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DeSantis' Miscalculation Exposes Right to Counterattack
Hello Readers! This newsletter is less measured and more polemical than usual — the stakes in the battle to save American democracy are higher, and the time left to to do so grows ever shorter.
We’ve got two pieces for you here: The first — “DeSantis Bombs in Martha’s Vineyard Regional Political Theater Debut,“ details DeSantis’ criminal miscalculation in kidnapping asylum seekers and trafficking them to Massachusetts; the second — “Better Days Ahead,” outlines precisely how progressives can take advantage of a unique opportunity to seize the initiative and begin righting the ship of democracy.
DeSantis Bombs in Martha’s Vineyard Regional Political Theater Debut
On September 14, a chartered plane touched down in Martha’s Vineyard. On board were 48 migrants, deceived into unwittingly participating in a grotesque stunt designed to boost the fortunes of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Actually, scratch that. Stunt isn’t really the right word. This was a human trafficking operation. This was a kidnapping. This was a crime committed by a leading figure in the Republican Party. And through this singular instance of media-ready fascist posturing, we can clearly understand the present and future threats faced by the United States.
Let’s start with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, considered by many the leading contender to assume the mantle of leadership of the MAGA movement in the event Trump is no longer on the scene.
Since April of this year, DeSantis has been locked into a head-to-head human rights abuse competition with Governor Abbott of Texas, shipping migrants by bus to so-called “Blue Cities” throughout the United States. That’s in addition to Ron’s endorsement of book banning, his calls to roll back reproductive rights, his signing of “Don’t Say Gay,” his gerrymandering, his COVID denial. Since assuming office in Florida with the slimmest of majorities, DeSantis has tacked far right, and hasn’t looked back since.
That evangelical Christians have embraced Ron DeSantis tells you everything you need to know about what it is that truly motivates this bloc. It’s not a strict adherence to the actual teachings of their main guy, that’s for sure. One finds it hard to imagine that Jesus Christ would have come down on the side of ‘tricking migrants in order to make a grotesque spectacle out of their plight.’
DeSantis must continually prove himself to the base of the Republican Party, a grotesque pulsating mob animated only by violence, spectacle, hate, owning the libs, and racial grievance. Ron thinks he’s going to be president one day. As such, he’s gotta give these goons the meat they’re looking for.
Here’s where things get interesting: this didn’t work out the way DeSantis wanted it to. DeSantis thought he would come out of this having burnished his bullying bona fides; instead he ended up making himself more vulnerable politically. Interestingly, although there were a few horse race stories here or there, the media did a better than usual job conveying the criminality and corruption of the flight.
The people of Martha’s Vineyard rallied together and helped the migrants - providing food and shelter and neutralizing DeSantis’ attempts to paint them as hypocritical on immigration. Democratic lawmakers made hay. And a growing list of legal troubles grounded future kidnapping flights for the foreseeable future.
DeSantis has illustrated a key point: fascists in this country don’t have all the pieces in place quite yet to completely discard electoral politics. The Abbotts and the DeSantises and the Mastrianos still have to get a few votes - while at the same time, the strongest energy within their movement is drawn from its lawless elements. The book banners, the school board shouters. This makes their electoral path a little trickier, providing an opening for a strong pushback to damage the ascendance of people like DeSantis.
What specifically makes the right vulnerable is the continuing need, or perceived need, on the part of its prominent players to ‘one up’ each other and their previous selves to keep the channels filled — they can’t fill them with any ‘going back’ or backing down stuff - so we can and should expect more of this - and exploit it through strategy.
If we are expecting more of this, and prepared by strategy to address it forcefully, we can then immediately condemn it and pressure friendly prosecutors who will also haven been forewarned and forearmed. Prosecutors can then move more quickly —which is critical to the sense and actuality of achieving real justice and blunting the right’s impunity — and turning around the feeling that the right keeps getting away with everything.
It is in the pace of action in which the right’s strategy and momentum are most acutely felt and in their favor - thus effective planning and preparation for their inevitable actions will have significant benefit to the left.
The reality is that the right’s strategy relies to a large extent on indifference and a splintering of the opposition. There are more of us than there are of them, and with the right strategy, we can force and exploit more failures just like DeSantis’ in the future.
