Malin Moench: Mitt Romney’s critics have the ‘Deep State’ backwards

It was the Trump administration that brought the Deep State to power.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Members of Move-On staged a rally outside the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building to encourage Sen. Mitt Romney to vote to impeach former President Donald Trump, Feb. 12, 2021.

Misinformation and misconceptions seem to be the driving force behind just about everything the Utah Republican Party does these past few years, and the move to censure Sen. Mitt Romney is no exception. 

Romney is assailed for recognizing that the “stolen election” is an evidence-free lie that motivated Donald Trump’s supporters to resort to violence to undo the constitutional process that elected the new Administration. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell also recognized the big lie for what it was, he just didn’t have enough backbone to act in accordance with what he knew, the way that Romney did.

The censure motion circulating within the party smears Romney as an “Agent of the Deep State.” Thanks to Steve Bannon, the Republican Party borrowed the concept that America is run by a Deep State, and got it completely backwards. 

Originally, the Deep State concept did not refer to skilled bureaucrats like safety inspectors for working for the FAA or epidemiologists working for the Center for Disease Control persisting with the work they were hired to do despite the attempts of politicians to interfere.

The notion that America is run by a state within a state — one that operates free from political accountability — came from an article that ex-CIA agent Philip Giraldi published in The American Conservative magazine in 2015 entitled “Deep State America.” His thesis was that there is an elite corps of generals, bankers and corporate titans who walk continually through the revolving door between their firms and the top positions of the federal government, who make the nation’s policy decisions in their own, rather than the nation’s interests. He provided convincing evidence that this Deep State exists.

Properly understood, the Trump Administration produced the Deepest State America has ever had. Trump’s first presidential campaign was financed almost entirely by the billionaire Mercer family. As their reward, Trump let the Mercers pick almost all of the top personnel in his Administration. 

His five main economic and domestic policy posts went to Goldman Sachs executives (Stephen Bannon, Steve Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, James Donovan and Dina Powell). Also, at the direction of the Mercers, he turned control of the EPA, the Interior Department and the Bureau of Land Management over to top fossil fuel executives.

In other words, despite his populist rhetoric, Trump put the Deep State in charge of everything that mattered, and he did it openly. The result was government of the people by the billionaires, for the billionaires.  A case in point was the 2017 tax cut, 83% of which went to the top 1% of earners, including wider loopholes for hedge fund owners, those passing multi-million dollar estates to their children, and corporations shipping their profits overseas.

Romney, co-founder of Bain Capital, governor of Massachusetts and ex-presidential candidate, entered the Senate having much in common with the Deep State. At this pivotal moment, however, he has chosen principle over political expediency and self-interest, unlike 43 other Republican senators. 

By opposing Trump’s attempts to use violence to subvert our democracy, he has chosen to stand with the public and against the Deep State. For that, apparently, Utah’s Republican Party will never forgive him.

Malin Moench

Malin Moench, Holladay, has degrees in law and economics. He spent 37 years in economic regulation at the federal level. In retirement, he volunteers for a number of Utah environmental organizations.