The American Deep State

27 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2018 Last revised: 16 Feb 2018

See all articles by Jon D. Michaels

Jon D. Michaels

University of California, Los Angeles - School of Law

Date Written: January 31, 2018


Given the mood of the nation, there is good reason to reject the very premise of an American deep state. This is especially true so long as the concept serves primarily as fodder for conspiracy-mongering and fuel for the domestic culture wars. Yet such a wholesale rejection of the "deep state" label comes at the expense of accuracy, nuance, and opportunity. In truth, we do have—and have long enjoyed—bureaucratic depth. And Donald Trump, more than any other president, has brought into relief its legal and political raisons d'être.

This Essay insists that the American deep state has very little in common with those regimes—think Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan—usually understood to harbor deep states; that, far from being shadowy or elitist, the American bureaucracy is very much a demotic institution, demographically diverse, highly accountable, and lacking financial or caste incentives to subvert popular will; that demotic depth of the American variety should be celebrated, not feared; and that, going forward, we need greater not lesser depth insofar as the American bureaucracy serves an important, salutary, and quite possibly necessary role safeguarding our constitutional commitments and enriching our public policies.

Keywords: administrative law, constitutional law, bureaucracy, civil service, deep state, culture wars, comparative constitutional law

Suggested Citation

Michaels, Jon D., The American Deep State (January 31, 2018). 93 Notre Dame Law Review 2018 (Symposium Issue), UCLA School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 18-04, Available at SSRN:

Jon D. Michaels (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics