credit: Washington Post

Conspiracy theories have been flying around since Joe Biden was declared the winner of the US presidential elections. One of those theories circulated by President Donald Trump’s supporters, many of whom seem to believe in so many of these fantastical theories, says that ‘the deep state’ has conspired to rig the elections in favour of the president’s Democratic opponent.

Trump’s promises to curtail the government and ‘give the power back to the people’, which were basically self-serving demagoguery, appealed to many disfranchised white Americans, especially in the more conservative red states, such as the Midwest and the south, which for long looked wearily at the dominant power of both east and west coast mostly liberal states such as New York, with its banking and financial power and California with its arts and tech industries. The so-called elites in these states represent in the eyes of the Trump’s core base of support the key pillars of the deep state that wanted Trump, the outside player, out of the big game. For many though, the term deep state is an imaginary entity, a unicorn, a bigfoot type of myth. But is it? Apparently not. Conspiracy theories aside, yes, deep states exist.

His [Trump's] supporters..., including senior Republicans, so far accused the ‘liberal elite’ which constitutes the backbone of the anti-Trump deep state.

- Mohammed Almezel, Editor at Large, Gulf News

History tells us that the deep state is not born of imagination, but has existed in many countries for decades, including in the United States. The term appeared for the first time some 100 years ago, in Turkey specifically, to describe a vast, secretive and parallel network of politicians, the bureaucracy, and military and intelligence institutions. This network believes it is best able to protect the interests of the state and thus exert influence and apply major policies usually behind the scenes mostly to keep the status quo. Some elements of the deep state may have to come up to the surface when the stakes are high ¬— a major national crisis that requires immediate and public intervention. In some countries, this is called a coup d’état. We have seen many of these deep state-staged coups over the years.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair reportedly warned his successor, the Conservative David Cameron of the perils of the deep state. According to the Independent newspaper (February 6, 2018), Steve Hilton, Cameron’s director of strategy met before the 2010 general elections to discuss the transition process of the new government. “You cannot underestimate how much they believe it’s their job actually to run the country and to resist the changes put forward by people they dismiss as ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ politicians,” Blair was quoted by Hilton as saying referring to the British civil service, known for its vast network, enormous influence and centuries-old traditions that cannot be easily changed. “They genuinely see themselves as the true guardians of the national interest and think that their job is simply to wear you down and wait you out,” Blair added.

The Blair warning to Cameron

Blair, not an amateur politician, of course, is not the only politician who has struggled in the face of a deep state. Many leaders in other countries have faced the same opposition for decades.

The deep state, historically, appeared in Turkey in 1923 when Kemal Ataturk, the father of Turkey’s secular state, founded a shadowy organisation, ‘Diren Develt’ (literally means deep state), tasked with doing everything that could be done secretly to preserve the secular structure of government, including assassinations of opposition figures and over the years staged numerous coups to keep the status quo.

The Diren Devlet’s work continued long after Ataturk’s death. One of its most infamous works is the September 1980 coup by the chief of staff General Kenan Evren that toppled the elected government led by Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel, nine months after he and the army issued a stern public warning to the government and political parties to stop the political conflicts between right and leftist parties that led to street riots, which he said was posing an existential threat to the republic. Evren and the military deep state’s oppressive rule continued until 1989. He amended the constitution to give the military sweeping powers and impunity that virtually made them unaccountable. However, he was tried and convicted in 2014 after the new government scrapped those constitutional changes.

The copies of Turkish experience

The Turkish experience, mind you, was copied in some way or other by several Arab countries, in which the army and usually a single ruling party worked hand in hand to ensure their firm grip on power. We have seen that in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria in which the military, the political elite, the corrupt bureaucracy and greedy merchant class all worked together to ensure power rests with those who know better what is good for the country.

Some historians argue that the Algeria’s bloody civil war in 1990 was an attempt by Islamist parties to overthrow the deep state. However, they failed because of their extreme views and ruthless methods which included beheadings of rivals. That turned the public opinion against them, which led to the reinstating of the military rule. In Lebanon, for example, the deep state consists of the corrupt political class that seems to be immune to change despite the tireless attempts of the people in the past 30 years.

Trump’s case may seem more complicated. His supporters don’t, at least for the time being, pointing the military as part of what they describe as the deep state’s efforts to unseat the president. The supporters, including senior Republicans, so far accused the ‘liberal elite’ which constitutes the backbone of the anti-Trump deep state.

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In a leaked memo, published by Foreign Policy (August 10, 2017), National Security Council staffer Rich Higgins wrote that President Trump was being attacked because he represented “an existential threat to cultural Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing cultural narrative.” According to the seven-page document, which found its way quickly to the president’s desk, according to Foreign Policy, those threatened by Trump include ‘deep state’ actors, globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans.” That is one hell of a dream team.

Higgin’s imagination may have run wild. But there is a deep state that is opposed to Trump. That’s sure. There is, in fact, some sort of a deep state in every country, which works hard to ensure stability and sustain the status quo. The challenge of a society is to ensure that these elements, unlike the Turkish example, remain accountable to the law and work within the constitutional framework. There is no conspiracy here. Only then, such a group will come up the surface.

As for Trump, it is plain and simple. The American people voted him out because they wanted an end to unprecedented chaos in the top office of the country. They simply wanted a better leadership. Only an arrogant president whose ego is bigger than his country, and some lunatic right-wing conspiracy theorists supporters fail to see that.