Reap the Whirlwind

Image: Congress Holds Joint Session To Ratify 2020 Presidential Election

The dirty little secret of every riot and protest and looting that ever existed in the history of mankind … IT’S FUN.

Lucifer’s Hammer on Epsilon Theory, August 31, 2020

During the summer of 2020, as widespread non-violent protests for racial justice gave way to steadily creeping violence and property destruction, we published our concerns on these pages that there was practically zero political will – and zero political incentive – by either party to do what was necessary to reduce that violence.

Republicans and Donald Trump believed that the violence at a number of BLM-related events would be framed alongside deeply unpopular “defund the police” narratives as long as they continued. They believed, I think, that this framing would be electorally helpful. However perverse, from a purely electoral perspective I believe they were right on both counts. They did not win the presidency, of course, but on most ballots the GOP outperformed very low expectations. I think antipathy toward the events of the summer played a significant role.

Still, if he wished to do so, Donald Trump possessed and did not exercise meaningful power to de-escalate and reduce this violence at multiple points.

Democratic leaders at state and local levels had even more power, I would argue. They also largely elected not to exercise that power, if for very different reasons. In their case, I think there was genuine concern that calling in resources like the National Guard to maintain order would be seen as a betrayal of the very arguments about the nature of state power deployed against black communities being made by those protesting. More practically, I think they believed that this action would have the effect of increasing voter apathy for an already moderate-looking slate. More perversely, I think they felt some confidence that generally sympathetic national media would be very unlikely to pay very close attention to what was happening at some of these rallies, lest doing so unduly influence the electorate to make a Wrong Decision. I think the Democrats were right about each of these things.

No, they weren’t right. They were correct. They – and the GOP – were correct in their evaluation of optimal electoral strategy under the conditions of a competition game. But there was nothing right about allowing the destructive LARPing that took place in the late summer by activists and counter-activists alike to continue unabated.

Bad things happen when the equilibrium state of national politics is to be nearly always correct and nearly never right.

Or, in the words we published in August:

They are both sowing the wind.

And they will both reap the whirlwind.

Neither the Democratic party nor the Republican party survives a defeat this November in anything close to their current form. I think several people are starting to think about that.

But here’s what’s also true:

Neither the Democratic party nor the Republican party survives a victory this November.

And no one is thinking about that.

Luficer’s Hammer on Epsilon Theory, August 31, 2020

The GOP is reaping the whirlwind today.

The sowing of militaristic language and existential Flight 93 Election rhetoric by the political right led directly to one of the most embarrassing days in the history of our Republic. No, I don’t think those Clown Putsch buffoons attempted to stage a coup. But a crowd of 330 million just watched a crowd of 330 million watch thousands of pastors, pipefitters, engineers, Q activists and business owners together wrap themselves in Trump flags and parade through the halls of the US Capitol. They watched them charge into the chambers with plastic cuffs and Tazers. They heard the “hang Mike Pence” chants. They saw a mob with thin blue line flags literally try to beat Capitol Police officers with them.

And then those 330 million saw lockstep claims by some half of sitting GOP representatives and most of their favored news anchors that these were the actions of Antifa. Without evidence. And without apology.

If you think the media purposefully made less of the violence this summer than an institution less transparently politically invested in the defeat of Donald Trump might have done, I think you are correct. If you think that what happened on 1/6 will ever be seen by a country that watched last week’s images in real time in the same category as the events of the summer, I think you are insane.

As Ben wrote before, the Republican party probably does not survive this in anything close to its previous form.

But make no mistake about it: The sowing of affinity for The Right Kind of Violence we saw in the summer and affinity for The Right Kind of Concentrated Power that we are seeing manifest today on the political left will have lasting results, too. The collective and collusive de-platforming of individuals and app developers happening over the last few days is, by any reasonable account, entirely within the legal rights afforded to Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon and scores of associated service providers under current law. In the very short run (i.e. over the period of a week), I think it is very likely that these actions could reduce the potential for violence.

In the long run?

Friends, the political forces that galvanized support for Trumpism were built on the foundations of a belief that conservatives are not given a fair shake in media, a belief that Big Tech firms run by wealthy, liberal, elites seek to control the lives of hard-working American families, and a belief that a coordinated political-technological infrastructure has led directly to their political marginalization. You can think they are incorrect. You can even think that they are wrong. But if you think that these actions will reduce the influence of Trumpism, political division, polarization and willingness to do violence, so are you.

There is substantial territory that exists between flaccid permissiveness toward the people who committed, sought to commit or directly incited violence to influence the outcome of an election on the one hand, and gleefully instituting widespread political purges that will exacerbate the long-term consequences in exchange for warm justice fuzzies today on the other.

There is a brief window where I think we have the opportunity to commit to building a common national identity together. Seizing this opportunity will mean a lot of us demonstrating corporate humility for actions we may not have taken ourselves, actions of which we bristle at being called guilty, but which in our heart of hearts we know we could have spoken up or taken more action to help prevent. Seizing this opportunity will mean a lot of us leaving a wellspring of anger we will feel is entirely justified at the door.

Not seizing it, I fear, will mean that we all reap the whirlwind.

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  1. The comments I’m hearing from the Left currently: “OMG this (January 6) was a coup! We need more power to prevent this from happening again!” The comments I’m hearing from the Right currently: "OMG this (January 7-10) was a coup! We need more power to prevent this from happening again! In both cases that “power” looks a lot like censorship up to and including political prisoners.
    It’s like the old 3D glasses where you had Red and Blue and two movies were able to be shown on the same screen at the same time with a slightly different color variation, but the effect on your retina was to blend both images together. Except now those glasses are different. Both lenses of the glasses are now the same color, either Red or Blue for both eyes.
    We still have the two movies (Red and Blue) being shown at the same time on the same screen, but now we’re all using only either Red or Blue glasses to view the movie.
    Honestly I’m not sure how the Republic survives these challenges.
    Folks on the Left are seeing the Blue movie and calling for their side to Purge the Right. Folks on the Right are seeing the Red movie and calling for their side to be prepared to defend against a Purge of the Right.
    Scary times.