Better Days Ahead
I’m writing this, literally, in the middle of Hurricane Ian, locked down in our Orlando home, and hoping beyond hope we don’t have to make an insurance claim when it’s over. And when I take my mind off that admittedly petty concern, I’m jolted back to reality by thoughts like our erstwhile Governor DeSantis kidnapping and politically trafficking powerless people, and dropping them off into the front yards of people whose subsequent compassion he could not have imagined -- because it is so alien to him and the 40% of Americans who have proven themselves not worthy of that title by their support of Trump, authoritarianism, racism, misogyny and hypocrisy. And I am ashamed.
But like my fellow inveterately optimistic -- but periodically depressed -- fellow Real American Bruce Springsteen, I see “better days shining through.” Here’s the vision for better days and how we enact it.
This is an essay, aimed to convince, and thus not at all like the usual intelligence analyses we publish. But it is backed up by the exact same systems, intelligence, and historical analyses we use for our intelligence work, and the primary author majored in International Relations and has had highly successful careers in the Army and the Department of Homeland Security.
What are the problems we aim to solve, and what do we hope to achieve?
Taking the latter first, we seek a global human transformation and the establishment of a world in which everyone can flourish unimpeded by others’ deliberate attempts to retard them for their own ends.
But first, we have to survive the political hurricane facing the United States. Then we have to prevent future self-inflicted storms. Finally, we must figure out how we extricate ourselves from the dystopian treadmill we seem to accept as inevitable.
Anticipating your argument that while things may look bad right now, the overall arc is towards the good: Our systems analyses indicate that no dynamic currently in place gets us out of the vicious cycles we’ve created and accepted – be they technology – demographics – economics – religion -- or even the teleological ‘arc of history.’ Put another way, there ain’t no cavalry riding in to save us.
Incremental change and small wins won’t get us there either. Granted, we must start somewhere, and we can’t do everything at once. But if we think small and non-strategically – as we have been doing in the U.S.for the last 50 years – everything good we do achieve that is not laterally reinforced and expanded has time to get corrupted, which blunts its momentum, then gets reversed by the rich and powerful through their characterization of it as corrupt -- even though they corrupted it!
No, transformation must be evidence-driven, strategically-directed, system-wide, whole-of-society, long term – and continuous. There is no third way – we either establish escape velocity from our current destructive pathway or it’s all over.
The alternative – doing what we’re doing now, accepting the current trajectory towards worse – is pathetically suicidal, and is us turning our backs on the sacrifices of those we came before us and condemning those who come after us to sub-optimal lives. And all because we lacked the virtues of courage, integrity, and foresight. I’m not going down with that as my epitaph.
What is to be done? We break this section into two parts: First, Political Theory, and second, Action and Agency.
Political Theory. Anticipating your potential attempt to categorize our approach as an “ism,” be it communism, socialism, communitarianism, whatever – and thus safely ignore our recommendations – let’s be clear on my background and motivations. I served in the Army and Federal Government and am now starting up my fourth commercial sector company. Thus my bona fides and fidelity to America should not be in question. Second, re political theory, I went back to the basics in preparation for this article – to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics – who wrote long before their theories were captured, tarnished and/or perverted by the political “isms” deployed by all the selfish strivers seeking theoretical cover for their power grabs.
The “Meta” Rights. The rights to self-determination, self-expression and self-actualization exist before and above their enshrinement into law and protection by a government. To aver otherwise is to negate them, and generate a never-ending cycle of degradation in which a good idea gets systemically corrupted while maintaining its sociopolitical legitimacy. It is a bowing down to a deeply hierarchical meme that is inimical to liberty and self-determination and therefore inherently self-defeating.
The same is true with what we call representative democracy. Underlying support for representative democracy is a tacit acceptance of an ordained human hierarchy comprised of multiple tiers of relative human value. Even within this system – the best political system we have every put into action -- corruption is inevitable – it just takes longer to set in and is naturally camouflaged by our own myths and denial.
We get to want what we want, abundantly. Our wants should only be bounded by the rights and wants of others. To fail to want, or to let others limit us due to their fears or immaturity, is why we’re here and not in a much better place already. It is the repression of natural desire through religion, culture and coercion that gives rise to bad behavior – most especially unmerited power seeking and control over others – not its expression.
Thusly, we center our individual and willingly accepted collective aspirations to drive policy – unmediated by myth and propaganda.
All this said, the first thing we require in this transformation is an understanding of the current dynamics and vicious cycles, followed by participative democracy replacing representative democracy in large part -- except where representation is necessitated to optimize process and regulated by the people through participative democracy mechanisms -- followed by enshrinement of all this by legal and institutional guardrails.
Every level of government is directly accountable to the people also through unbounded votes of no confidence -- there are no guaranteed terms of office. People own all the regulatory agencies – not the executive.
We get to live free from the fear of arbitrary and unanswerable government action, to live free of the fear of losing what we have fought for – of going backwards – which means we need to enroll everyone into this ethos – not just a simple majority – and sanction those not on board in proportion to their actions as part of the justice system – because without that there is no justice system.
Action and Agency. Since I can only speak for myself or risk being more of the problem -- these ideas are exemplars – not imperatives. But they seem like a good start to us based on our experience, research, and analyses.
The people, through mechanisms of participative democracy and based on evidence, determine and establish policy objectives. It is then the job of what we now call “the government” to steer us to achieving them optimally. The performance of the government is the people’s business, not the “self-licking ice cream cone” it is now.
We deserve and demand evidence for everything, so data and its analysis must be people-owned.
We demand that corporations no longer be considered persons with extra legal protections. The establishment of protected and unaccountable corporations is one of the biggest unacknowledged mistakes of the modern world, and the cause of untold misery.
We posit that Justice must come first in the sequence of things that must get done in the transformation. The people will set up the justice system agenda and monitor it. The Supreme Court will be that of the people – all other magistrates are subject to it – not the other way around as we have it now. Justice and Law Enforcement resources will be allocated proportionally to the impact of crime – no other considerations will apply.
Using robust participative democracy and objective evidence, the people will appropriately balance compassion and incentives in all areas, starting with the social safety net and taxation. The reason all the “isms” go awry – including capitalism, is that they substitute leaders’ biased, capricious, and arbitrary interpretations of ideology for evidence.
Access to scarce goods must be truly merit-based and evidence-driven, and long term, scarce goods need to be made abundant. This would include most prominently advanced schooling, advanced technology, capital, entertainment, publishing, and press., whose current access restrictions prevent self-actualization for all but a select few now.
Foreign policy and defense are not exempt from the people’s control in our transformed system either -- and also must be evidence-driven – we don’t outsource these functions any more than we do domestic policy.
Critically, our future citizens must be more engaged, tougher, smarter, and more compassionate – and this pathway includes not just school, but must also extend into things like mandatory, multi-option national service. In other words, we need to enroll the vast majority of citizens in this effort, and the mechanisms for doing so now either don’t exist or are woefully inadequate.
Enrolling means education – which is people -- not government – controlled. We exercise such control with great care – guiding our education system towards making the system work for all – not just the elites.
Unfortunately, everything we do is globally and systemically connected -- which complexifies all this to another level. But what is the alternative? One example of the depth of this challenge: We all have the right to move to a place from where we live now to a place we perceive will allow us to thrive. This means, first, changes to our beliefs about immigration — and then our laws. That’s going to be pretty tough right there.
But we also deserve not to have to start over economically and “credentially” when we emigrate Indeed, if our country and world are truly merit-based, we would each start off in our new chosen land with the same level of respect and work qualifications and net worth as we had in our previous life. That’s going to be exceptionally difficult to get done socially and legally. But we feel it’s critical to this discussion to point out some of the aspects of our utopian vision that might not naturally occur to readers.
We the people permit and regulate technology – because its influence is both profound and subtle.
Look, this is not a quixotic quest to “fix everything that’s wrong,” or to fix human nature. That’s the thinking that leads to pessimism and dystopia. This is about allowing ourselves to want what we want, to live our best lives, to thrive today while we’re all still striving for something better yet out there. Unleashing that energy is what we need to jolt the global socioeconomic system out of its inferior equilibria and enable it to find a better one, to reset the pessimistic outlook so many share, to stop the vicious cycles that continue to further separate the haves from the have nots – and to make everyone’s life worth living.
In conclusion, we anticipate your argument that we are describing something unachievable and thus not worth attempting. So much so that in the U.S., most people would consider the terms utopia and unachievable as synonymous. That said, we do describe a type of utopia, and argue further that our type of utopia has not been tried and failed – it’s never been tried at scale, which is what we are advocating. Utopia has gotten such a bad name as a deliberate results of the right’s propaganda machine that most people feel to even seek something better than what we have will backfire, which is irrational, unproven and belies historical data. It’s dystopia that repeatedly fails, yet we keep calling it back.