Revelatur Vector Report - August 13, 2021
Defining and Achieving Victory in a Post-Truth World
Hello Dear readers! Today we have two pieces for you. The first, “Winning as Moral Imperative,” dives into the curious and fatalistic reluctance of the American left to establish victory over the right as an existentially important objective of its efforts. In the second, “Biden, Dems Losing the Information War,” we explain the apparently unexplainable – why the Democrats would lose the House if elections were held today.
Winning as Moral Imperative
This week, the United Nations IPCC released a devastating report on the impacts of climate change. The news is as dire as it gets, detailing an existential threat to organized human life, indicating that many of the world-changing impacts are irreversible, and that we have fewer than ten years to dramatically cut back carbon emissions if we are to stave off even greater calamity.
“Code Red for Humanity” the topline blares.
This report comes on the heels of new reporting from the NYT and others on the full scope of ex-President Donald Trump’s attempted coup, and just how close the United States came to a descent into full authoritarianism. One Department of Justice employee changes their mind, one group of rioters turns down a different hallway, and we’d be well into the second term of Donald Trump, and the end of democratic governance as we know it.
The planet is on fire. The United States is within spitting distance of descending into totalitarianism. The stakes could not possibly be higher.
So why isn’t victory the principal objective for all our efforts? There can be no higher moral imperative than winning this struggle, and yet many people aren’t moving with urgency.
Every other consideration is secondary. We must win. If we care about each other, if we care about the planet, if we care about peace and justice and human dignity, our greatest fidelity must be to smashing the rising fascist threat and dismantling the carbon producing infrastructure choking and killing the planet, with all available speed. Our rapidly closing window can be measured in weeks and months, not decades and centuries.
Every. Other. Consideration. Is. Secondary.
In the fight against the rapid rise of a dangerous fascist movement within the United States, and against the existential threat of climate chaos, there is no consolation in moral victories. There is no prize for second place.
Failure means persecution of vulnerable communities, it means extrajudicial violence carried out by state-sanctioned paramilitaries, failure means the collapse of democracy, failure means the destruction of ecosystems and failure means civil unrest and economic devastation and loss of life on a scale never before seen in human history. Failure is floods, famines, exodus, and suffering.
It is perhaps on account of the nearly unimaginable scope of the calamity at hand that most of us refuse to accept the true shape of the conflict we’re engaged in. Because to truly accept just how dire the situation really is means you have a moral obligation to act. Because if you posit that democracy is in danger (it is) or that the world is rapidly hurtling towards a breaking point that will result in misery and death for hundreds of millions of people not to mention plants and animals (it is) -- you are obviously forced to acknowledge this imminent threat and respond accordingly. If the house has some chipping paint, you can put off the work. If the house is on fire, you gotta do something.
Well folks, the house is well and truly flaming up good.
Many of the organized responses to climate change and to rising authoritarianism are hedged, insufficient, clipped, constrained in their rhetoric and tactics to make people comfortable, for fear of sounding too radical. All out of considerations that are no longer relevant. And even amongst the organizations and individuals who recognize the danger, there appears to be some confusion as to what’s most important. There are some people -- not really in the majority -- who fully acknowledge and articulate the absolute five alarm crisis we face in the United States and around the world. Yet within this subset, finding a comprehensive, strategic response is difficult. There is absolutely nothing worse than a sense of urgency but no vector for it and no disciplined organization maximizing firepower. People get frustrated. Burned out. They tune out and give up.
The only thing that matters, now, in this historical moment, is winning these fights. We don’t have time for intraparty squabbles or half measures. We don’t have time to get caught up in optics or what moderate Democrats in the House think about something.
We have to win. To win, we have to have a plan, and we have to put absolute victory at the center of everything we do.
If the United States descends into fascism, the entire world will suffer. If climate change is not opposed, mitigated, if we don’t immediately dismantle a system built on fossil fuels, the entire world will suffer.
We have to win.
Biden, Dems Losing the Information War
Recent polls indicate that Democrats would lose the House if elections were held today. How is this possible? Biden has done almost everything right, he’s got terrifically high poll numbers himself, with the infrastructure bill we just achieved Trump’s signature initiative, the economy is riding high, Covid is under as much control as possible given its own power boosted by the right’s ecosystem -- it’s hard to imagine he could have done more by this point.
As important as each of these things are, they completely miss the center of gravity in the national information war -- which is justice. Because Biden and the Dems do not keep justice as the centerpiece of their messaging, they are losing the energy and commitment of their natural constituency, and they’re losing lose the moral high ground that is the only location from which they can slowly and steadily win back brainwashed Trumpists.
Biden has chosen, quite deliberately, to wash his hands of the pursuit of justice – political, economic, racial, white-collar crime, transnational organized crime -- and worst of all -- failing to lead us past the lawbreaking of the Trump Administration. Here’s just one capture of Biden’s point of view on this:
“President-elect Joe Biden has privately told advisers that he doesn't want his presidency to be consumed by investigations of his predecessor, despite pressure from some Democrats who want inquiries into President Donald Trump, his policies and members of his administration. Biden has raised concerns that investigations would further divide a country he is trying to unite and risk making every day of his presidency about Trump.
