Revelatur Newsletter Volume 2 November 26, 2020
How Democrats Can Seize the Initiative
“Darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear” Amy Ray and Emily Saliers
This newsletter contains four articles that explode and update content introduced in our Revelatur | Vector® October 2020 National Election Report. Comments and discussion are encouraged https://www.revelatur.com/post/vector-report-october-2020
Primis: Why Democrats Must Secure Justice First, or Forfeit Democracy Forever
Introduction: We forcefully advocate that President Biden and Congressional Democrats not execute the usual “Chinese menu” political platform between now and 2022. That is what Republicans hope they do and are planning for. Pursuit of multiple disparate policy objectives without first building a new foundation of justice will likely result in the failure of all Democratic policy objectives, and Democrats losing the House in 2022 and the Presidency in 2024.
Rather, we advocate for the introduction of what is known in the systems domain as “well-structured noise” to jolt the current national political power dynamic out of its Republican-favoring equilibrium, and reverse the vicious cycles favoring Republicans. Specifically, we believe the following course of action has the highest probability of securing the initiative for Democrats, best protecting Democracy, and forcing Republicans to adopt a strategy that is less corrosive to Democracy: the promulgation of a phased domestic political (as distinct from governance platform, distinction explained below) platform with only one near-term plank–justice; with the plank divided into two components:
1. First, an extraordinary and comprehensive justice tribunal process in which every Republican ecosystem lawbreaker is identified and prosecuted. This action directly attacks the Republican center of gravity, reduces ecosystem power, ties Republican resources down that then can’t be used “offensively,” and enables Democrats to seize the strategic initiative and control the narrative. Just as importantly, this action satisfies the national demand for justice, prevents pent up demand from turning into revenge, and re-establishes the concept of equal treatment under the law. This tribunal must attempt to bring charges against Trump and all culpable: family members; Senators and Congressmen; Cabinet members; politically-appointed government officials; lawyers; financiers -- at the cost of every other “going forward” political platform plank. Contrary to the majority of pundits, it is not the better part of magnanimity to forgive Republican criminality and “move on” -- it is the entirety of cowardice and irresponsibility to do so.
2. Second, criminal justice reform. We are deliberately not overly prescriptive in this plank because there are multiple great policy ideas in play already, and we have not analyzed or modeled the likely effects of discrete policies. That said, our systems analysis indicates that what will be most meaningful to the Democratic coalition are laws and policies that seek equality under the law. We suggest that this basket would include such things as: providing equal attention and resources to so-called “white collar” crime as that devoted to other categories; equality in bail, sentencing and parole for equivalent crimes; and equitable policing in terms of police force demographics, geographic patrol presence, citizen detentions and arrests. The intent is twofold: first, by addressing the central issue of the driving energy in the coalition Democrats keep the faith, provide hope, and maintain newfound but potentially fleeting momentum. Second, to shift criminal justice resourcesback from their current focus on social power and control, engendering citizen fear of each other, revenue collection, out-group intimidation, and political positioning -- tothe classic liberal conception of justice’s primary function as the securing of equality of rights.
We understand that Democrats have a fully loaded post-victory agenda, and that their published political platform must include all of their supporters’ aspirations. We realize that basic governance such as responding effectively to Covid-19 and its effects, the conduct of foreign policy, and the immediate reversal of Trump’s execrable executive orders -- must be prioritized. However, Federal, State and Local government agencies are quite capable of re-establishing good governance and we recommend they be primarily relied on for this work, freeing the Administration, Congress and progressive organizations to focus on the justice agenda.
As we’ve written previously, the justice agenda is a component of a broader proposed Administration/Democratic three-phased strategy and platform. We advocate starting with justice (Phase 1), vectoring all progressive energy in into that one area, and not moving from that objective until it is in hand. Phase 2 addresses structural problems, and our proposed program is detailed in a companion article in this newsletter.
Unfortunately, we see the necessity to hold off until Phase 3 the very worthy objectives of the Green New Deal, infrastructure enhancement, tax system overhaul, unemployment reform, etc. Not because they are not important -- but precisely because they are. If Democrats do not seize the political initiative, control the narrative and decimate the Republicans’ System of Impunity there will never be a Green New Deal, or it will be smothered at birth. The path to doing so is strewn with obstacles but starting with the justice platform gives us the best chance of getting there.
We base these prescriptions on comprehensive intelligence and systems analysis we conducted in 2020 leading up the elections -- analyses which indicated that this course of action has the highest probability of both shifting the balance of power in Democrats’ direction and enabling the progressive agenda.
Discussion: There are three primary reasons we recommend that Democrats adopt a justice-first agenda in January 2021. The first is defensive and somewhat negative but nonetheless crucial -- the Republican System of Impunity must be smashed and prevented from re-constituting.
The right’s long-term, norms-eroding strategy has enabled their seamless migration from criminal-adjacent activity to a full embrace of criminality. As with white-collar crime, Republicans have largely avoided behavior-altering consequences for their actions. Its more recent deployment of a comprehensive System of Impunity modeled after authoritarians and organized criminal networks has prevented Trump and his loyal collaborators from directly facing even the meager risks and sanctions his predecessors were exposed to. Critically, the Republican Impunity System is networked into a global authoritarian ecosystem. So what? The priority long-term objective of this global autocratic ecosystem is the elimination of the U.S. as a force for accountability to the rule of law -- because this is the primary obstacle to total global impunity. Thus all elements of the system are now focused on this one macro objective. Not to fight back vigorously against this threat to Democracy is to capitulate and doom the planet to the combined systemic effects of neoliberalism, late capitalism, unregulated surveillance capitalism technologies, and global climate change.
