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The deep state and democratic institutions

by John MacBeath Watkins

Does a 'deep state' threaten a republic, or actually strengthen it?

One of the complaints of Trump supporters is that the deep state -- a sort of Praetorian Guard that controls who will rule and how -- has frustrated Donald Trump's efforts to remake American government.

This is a fascinating claim. The Praetorian Guard was an elite corps of the Roman army tasked with protecting the emperor. Over the centuries, their power increased, to the point where they were either killing emperors and naming their successors (Caligula, dead, Claudius, emperor) or signalling their support for who would rule after an emperor died (Claudius poisoned, Nero supported for emperor.)

But these were not bureaucrats, nor were they equivalent to the lightly-armed Secret Service. In the reign of Tiberius, there were nine cohorts of 4,500 soldiers each in the Praetorian Guard, three of them stationed in Rome and the others nearby.

The deep state of our time is supposed to …

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