They said he has specifically told advisers that he is wary of federal tax investigations of Trump or of challenging any orders Trump may issue granting immunity to members of his staff before he leaves office. One adviser said Biden has made it clear that he "just wants to move on."
Another Biden adviser said, "He's going to be more oriented toward fixing the problems and moving forward than prosecuting them,” NBC News, November 17, 2020.
The thing that Biden doesn’t get is that he doesn’t get to turn a blind eye to injustice -- to pick and choose which wrongs he wants to right -- he has a Constitutionally designated role to enforce the nation’s laws, as well as moral and leadership responsibilities to apply them equitably. Even to simply continue the practices of his predecessors -- who also ignored injustice and white-collar crime -- is an indication that he is simply one more of a long line of white male elitists. He doesn’t see himself that way, but that is the problem.
In short, our argument is that white-collar crime, and this would include most of the crimes committed by Trump and administration officials, inevitably leads to corruption because the constraints and sanctions are so puny as to deter essentially no one with money and power. In turn corruption imperils democratic governance by making its claims a joke. Citizen support for government erodes as inequities become apparent. But this is the kicker the Dems don’t get -- support for all governance and all parties and all politicians erodes due to injustice -- the ‘bright line’ distinctions Dems think Americans can and should make between them and Republicans are not at all that clear to low information voters, and frankly not even all that clear to people like us who study this issue continuously.
The following is an excerpt from a previous Revelatur article on justice we wrote before the 2020 elections – it is still valid, still worth reading, and still our recommendation to Biden and the Democratic Party.
“We do not advocate that Democrats execute a classic Democratic political platform between now and 2020, while hoping for the best. That is what Republicans expect them to do -- and are planning for.
Rather, we advocate for the introduction of what is known in the systems domain as “well-structured noise” to jolt the national political power dynamic out of its Republican-favoring equilibrium and reverse the vicious political cycle that favors Republicans.
Specifically, we believe the following action has the highest probability of securing the initiative for Democrats, best protecting Democracy, and forcing Republicans to adopt a different, less corrosive strategy: the promulgation of a phased domestic political 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” against Democrats, and enables Democrats to seize the strategic initiative. 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 and plank. It is not the better part of magnanimity to forgive Republican transgressions and “move on” – it is the entirety of cowardice and irresponsibility to do so.
2. Criminal justice reform – We are deliberately not prescriptive in this plank because we have not analyzed or modeled the effects of discrete policies, and a quick survey indicates that there are multiple great policy ideas in play. 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 resources to so-called “white-collar” crime as that devoted to other categories; equality in bail, sentencing and parole for equivalent crimes; equal policing in terms of police force demographics, geographic patrol presence, citizen detentions and arrests. The intent is to shift criminal justice resources back from their current focus on social power and control, citizen fear, revenue collection, out-group intimidation, and political positioning -- back to the classic liberal conception of justice as primarily an equality of rights.
We understand that Democrats have a fully loaded post-victory agenda, and that their published political platform must include all its supporters’ aspirations. We advocate starting with justice (Phase One), vectoring all energy in into that one area, and not moving from that objective until it is in hand. We see Phase Two including the basket of laws designed to protect Democracy, such as the protection of voting rights, eliminating gerrymandering, and addressing the Senate and Electoral College problems. Unfortunately, we see the necessity to hold off until Phase Three the very worthy objectives of the Green New Deal, infrastructure enhancement, tax system overhaul, unemployment reform, etc. We realize such a prioritization schema is a radical concept for the Democratic Party. But from our perspective the phased approach provides the highest probability of effecting major positive change in a complex system while simultaneously materially degrading Republican capability. Most importantly, to not prioritize justice would be to break faith with the people who enabled victory; and doing so will do more than anything else to signal to Republicans that the national tide has turned against them.
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.
The right’s long-term, norms-eroding strategy has enabled a 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. The Republican Ecosystem and Impunity System are both networked into a global authoritarian ecosystem. So what? The priority long-term objective of this 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 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.
The System of Impunity is achieved through purposeful and concerted action and maintained by an organized crime like code of silence. It is this System of Impunity Trump has in mind when he refers to senior government officials as “my guys,” and when he asked former F.B.I. director James Comey if he had his loyalty. (He didn’t). This strategy component is so critical that Trump would rather be surrounded by a coterie of loyal idiots than by the most qualified people. He doesn’t need qualified people to protect himself. He needs Capos.
We can illustrate one aspect of how the Impunity System works through analogy. When attackers attempt to storm a castle, they typically employ a strategy where they steadily move towards the castle walls every night, lobbing projectiles into the castle while using darkness as a shield. Trump and the rest of the right does virtually the same thing to wear down their opponents -- outrageous stuff to throw off and soften the other side while his seemingly more reasonable comrades in crime take apparently lesser victories and liberals breathe sighs of relief that things aren’t worse. This can only be effective with the System of Impunity firmly in place, and by taking advantage of the left’s propensities towards compromise. If the wall weren’t in place, more of these people would already be in jail.
The only way to win a war is to destroy the enemy’s center of gravity. We are fighting an information war in an information world, the fight is asymmetric, we are losing -- and the only way to win is to fight over the right center of gravity -- which is justice. All else are at worst distractions, at best ‘functions of justice’ best considered in that light.