The ‘Deep State’ Exists to Battle People Like TrumpRoundup
tags: Trump, deep state, bureaucracy
Margaret O’Mara is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and a history professor at the University of Washington in Seattle.
For the last two weeks, diplomats have been walking through secure doors in the basement of the United States Capitol, defying the objection of their politically appointed superiors as they answer questions from members of the House impeachment inquiry.
The inquiry itself began in response to a whistle-blower who raised alarms about the administration’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes. That whistle-blower is a C.I.A. officer who seems to be, like many of those testifying, a career civil servant.
The president and his allies have responded with fury. Those damning testimonials are part of a political vendetta by “Never Trumper” bureaucrats, members of a “deep state” bent on undermining the will of the people, they assert.
But what is this “deep state”? Far from being a tool of political corruption, the Civil Service was created to be an antidote to the very kind of corruption and self-dealing that seems to plague this administration.
The question of who gets to serve in government has been a live one since the earliest days of the republic. In 1829, President Andrew Jackson, newly inaugurated, tossed out officials who had served under his predecessor and rival John Quincy Adams, filling the executive branch with Democratic Party loyalists instead. “Rotation in office” was central to Jackson’s vision of egalitarian democracy — a way, he said, to transform federal service from the domain of a complacent elite into a vigorous voice of the people.
Conveniently, the practice also strengthened party power, as grateful appointees directed chunks of their government salaries as “assessments” to party coffers. “To the victor belong the spoils of the enemy,” one Jackson ally quipped. The spoils system was born.
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