Notably, Trump and the current Republican Party operate exactly as do authoritarian governments and transnational criminal organizations -- a fact we pointed out some 18 months ago, as has Gaslit Nation and Seth Abramson. Merely being in the same ecosystem with organized criminals results in ever-increasing levels of corruption as it sets in place a vicious cycle of accumulating violations of law that must in turn be covered up, and an ever-increasing number of ecosystem players that must be both bought off and protected.
The second reason for the limited agenda is to save Democrats from themselves and their desire to be all things to all people, all at the same time. This propensity reflects a certain immaturity and lack of discipline and rigor unbefitting a national political party. Democratic party officials hide this shortcoming by claiming it takes all those poles to hold up the “big tent.” We need fewer excuses, better poles, and the ability to for everybody to agree on which is the “long pole in the tent.”
When I attended college (Carter was President when I started) and studied political science some key findings emerging then were that: only exceptionally focused American Presidential political agendas get enacted, most agenda enactment happens immediately following elections, any changes in law or policy become infinitely harder to generate as time goes by between elections. Things today are far worse. Republicans offer no legislative agenda whatsoever, and Democrats have moved so far to the right they make Nixon look like a liberal in comparison. Due to legislative gridlock, it will take everything Democrats and progressives can bring to the fight to get anything done; if they split resources amongst multiple agenda items and pursue them simultaneously none but the most centrist and acceptable to Republicans will get achieved.
The third aspect is more positive – in that only justice, of all possible focus areas, can be targeted now and secured cost-effectively with mutually complimentary measures of progress and outcomes; resulting in a decisive shift of political power, initiative and momentum from Republicans to Democrats.
We categorize justice as an index of values, or a “meta-value,” and an attendant domain of action, that are most usefully defined and measured by a “meta-measure” known as an “ideality.” An ideality is the central direction a given domain, field or pursuit moves towards based on its own internal rationality. For instance, technology moves towards cost effectiveness, the commercial sector drives to return on investment in capital, science inches towards ever more complete, robust and complimentary theories, and so forth.
Idealities are most usefully expressed as equations, with those factors we wish to maximize in the numerator, and those we wish to minimize in the denominator. The ideality we posit for justice is: in the numerator – physical safety and security, freedom, equality of opportunity, equality under the law; and in the denominator – inequalities and negative externalities. Improvements in health, happiness, relative and absolute income levels, and reductions in crime, hunger and levels of inequality are all intended outcomes of (a function of) the pursuit of the justice ideality. Note: idealities are neither deterministic as to path nor teleological as to outcome.
To operationalize the justice ideality, we first develop a working computational model of the environment we wish to impact. Then we define optimal outcomes and objectives for each. Next we develop potential new laws and policies and simulate the outcomes of their adoption on the environment. When our model is sufficiently robust to determine that a particular law or policy has a high probability of achieving intended outcomes with acceptable 2nd and 3rd order effects, we enact it. Affordability and return on investment can also be factored into the model, eliminating a potential Republican line of attack. Granted, this process does not by itself solve the problem of political opposition. But its evidence-based nature will galvanize progressive energy, force Republicans to counter with absurdity and falsehoods, and most importantly, enable Democrats to dominate the narrative and maintain the strategic initiative.
Achieving an ideality is not a utopian fantasy, as Republicans will inevitably argue. Rather, it is the rational and explicit elucidation of mutually agreed targets in terms of outcomes, whereas what is going on now is the hidden pursuit of individual and elite agendas, and the capture of political power by those elites in furtherance of their selfish aims. The American right has come very close to achieving its unarticulated ideality (maximum revenue, power and impunity at lowest possible risk) leveraging a demographic minority -- a minority that paradoxically does not benefit but actually suffers from the right’s strategic successes! So don’t try to tell me that the Democratic-progressive majority cannot rally around an explicit justice ideality that clearly benefits its members. That is a defeatist point of view I will never accept.
If the Justice-first platform is not vigorously pursued on a prioritized basis, the Democratic mandate will rapidly disappear, Democrats will lose their House majority in 2022, the Republican System of Impunity will be strengthened, and America will officially become an authoritarian state known euphemistically as a “managed Democracy.” The price to be paid to prevent this -- and it is admittedly a heavy one -- is the deferral of the hopes, dreams and policies of so much of the Democratic coalition until such time as the more basic elements of justice are firmly embedded in the polity in such a manner that they are not subject to erosion in the following election cycles. Winning is going to be a long, ugly process with multiple agenda “casualties.”
Secundus: The (Unfortunate) State of the State:
Americans waited a long time to begin worrying about the health of their Democracy. Belatedly, there’s a great deal of meaningful discussion about whether or nor the U.S. is “still a Democracy,” a “Republic not a Democracy,” and/or whether it is becoming increasingly authoritarian and slipping into a state of “managed Democracy” vice “Representative Democracy.”
Answers are complex and elusive. Partly because we are a politically fractured society with different viewpoints. But also because we waited so long to take civics seriously that the inherent contradictions and unresolved issues in the American systems of governance -- coupled with the pressures of human rights, globalism, technology and negative externalities – created a vicious cycle that threatens to unravel the fragile, long-term, national consensus for “progressive gradualism” perhaps best underpinned by the axiom: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
I posit that we work from the following definitions for this discussion:
Republic– “a form of government in which the country is considered a "public matter," not the private concern or property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are attained through democracy or a mix of democracy with oligarchy or autocracy rather than being unalterably occupied.”
Democracy– “a form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislation. Who people are and how authority is shared among them are core issues for democratic theory, development and constitution;” or “an ideology that helps shape how a government is run.”
