Republicans Have Engineered a Dystopia to Get What They Want
Let’s Flip the Script and Get What We Need
The good news? Unfortunately, there isn’t much. We’ll get to it in due course though.
The recent American Left/Democratic victories are not signs of some inevitable swing back to “normal politics,” or a measure of the left’s momentum, or even a sign that we’ve blunted the right’s power decisively. In fact, the national level legislative wins should be disheartening to us – because they highlight what could have been happening for the past two years but hasn’t. If Schumer deserves 10% of the accolades he’s receiving for the Inflation Reduction Act, then he deserves 90% of the discredit for the failure to do anything else meaningful while riding a majority in both Houses.
The Inflation Reduction Act is a flail pretending to be a victory. It does nothing mandatory, does nothing immediately, would have limited effects if its provisions actually come to pass, it doesn’t grease a path towards more and better, and it can be easily reversed by a Republican President. In fact, a cynical person might conclude that these are the very reasons it was allowed to pass. The world is on fire and we’ve dragged out a 50-foot sprinkler hose attached to a watering can. Look, I’ve been a practitioner all my life – responding to demanding customers. No way in hell I go to them with this solution and tell them “it works.”
The glimmer of hope we choose to highlight here – as an exemplar – is the recent vote on the Kansas Abortion Amendment. A decisive majority of Kansans -- 59% -- voted to keep abortion legal. This action illustrates what inspired and mobilized citizens can achieve when vectored onto an issue and specific path. We’ll pick up this thread at the end of this piece.
Before we talk about how we make things better, let’s get a good fix on what’s wrong and where things stand in the U.S., using the lenses of social policy, politics, economics, and health. Our analyses indicate that these domains are characterized by and, in fact, dominated by, the following issues:
Social Policy. The rise of Fear and Hate; and the concomitant fall of Courage and Hope. The loss of any sense of the sacred. The growing lack of commitment and personal accountability. The loss of meaningful acknowledgement of the contributions, suffering, privation, and sacrifices of others, current and past – much less the gumption, sacrifice and selfless service required to validate and compensate for them. The rise of selfishness and indifference to the suffering, needs and rights of others.
The mere existence of Trumpism, Christofascism, Right Wing Media, and White Christian Nationalism; and tolerance of them by the mainstream, and the monetization of them by the right and the press. Declining College Enrollment Rates. Tolerance, even a romanticism of, organized crime. Increase in narcissism rates.
The abysmal adult literacy rate and related lack of critical thinking skills among most citizens. Attacks on the transgender community. Attacks on teaching about systemic Racism. Mass incarceration. Systemic Racism and a racist immigration System.
Ineffective, rogue, unjust law enforcement and anemic criminal justice system. The cowardice of the Mainstream Liberal Press. Sprawl and dispiriting public spaces and unequal access to the better spaces. Non-merit access and access restrictions to truly scarce goods and upward mobility paths, and the idiotic acceptance of upward mobility as a positive concept in the first place. Existence and acceptance of sub-standard living conditions.
Lionization of the military. Look, I’m a Veteran. We don’t want you to stand up and applaud us at sporting events. We want you to join us in meaningful service -- formal or informal – of the nation and its democracy. Your applause is the performative outsourcing of your commitment – thus we find it appalling.
Politics. Unhealthy, non-responsive political party system and structural barriers to fixing it. Structural shortcomings with systemic effects in our democratic system - Senate, Supreme Court, etc. Embrace of Neoliberalism disguised as Capitalism, and Capitalism disguised as secular religion. Unequal justice outcomes. Extremism of the Republican Party. Gerrymandering. Legislative Branch Dysfunction. Lobbying/Lobbyists. Unlimited dark money and systemic corruption.
Inequitable contribution to, and indifference to, Global Environmental Degradation. Book banning. Sub-standard mass transit. Crumbling infrastructure. Unequal Educational Opportunity.
Economics. Severe income inequality. Lack of meaningful market competition – as exemplified by corporate consolidations and true monopolies. Amoral tech companies running amok, and unregulated corporate media. Inequitable Tax Policy. Elimination of Defined Pensions. Lack of Livable/Minimum Wage. Lack of any strategies or willingness to address the market externalities generated by network effects, rapidly scaled networks and systems, big data, and AI.
Health. Declining life expectancy. World’s biggest abusers of prescription and illicit drugs. World’s Highest Medical Costs but far from best care and outcomes (#1 cause of bankruptcy is medical bills; #1 use of Go Fund Me is medical bills). Lack of universal health care and wildly unequal health outcomes.
Why the quasi-exhaustive list, we’re already depressed, right? It’s because every one of these challenges matters to every one of us no matter how remote it may seem or low priority we perceive it. They are all connected in our sociopolitical system, and while the list must be strategically prioritized for action – we must remain appalled by, and energized to resolve, every remaining item on the list until we’ve achieved the type of society we can be proud of, and that our forebears and descendants deserve.
The reason the challenges can’t be allowed to fester – as we have done since the 1960s in large measure, is that the bad things don’t stand alone or stand pat. They aren’t inert. Rather, they are corrosive – in that they encourage bad actors, and they generate and accelerate vicious cycles that make it ever more difficult to reverse as time goes by.
A society/polity is either progressing or regressing. Our data, analysis and modeling all indicate that the U.S. is not only regressing, but that the rate of regression is accelerating. Having Democrats in charge of both the Executive and Legislative branches is not enough to overcome the structural advantages favoring the right, and the powerful, well-funded strategy it has been pursuing for close to 60 years – because the vicious cycles are doubly powerful – their effects are systemic yet also largely hidden behind a wall of complexity and disinformation.
If you don’t know about all of these in detail, and don’t have the courage and competence to help change all of them, you’re not helping the cause. And this is the crux of the challenge we face. The battle is asymmetric as we have pointed out multiple times. The right’s foot soldiers can be ignorant – in fact, it’s better for their cause that they are. But the left’s army must be smart – real smart. Every soldier on the left needs to have a working understanding of systems and data science, well-developed critical thinking skills, and the ability to use multiple reasoning modes. Doesn’t seem fair, and that’s the point. This is the beauty of the right’s strategy – it turns our best instincts against us, takes advantages of our weaknesses, and pins us up against our own principles.
Here's how we flip the script.
First, Republicans aren’t 10 feet tall. Their momentum doesn’t make them any more plentiful or smarter. It’s that they’ve taken a strategic approach, sustained it with the perseverance only massive sums of money can buy, and created an aura of impunity that dispirits the left.
They are conducting a long-term revolution that was punctuated by a premature, amateurish coup. It will turn out that Trump was the worst thing that happened to the right’s long-term strategy and cause. They were steadily getting what they wanted below the radar, but because of Trump’s megalomania and narcissism, they now must support a vector that has made all their evil desires manifest.
But the revolution continues apace – and they will re-calibrate to the existence of Trumpism rapidly and effectively unless we intervene. Trump and Trumpism are the right’s kryptonite – if we insist on equal justice under the law and smash their system of impunity, we can turn the tide. Therefore, Trump and his Capos must be charged, prosecuted, convicted, imprisoned, disgraced, bankrupted, and disempowered.
If the right can develop a strategy and stick to it for sixty years, so can we. After all, what we have helped build has taken thousands of years with multiple detours and steps back. We owe it to those who came before us, and will come after us, to bear our part of the burden. Here’s what the burden entails:
First, a strategy. The Democrats still lack a comprehensive governing strategy. They erroneously believe that their electoral strategy suffices – although it is obvious to almost everyone that they cannot translate it into any sort of legislative majority.
Job one within the strategy is the immediate creation of an overarching meta-organization combining the forces of all the major progressive organizations, and their agreement to prioritize the preservation of democracy and the pursuit of justice over their own goals. This group must then touch, support, inspire, educate, mobilize, and vector the liberal majority to place continuous pressure on all aspects of the vicious cycles, thereby jolting the American socio-political system out of its current equilibrium, reversing the right’s momentum.
We detail many of the required actions in the previously referenced article, but some key actions include challenging Republican and Blue Dog Democratic officeholders in every race, getting on school boards and attending meetings regularly, holding and attending rallies and marches, pressuring elected officials to do their jobs, and using our money to signal our intent through boycotts and political donations.
At the risk of appearing philosophical, the wrong that exists does so because good people tolerate it. Some people do benefit from it, but many, many more suffer because of it. Justice will not be handed down or achieved by the passage of time – it must be relentlessly sought and fought for, then defended. We will not have a true democracy unless we seek justice all day, every day. We must deliberately emplace virtuous cycles to prevent the vicious – a lesson we are unfortunately learning – hopefully not too late.