Communism– “a philosophical, social, political, economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of a communist society, namely a socioeconomic order structured upon the ideas of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money and the state.”
Socialism– “a political, social and economic philosophy encompassing a range of economic and social systems characterized by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management of enterprises. It includes the political theories and movements associated with such systems.”
Capitalism– “an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, a price system, private property and the recognition of property rights, voluntary exchange and wage labor.”
Liberal– “a political and moral philosophy based on liberty, consent of the governed and equality before the law.”
Conservative– “averse to change or innovation and holding traditional values;” or a person favoring free enterprise, private ownership, and socially traditional ideas.”
Progressivism– “a political philosophy in support of social reform. Based on the idea of progress in which advancements in science, technology, economic development and social organization are vital.”
To establish a basis for characterization, measurement, argumentation, decision and prescription of our political challenges we logically seek to fall back to a common baseline. We posit that this baseline is to large degree tacit, and composed of several touch points that most Americans consider legitimate and authoritative -- if not complete or definitive. These are:
1. The intent of the Founding Fathers
2. Legal – the Constitution and precedent
3. Identity – word and concept definition, typology, taxonomy/classification
I would guess that at least a slight majority of Americans would consider a fourth category as morally legitimate if not completely authoritative, the “aspirational.” Here’s where I would place the “arc of the moral universe” axiom as well as the steady expansion of “rights” in terms both of their number and who may claim them. Conservatives as a rule do not embrace this category, and, in fact, this rejection is what most marks them as “conservative” in terms of this debate.
One challenge we have is that there is no consensus on which of the 3-4 categories ranks the others; and there is no objective, evidence-based, qualitative or quantitative methodology in place to relate them to one another.
Even if you resolve this complex challenge, we no longer have a national consensus on “who” gets to express and “vote on” the things that matter. Conservative voters are so excited about “owning the libs” and reducing their cultural influence that they are increasingly ceding the meager individual power they once had within our representative Democracy in an emotionally satisfying but ultimately Faustian bargain. Progressives are chafing under the constraints of a heavily mediated Democracy in which their individual power too has diminished to a nominal value and their only political party option is increasingly centrist and corrupt. Both parties have become adept at hiding all this behind a veil of rhetoric while still managing to conscript their armies at election time.
The combination of a massively frustrated and divided populace and an inability to agree on current reality -- or even how to measure it -- has crippled us politically, set off multiple vicious cycles and races to the bottom that cannot by easily corrected, and ripped the cover off the delusion that things are getting steadily better. It is clear then that something must be done. But how do we begin to address this wicked problem? So glad you asked.
What we propose is the adoption and execution of a national strategy -- “America 2.0” if you will -- led by the President, developed by a diverse, broad-based Citizen Task Force, that follows the following framework:
1. Vision and Values - Establish a consensus on: what we as Americans want and aspire to be; what type of relationships we aspire to have amongst ourselves and with others; what are the boundaries between us, and what are the sanctions for those who cross them.
2. Lens - Agree to primarily perceive the world from the “practitioner” vice ideological viewpoint. This means discovering “what works” vice arguing endlessly about “what should work.” We were once quite proud of our Yankee Ingenuity, and it may be the one area in which we truly are “exceptional.”
3. Agree on the national organizing principle – “An organizing principle is a core assumption from which everything else by proximity can derive a classification or a value. It is like a central reference point that allows all other objects to be located, often used in a conceptual framework.” The U.S.’ organizing principle currently is capitalism. We did not deliberately select this, we didn’t vote on it, and its adoption has turned the world’s first constitutional democracy into a class system that even the most conservative founding fathers wouldn’t recognize. I suspect the national organizing principle will end up being a “meta value” such as “justice.”
4. Follow a “target-centric” (“a network process where the information flows unconstrained among all participants, who also focus on the objective to create a shared picture of the target”) process. Isn’t this obvious or axiomatic you ask? Well, in the military and commercial sectors, yes. In government, less so. We’ve dumped trillions of dollars into the War on Poverty, the War in Drugs, and the Long War (Counter-terrorism) without ever establishing realistic targets. For positive reference: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth” is a valid “target.” NASA then established the definitive target-centric process to realize Kennedy’s aspiration. space.com, May 20, 2011
5. Establish Effectiveness Measures, Idealities and Supporting Ontologies – Successful organizations establish measurable objectives and processes that tell them where they are in relation to them -- to define reality if you will. There is both art and science to this work, and it’s easy to go wrong with the best of intentions. Without a method for objectively establishing priorities and making tradeoffs amongst goals, we won’t make much progress and will more than likely than engender negative 2nd and 3rd order effects. This is what happened with the Wars on Poverty, Drugs and Terrorism. To prevent this, we must artfully wield two additional heavyweight tools to align our efforts. The first is an “Ideality,” the central direction a given domain, field or pursuit moves towards based on its own internal rationality. For instance, technology moves towards cost effectiveness, the commercial sector drives to return on investment in capital, science inches towards ever more complete, robust and complimentary theories, etc. An ideality is an index or basket of measures linked computationally that enables us to measure the tradeoffs between actions and policies on our ultimate targets and desired outcomes. Combined with prototyping techniques, modeling and simulation, an ideality can enable us to estimate or forecast the effects of proposed policy with some degree of probability. The second tool we must integrate is “ontology,” defined as: “a set of concepts and categories in a subject area or domain that shows their properties and the relations between them” (Oxford English Dictionary). An ontology is in essence a mapping tool that enables domain practitioners to precisely and uniquely define domain terms and entities using a structured process such that their relationships to each other can be logically determined, in turn enabling: the development of robust semantic models, the sharing and transfer of knowledge with fidelity, and the cost effective harnessing of emerging concepts such as Artificial Intelligence.
6. Embrace modern organizational effectiveness practices such as evidence-based decision-making, leading practices, prototyping, modeling and simulation.
7. Introduce Deliberative and Participative Democracy Concepts and Tools Where Appropriate – It is quite clear that legislative gridlock is here to stay, and that American representative Democracy is failing. It is equally apparent from crowdsourcing results and Comparative Government best practices that networking concerned citizens together in a target-centric process can resolve seemingly intractable and complex problems.
8. Get Smarter – The only way to execute a multi-faceted strategy and solve wicked problems is learning. We all -- individually and collectively -- have to know more than we do now about systems, information technology, science, math, modeling and simulation and AI, as well as concepts and fields yet to emerge -- to have a hope and a prayer of getting this done. And we’ve got to bring all Americans – including the deplorable 40% -- along this path, which means a massive investment in formal education and learning incentives that will make the space race look like child’s play in comparison.
How would this work? President Biden commissions a Whole of Community Task Force to elucidate the strategy framework, develop a strategic implementation plan including campaigns, tactics and policies, define required resources, and build the collaborative infrastructure required to execute this effectively. Then as the Special Operations folks like to say: just “get after it every day” until victory is achieved. Just having the right strategy doesn‘t guarantee success, but it will mobilize and energize the Democratic-Progressive ecosystem that will bring it across the goal line.
Are there precedents for such an undertaking? You bet. The Union Civil War effort; Recovery from the Great Depression using the “Great Society” concept, American and Allied World War II strategies, the Marshall Plan, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Moon Landing. They worked because each either had -- or themselves constituted -- a strategy. We’re failing now as a nation because we don’t have one.
The beauty of having a strategy is that you can seize the initiative if you execute vigorously. The beauty of an at least nominally bi-partisan National Strategy is that you steal a march on the right, and force it to defend its opposition to a series of objectives that are clearly the result of evidence-based analysis and just as clearly in the national and majority interest. This forces Republicans to join the effort or expose their hypocrisy. We can speculate on how the right will react: forego participation totally; join and attempt to delay and sabotage; give up and join in willingly. But the thing is, Dems win either way – this is why you go to all these lengths to seize the initiative – to create a series of “heads I win, tails you lose” scenarios that energize your own coalition and enervate the opposition’s.
Is this going to be one of the hardest things we -- or any -- nation has ever done? Without a doubt. Is there an alternative? Not one I’m willing to accept.
Tertium: Structure “Trumps”
The recurring argument within the Democratic Party over why they continue to fail to exploit a clear demographic advantage, and who is responsible for the failure – reanimated by Representatives Tlaib, Jayapal, Ocasio-Cortez, Clyburn, Lamb, Spanberger, Schrader and Veasey following the House’s loss of Democratic seats in the 2020 election, is counter-productive from multiple perspectives.
First, the discord enervates Democratic voters and progressives who are dismayed by the useless finger pointing when there is so much real governance work to be done. Governing is, after all, why we voted for them, and what we pay them for. That work is their job, and it’s high time they grow up and do it like the rest of us have to!
Second, after a long career in the military and national security as an intelligence officer, I know that “the first report is always wrong.” There is not enough information available yet, much less any solid analysis, to provide context for decision-making and the assignment of accountability for the disappointing results.
Third, it’s unseemly and diminishes the dignity and power of the officeholders making the argument – in turn diminishing their political effectiveness.
Fourth, one side of this argument is arguing counter-factually. Based on the evidence available from this and past elections, in the aggregate progressive Democrats harm neither themselves nor their party by their language, political platforms, or demographic. Of course there are districts where being a progressive is death. And there have been some casualties – Democrats who were better candidates and “should” have won but whose districts are Republican locks. But we know those things going in -- they are not surprise outcomes generated by rogue progressive Democrats who dare to talk about their constituents’ needs and expectations!
Fifth, it provides fodder for the right and the press – it’s “red meat” that distracts the nation at large from the work ahead and enables Fox News to paint the Democrats as fractious and ineffective to an audience primed for just that information.
The sixth is so subtle almost no one picked up on it. It’s the cultural subtext that bugs me - – arguing as they do over why some people lost their seats and others almost did pre-supposes that the main point of the national voting exercise is a popularity context, further, that the “contestants” have some innate “right” to win. WTF! We vote for Senators and Congressional Representatives to have them represent us in getting the things done that we need doing that, based on the Constitution, only they can legally do. Candidates get elected to the degree that they convince their voters -- by word and deed -- that they have the voters’ best interests at heart. Having such passionate “who shot John” arguments indicates to me that this is not uppermost on their minds.
Finally, it’s the wrong “level” of argument. Biden will end up winning by over 6 million votes -- a decisive electoral margin; and if the structural imbalances in the nation were corrected, there would now be a significant Democratic majority in the legislative branch as well, given the 17 million vote disparity between the current Democratic and Republican Senators. Fixing this problem is where the energy should be going, because when you fix the structural problems you don’t have to have the other argument any more, because you will win the races you “should” win on the candidates’ merits and the equitable nature of representative apportionment.
This argument is exceedingly worrisome, because it means that Democrats still don’t understand the criticality of strategy and structure, and are content to play peacefully within an exceptionally and increasingly hostile sandbox -- and by someone else’s rules. This article seeks to provide Democrats and progressives a deeper situational understanding of the political environment, enabling more effective action going forward.
We’ve spoken at length to the strategy shortcoming so we won’t belabor the point here. It’s the structural problems we will explode in this article. By structure we mean: “an arrangement and organization of interrelated elements in a material object or system, or the object or system so organized” (Wikipedia); or “the arrangement of and relations between the parts or elements of something complex” (Oxford Languages).
We assess several specific American political structures as problematic, in the sense that they either thwart the intent of the Founding Fathers, violate the Declaration of Independence and/or the Constitution, violate human rights and/or the will of the American people, clearly lag best practices of other Democracies, or are simply sub-optimal in that their existence and/or configuration constrains or prevents desired improvements in justice, equity and/or quality of life. These include:
The Electoral College - An anachronism that will be tough to kill, it distorts and dilutes voting power, and has the added Republican advantage of discouraging Democrats from voting in National Elections in safe Republican districts and states. Studies show that Republicans have a 65% chance of winning close Presidential elections in which they lose the popular vote due to the Electoral College.
Apportionment of Senators by State - a historical anomaly designed to ensure that small states’ interests were sufficiently considered, the Senate’s existence is problematic at best because it is non-representative of voters’ interests by design, ripe for corruption, and provides too much power to a small elective body (.00003% of the population!). To use an example from the 2018-midterm elections, 12 million more votes were cast for Democrats than for Republicans, yet Republicans increased their majority in the Senate. Even if every elected Senator were totally pure of heart, its size and apportionment is inconsistent with the principles of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.Fun fact: As of 2018, two-thirds of Senators have net worth over $1 Million; net worth of the average American: $97,000.
Process for the Determination of Congressional District Boundaries - Republicans have strategically exploited, using a strategy known as “gerrymandering:” Constitutional anomalies meant to achieve consensus among the differently-advantaged American Colonies; poorly considered legal precedents; and cultural sorting to engineer structural advantages that more than neutralize Democrats’ demographic advantages. The following bullets just begin to capture the depth of the challenge:
o “The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year (2018) using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage. It’s designed to detect cases in which one party may have won, widened or retained its grip on power through political gerrymandering.
o The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts.
o Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010.
o The AP analysis also found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country.
4. The Supreme Court -
o With a 6-3 Conservative majority, the Court is perfectly positioned to continue thwarting the Democratic-Progressive agenda, as it has done for most of its existence. The Court has been consistently out of step with both liberal values and the American citizenry, causing great harm to women, minorities, immigrants and the powerless at the expense of the powerful, rich and well connected. It has not been a consistent arbiter of justice but rather a protector of power and steward of Conservatism as a political philosophy.
o Why is the U.S. Supreme Court in need of repair? As we know from comparison with its less problematic analogs in other western Democracies, its design is flawed (appointments exclusively generated by the executive branch, no age or term limits for Justices, criminally flimsy qualifications and merit threshold for Justices) or “sub-optimal” from the systems perspective we utilize at Revelatur.
o Critically, Republicans have made control of the Court a strategic objective towards which they will stop at nothing. This was a brilliant strategic objective that Democrats have ineffectively countered. Republicans perverted the Court’s intended design as systemic honest broker while simultaneously managing to uphold the unassailability of its rulings.
o And Murphy’s Law plays a key piece in this -- fortune coupled with the appointment design flaw has enabled Conservative American political parties to get proportionally more bites at the Supreme Court appointment apple than progressives historically.
o Finally, the Court has been adept at satisfying “the people who matter” in the United States -- the rich, powerful and influential, while adroitly camouflaging their power-biased rulings in the best legalese money can buy.
Dark Money –
o Dark money is encouraging norm- and law-breaking on the part of Republicans. While money has always been a comparatively big problem in American politics, Citizens United exploded the money available to buy high-powered legal support, to influence voters, and to provide “lifetime employment” for ecosystem members. The estimated money flows from Saudi Arabia alone dwarf what has been available to Trump’s predecessors, and is a game-changer in terms of its effect on the U.S.’ political dynamics.
o Lifetime ecosystem employment enables Republicans to “push the envelope,” to conduct questionable and even illegal activities -- knowing that no matter what happens they and their families will be taken care of so long as they remain loyal and observe omerta -- “a code of silence about criminal activity and a refusal to give evidence to authorities.”
o We assess it highly likely that this ecosystem maintains an extensive patronage system sustained by dark money because there is no other theory that adequately accounts for the high-risk activities we see many formerly risk-averse Republicans conducting in support of Trump’s agenda. It is likely, according to our analysis, that dark money is being funneled to family members, schools, foundations and corporations through organizations including the Trump Victory Committee to ensure they remain financially “whole” after employing “fallen” Republicans and their family members.
The Subordination of the Department of Justice and Attorney General to the President. This structural anomaly (someone sitting in legal judgment of their own boss!) only works to preserve justice and good government when it is not needed or tested, and will always fail when it’s needed most. The fix is simple -- the Justice Department becomes an independent government agency with its oversight mechanism to be decided by a Citizens’ Assembly commissioned by President Biden, with the Attorney General going forward to be appointed by an inter-governmental committee.
The DOJ Memos (1973 and 2000) protecting the President from Criminal Indictment and Prosecution While in Office. An absurdity, the proverbial get out of jail free card, its second and third order effects totally undermine justice in the United States. Between this, the presidential pardon, and Party control of the Senate, a determined President can render the United States into his/her personal authoritarian fiefdom. In an example of the systems effects of structural problems, this memo could only have resulted from the subordination of the Attorney General to the President; its overturning must be the first order of business for the newly constituted DOJ.
The Presidential Pardon – an anachronism now frequently used well outside the Founding Fathers’ intent, a leftover from the Divine Right of Kings, a tool of corruption provided Constitutional cover, and a continuing in-your-face memo to the American people that all people are not created equal nor are they equal under the law. Getting rid of it doesn’t even merit a debate.
As we’ve written previously, Biden should execute on a three-phased strategy and platform. We advocate starting with justice (Phase 1), vectoring all progressive energy in into that one area, and not moving from that objective until it is in hand. Phase 2 addresses the structural problems detailed in this paper. Unfortunately, we see the necessity to hold off until Phase 3 the very worthy objectives of the Green New Deal, infrastructure enhancement, tax system overhaul, unemployment reform, etc.
Initial reports coming of the Biden transition team and Congress are not hopeful in this regard. From Joe Biden’s website he prioritizes three major efforts: “beating” Covid-19; “Jobs and Economic Recovery for American Families;” and “Give Every American Affordable Health Care.” His second priority tier includes no fewer than 47 separate plans! That is flat out too many, the prioritization is wrong, and the agenda is doomed.
Similarly, Speaker Pelosi is prioritizing “expanding healthcare” and “rebuilding American Infrastructure.” Good stuff. Won’t happen. I know this is preliminary and Biden hasn’t had a chance to examine the patient up close yet, and he will have valid results to hold some of his cards close to his chest -- but Pelosi -- along with Senators Schumer and Feinstein -- has been leading the battle for years and failing to stabilize the patient. As Generals they are collectively just not getting the job done and there is no reason to expect a turnaround -- that’s just not how things work. Things are “working just fine” for them personally and we keep re-electing them.
So what? The battle will have to be waged – at least at first -- in large measure by progressive organizations and Representatives, and common citizens. This will be a tough sell because we’re asking the people that just saved the Democrats’ bacon to defer action towards the very goals that animate them! And we’ll have to shame, cajole and nudge Democratic party leaders into an agenda that will actually work “for us,” vice one that perpetuates the “system.”
Now for a little fence mending. I revere Representative Ocasio-Cortez; she is a real portrait in courage and competence. Representative Spanberger and my daughter are best friends, I love and support her unreservedly, and I encouraged her to run for Congress years before she took the plunge. They are the future of the party, the nation and the world for that matter, and I want them to succeed. At 61, I am not the future of much of anything any more, but I do have wisdom to offer. The Representatives noted at the beginning of this article are caught up in the powerful Democratic worldview/issue/relationship vortex and are often, as with this issue, forced to play their parts by conditioning -- we owe it to them to help them find a way to transcend the power of habit.
Quartus: Revelatur’s Trans-Disciplinary Approach to Solving Complex Problems
The question of the age is: how can two sets of Americans perceive the same world so differently, and reach such disparate understandings of what they perceive? The simple answer is that they are using different lenses -- each of which filters out that part of the information spectrum they’ve decided they don’t want to address, and only permits in the reverse. Behind this simple answer, though, is a very complex stew of systemically related “causes” for why people make the lens selection they do, and two equally complex ecosystems that have a monopoly both on the lenses that people can choose from and the information that reaches the lenses.
Revelatur’s founders came together less than 18 months ago to create a formalized approach -- a methodology -- to answer this and similar questions, and to enable effective solutioning to complex societal problems.
We don’t claim to have it all figured out yet. The issues are immensely complex and inter-connected -- we’re peeling the onion layer by layer. But we have made important inroads we’ll share here, and we’ll share subsequent insights with you as we validate them. What’s more, we’ve generated and validated sufficient insights in a very short time to give us great confidence in our approach. In this article we’re going to illustrate our approach by revealing how we used multiple lenses to gain insight.
Getting back to the initial question, there is a sense in which our two political ecosystems closely resemble competing gaming platforms like PlayStation 2 and Nintendo DS, particularly the cascading revenue effects for the acquisition of customer market share. Both the conservative/right/Republican and liberal/progressive/Democratic ecosystems’ ultimate objectives are maximum ecosystem revenue, and the intermediate objective that enables this is political power.
Quickly let’s clear up your outrage: we are not averring that both political parties are equally unprincipled -- they are not. Republicans are almost totally cynical, unabashed and unprincipled, while Democrats (collectively) are only partially unprincipled, but also near totally deluded about reality and their own nature as perceived from objective observers. Additionally, objectively (full disclosure: I am a career U.S. intelligence and national security senior executive, lifelong Republican and recent “convert” to the Democratic Party) Democrats in the aggregate are better American and global citizens than Republicans, but in the last fifty years have only managed to generate high levels of bewilderment, disappointment and outrage from that advantage. Democrats are a numerical majority in the U.S. being led around by the nose by a morally objectionable, less talented minority. How this happened and persists is another key question we’ve set out to resolve.
Oceans of ink have been spilled in the effort to answer the questions above -- some of it dead wrong if well intended; much of it on target yet focused only on one piece of the puzzle; collectively still falling far short of a comprehensive and useful “answer.” Our dissatisfaction with the available information and analysis informing American political discourse was a prime motivator in the founding of Revelatur and our adoption of a trans-disciplinary methodology to fill the gap.
Let’s dispense early on with one incorrect hypothesis. While there are likely multiple criminal conspiracies in play resulting in corruption, insider stock trading, pay-for-play, unfair competitive advantage, contracting improprieties, kickbacks, and involvement with organized crime on the part of individual politicians and even an entire party, there is no grand global conspiracy or cabal “at the top” coordinated by the Rothschilds, Rosicrucians, the Pentaverate, Knights Templar, Masons, the Vatican, the Queen of England, George Soros, the Koch Brothers, SPECTRE, whatever.
The reality is less prosaic, just as sinister, and more problematic -- a brilliant if amoral long-term, dark money fueled Republican strategy culminating recently in a hastily executed plot or “soft coup” to turn the U.S. into a “managed Democracy,” that, oh by the way, required dozens of American leaders to: collude with foreign powers; engage in espionage; conduct treason; and aid, abet and/or purposefully ignore their colleagues’ law-breaking. The long-term strategy exploits and accelerates vicious cycles initially generated by structural deficiencies and imbalances in the American and global economic and political systems; while the soft coup plot was thrown together to leverage Trump and his useful idiots who provide the perfect camouflage behind which the Republican ecosystem continues to consolidate power.
Democrats, moderates and progressives have huffed, puffed, pontificated and threatened -- but have evidenced no strategy to speak of. They’ve deployed insufficient and largely impotent counter-measures, and all but officially conceded the larger fight to risk everything on the 2020 elections.
Although it’s still early days, it would appear that African Americans, women and progressive activists saved the Democrats from themselves in the 2020 elections -- although the party propaganda machine has already been cranked up to muddy the analytical waters and control the narrative in this regard.
What allowed us to develop these hypotheses were several lenses used in tandem to gather information -- followed by highly structured, rigorous, evidence-based analysis -- animated by an extensible and recursive knowledge generation process.
The first lens we applied was “strategic viewpoint.” Based on our military, Federal Government and corporate leadership experience – as well as extensive management consulting expertise, we were able to combine the most relevant aspects of Clausewitz, the United States Army, Michael Porter, Peter Drucker, Jack Welch, and the Toyota system, among others – into an extensible, hybrid strategic modeling framework. The key overlapping factors amongst all these frames are: categorization - “what do you need to look at;” mapping – “how are these things related to each other;” hierarchy - “within a relationship, which element is more important than another;” and intentionality - “what are we trying to achieve.” More than anything else, this disciplined “meta-approach” enabled us to eliminate non-relevant factors and prioritize -- in turn vastly reducing the amount of research required.
Systems thinking, which we have used in our military, government and corporate endeavors, enabled us to graphically and conceptually model the strategic factors outlined just now. Using systems tools called “transactional environment” and “causal loop” diagrams, we detail the primary power instruments that the two political adversaries bring to their competition, as well as the effects generated when they square off. This revealed to us that: generally, Republican strategy and tactics--from a systems perspective, are:
○ High Impact, Focused, EnergyVectoring
○ Enduring andAccelerating
○ Bottom Line: Republican Strategy and Power Instruments are effective, they: create systems effects within multiple transactional environment subsystems using limited resource outputs; generate vicious cycles and in some cases cascades, tipping points and phase transitions (meaning certain previous states cannot be reset and many progressive Courses of Action are forever foreclosed).
While, again generally, Democratic strategy and tactics are:
○ Ephemeral (except demographics)
○ “Soft,” norms based
○ Reactive, Defensive & Enervating
○ Focused on a single Exploitation Vector (subsystem) –Elections
○ BottomLine: Democratic Party Strategy and power instruments: are ineffective; do not generate positive systems effects; and are easily constrained by Republican tactics. Democratic Party proclivity to eschew power in favor of normative approaches is noble but suicidal in the current environment.
To animate the systems model rapidly and with the right information we turned to our academic and management consulting experience. The strategic viewpoint and systems modeling indicated which categories of information we required, our academic research expertise focused us onto the appropriate canonical sources, and our Management Consulting background enabled us to conduct a comprehensive yet focused “environmental scan.” Together these research approaches enabled us to “read into the problem,” and begin establishing an evidence-based, empirically valid basis for our analysis and hypotheses. As much as anything else, it is this process step that delineates us from “topical” journalists who, while they do follow rigorous journalistic protocols – usually bring only one domain lens and very limited research to bear on their writing.
The domain where we have decisive expertise is intelligence, where we apply multiple analytical tools, methods and protocols to ensure that bias is reduced to an absolute minimum, objectivity is ensured through checks and balances, and that the resulting analyses and products are “actionable.” In our recent intelligence analysis conducted just prior to the 2020 elections, we gleaned the following insights:
We assess that due to the political asymmetries in place, Republican Party cohesiveness and momentum at the grass roots level, the difficulty reversing vicious cycles, the political makeup of the Supreme Court, and sub-optimal Democratic/progressive ecosystem system, it would likely require Democrats to occupy the White House and maintain majorities of both houses of Congress for a period of at least 10 consecutive years to level the playing field, much less significantly advance a broad progressive agenda.
Republicans have: seized the initiative and are on the offense; deployed a brilliant, low risk strategy that is not dependent on sustained electoral majorities, neutralizes Democratic demographic advantages, and takes advantage of liberal proclivities; created an enduring asymmetric environment favorable to themselves with underlying dynamics that are difficult and costly to reverse.
We assess that Trump and the Republican Party, enabled by a powerful ecosystem, is conducting hybrid warfare against American citizens and state institutions through: information warfare operations; collaboration with foreign powers, violations of oaths of office; dereliction of Constitutionally designated duties (e.g., criminally-negligent response to the Covid-19 pandemic, among others); intimidation and threats; and the violation of citizens’ constitutionally-protected rights. “Hybrid warfare is a military strategy which employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyber warfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy, lawfare and foreign electoral intervention.” Wikipedia.
We assess that the Republican ecosystem is: executing a long-term plan through integrated strategy, campaigns and tactics with a principle objective of creating asymmetric conditions to maximize their power at the expense of their perceived and declared enemies (Democrats, liberals, progressives); constraining their enemies from fully deploying their strengths; simultaneously obscuring their intent behind a wall of lies and contradictions, confusion, communications overload, propaganda, projection, hypocrisy, degradation of public discourse and critical thinking; and protecting their ecosystem assets with an ever-more powerful System of Impunity.
Democrats have deployed an overly broad, high risk, normative strategy that is functionally incoherent, and animated by low-leverage, non-complimentary tactics. The party’s approach is defensive, timid, short-term focused, and totally dependent on one highly problematic outcome -- the 2020 elections. Democratic strategy and tactics are a total mismatch for their primary adversary and the current and emerging U.S. and global political environments.
2020 election polls and anti-authoritarian protests are dominating the political space, but are poor indicators of current power realities and long term trends -- and are thereby providing false hope to progressives. This “False Progress” dynamic is limiting the sustained energy and engagement required to overcome asymmetric Republican power advantages and create virtuous cycles. It’s a knife fight in a phone booth -- one combatant brought a knife and the other is fighting “on principle. “ It’s not a binary choice -- progressives will also need to find the appropriate knife to win.
Notwithstanding current polls, Democrats, progressives and American democracy are in grave peril. Republican ecosystem power brokers realize that losing power is catastrophic, and that cheating in the election and/or and its aftermath does not add substantially to their risks and rap sheets; while cheating does potentially provide them a path to retention of power and thus continued impunity. Secondly, they have yet to find a threshold they cannot cross with impunity, emboldening themselves and dispiriting progressives. We assess that Trump and most Republicans will not be constrained by law or norms in their approach to the election and (likely) Presidential administration transition period. We further assess that the Democratic-Progressive ecosystem is not sufficiently aligned, organized and prepared with counter-measures to prevent an authoritarian “soft coup” following the elections.
Then we applied the “Comparative Government” lens that enabled us to validate and canonically characterize the current American political state revealed through our systems and intelligence analyses. For one example, V-Dems’ recent study concluded:
“In a significant shift since 2000, the (US) GOP has taken to demonising and encouraging violence against its opponents, adopting attitudes and tactics comparable to ruling nationalist parties in Hungary, India, Poland and Turkey.
The shift has both led to and been driven by the rise of Donald Trump.
By contrast the Democratic party has changed little in its attachment to democratic norms, and in that regard has remained similar to centre-right and centre-left parties in western Europe. Their principal difference is the approach to the economy.” https://www.v-dem.net/en/data/data/v-party-dataset/
This research enabled us to increase the confidence level in our hypotheses that the Democratic ecosystem produces better citizens in the aggregate, and that Trump’s presence, while not the cause of every malady in the U.S., certainly accelerated several ugly trends and vicious cycles.
We rigorously apply the scientific method to our work. Doing so enables us to posit tentative conclusions as hypotheses, which we then attempt to disprove rather than prove -- the result being enhanced objectivity. We also employ “translational research,” which is the application of findings from research and clinical/empirical trials in one domain to another, resulting in significant resource savings. We’ve found that rigorous use of these two methods leads to serendipity. This aspect of serendipity is interesting and is definitely not mystical or spiritual. Rather, it is the result of continuous engagement directed against a target using a disciplined process, combined with an approach that is extensible and recursive by design.
We conclude where we started with a deeper understanding of our first question.
Serendipitously, in the October 30, 2020 issue of Science Magazine, “Political Sectarianism in America,” we learn this: “Political sectarianism consists of three core ingredients: othering—the tendency to view opposing partisans as essentially different or alien to oneself; aversion—the tendency to dislike and distrust opposing partisans; and moralization—the tendency to view opposing partisans as iniquitous. It is the confluence of these ingredients that makes sectarianism so corrosive in the political sphere. Viewing opposing partisans as different, or even as dislikable or immoral, may not be problematic in isolation. But when all three converge, political losses can feel like existential threats that must be averted—whatever the cost.” We recommend reading this article in full, as it is the most complete and only empirically valid answer – although still a hypotheses – to our initial seminal question.
This is where the rigor and hard work pays off. If we had not posited the hypothesis that Americans perceive the world through different lenses we would have been blind to the information in this article -- it would have had no “attachment” or “integration” point in our theory. Now that we “know” this, we can feed this information back into our model -- thereby increasing the probability that our prescriptions are actionable. Such is our approach in a nutshell, except that we’ve laid it out here in a linear manner rather than a recursive and extensible flow because we don’t yet have the language to do otherwise.
So what, you ask? We uncovered and published multiple findings before anyone else (18 months in some cases), we’ve validated our hypotheses empirically, and with a bit more work and tools we’re going to be able to forecast with high probability what the right is going to do next. We’ve created a generative process that enabled us to open windows into domains in which we had considerably less experience and knowledge going in. Here and in all our writings we open up our methodology -- show you our code if you will -- so you can be more knowledgeable and effective.
Also, we are a gap-filling bridge between long-term historical writing, short-term news and polemical writing. While you can’t use our reporting to establish probable cause or convict wrongdoers, we complement investigative reporting in that we can tell “what the bad guys are doing” long before the details emerge by modeling the environment, identifying and “accounting for” anomalies.
More importantly perhaps, we’ll shortly be able to model counter-measures that will work against the right’s strategy and tactics and reduce its relative power -- and validate the right mix of progressive strategies, tactics and policies that will improve quality of life for Americans while simultaneously enhancing progressive influence and power.
Finally, our work enables a shift in the terms and level of discourse through knowledge and new ways of thinking and communicating -- enabling us ultimately to overcome the vicious cycles currently constraining improvements in quality of life and generating so many political and social “races to the bottom.” Doing so will be no mean feat -- the right has a strategic jump on us and most Democrats don’t yet know how bad things are or how difficult they are to fix.
Bottom line: if you
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