  2. Sadly, Rusty, I agree with your (and Ben’s) assessment. The problem is that I don’t think the two sides are willing (or capable?) of “building a common national identity together”. We’ve been eroding the mediating institutions for generations now and all that seems to be left is power. The left seems to have realized this sooner than the right and are currently doing everything they can to grab and consolidate that power, pluralism be damned. As far as I can tell, the Republican Party just dealt itself a mortal wound. The Democrats seem like they’re just making sure it receives no aid and that it dies.

  3. I welcome the the inglorious Fourth Turning of 1621, a prime number!

  4. and a twin prime with 1619 - all is well in the symmetry of the universe

  5. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    I think that’s a pretty good description, although I think I’d augment somewhat by saying that what’s happening in Big Tech / Social Media land is not quite as passive as all that.

  6. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    They are.

    What is amazing to me is that so many people are still surprised that Purges and Revolutions alike always end up pulling in far more than the specifically guilty parties of crimes and atrocities. It’s a fundamental part of why polarization is such a scourge on its own.

  7. Avatar for Laura Laura says:

    In my own exchanges on this with “conservatives” I have experienced a total unwillingness/inability to directly and solely repudiate the actions of the terrorist mob at the Capitol. Whataboutisms as far as the eye can see with the bogus narrative mostly being “but what about antifa?” which demonstrates utter ignorance of the facts on the ground in yes, “Democratic run cities” and a too frequent viewing of Murdoch media. What hope is there when so many “conservatives” are more concerned about marginal tax rates than the responsibilities of citizenship in a representative democracy and pluralistic society? What hope is there when our government will not clean its own house of the white supremacist and anti-government factions in this country? I noticed you did not mention that the mob brought Confederate flags into the Capitol. For me, that is the thing that makes me the angriest at the narrative level – those fuckers have that image now. Pardon the language, I’m still white hot angry at these traitors that attempted to subvert the democratic will of the American People and disturb the constitutional work of the United States.

    We turn to justice not for some sense of the warm fuzzies, as you put it, but to reaffirm the rule of law that has been losing its grip since 9/11 and to reaffirm the separation of powers that is the only thing that ever made this country special in the first place.

  8. Great points as usual Rusty. My greatest concern is that any kind of appeasement towards the Q Anon-type factions is not going to bring us closer to unity. Twitter made the right call on this one

  9. I think Rusty is right. Trying to shut down the airways and conduits of discord will only fuel more hatred and paranoia on the part of white grievance. On the extreme end of this grievance spectrum any convictions coming from January 6th or beyond will create martyrs to the cause like Ruby Ridge and Waco. Embarrassing legal skirmishes with western cattle grazers like Cliven Bundy or Trump’s pardoning of the Hammond family for burning federal land in protest have only reinforced this groups feelings that their government is out to quash their basic rights. Common ground requires civil discourse. I’m not smart enough to see how we get there unless we can reconcile the alternative universe of facts each side operates from to draw their opinions. Part of this not smart enough is I don’t think we can do this without shutting off the spigots of misinformation. In a free society that’s a non-starter. Militarization of the police and armature of the general populace have laid sufficient kindling for the right spark. Talk me off the ledge but I’m to the point where I think we’re in for our own (i.e. much more heavily armed) version of the IRA.

  10. Avatar for Laura Laura says:

    You might be right about that Rick. I think this faction only has white grievance so what else would they turn to? Besides religion that is, which in many cases has fueled these flames led by false prophets purposely conflating the kingdom of God with the kingdom of man.

  11. The final circles of hell are reserved for anger, heresy, violence and treachery (malicious fraud).

  12. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ET tenets of “find your pack” and “make, protect, teach.” The main takeaway for me out of this past year is that the politicians, mainstream media and social media platforms aren’t worthy of the level of influence we’ve afforded each of them. I’m not looking at any one person or group, but the institutions as whole. I believe that we as a society have to find a new way forward that is less reliant on them - specifically, that each is relegated to a place tangential to our interactions with others and not the nexus of them. ET has many great notes on ways to do that and I’m doing my best to implement them in my own pack and help others do the same.

    Thanks for the thoughtful write-up, Rusty.

  13. It’s weird sitting on the grey tribe sidelines watching this whole thing unfold so predictably. Ben & Rusty have been warning the world for years, and I’m sure that their words have been instrumental in helping many of us refrain from adding fuel to this fire.

    There was some stupid stuff a few days ago. It’s not really important in any physical sense, but it was symbolically important to a lot of people in both quarters of American politics. I get the sense that the reds haven’t processed how important the capitol region symbols are to the blues. I get the sense that the blues haven’t processed how important this last few months in totality has been to the reds.

    The problem from the sidelines is that the half of the country that spends most of their attention hating each other is occupying two completely divergent realities at this point.

    The blue quarter is riding this authoritarian-euphoric high believing that they have defeated the orange Hitler, and that now is their big chance to expunge his crazy terrorist supporters forever. On the internet.

    The red quarter of the country has had a rough few months. Three months ago they had four different boxes available in their quest for self determination. The Soap Box has been eroding slowly for the last few years, but around 2016 it began eroding quickly. By the time October 2020 rolled around the Soap Box was on life support. The first week of November, the red tribe realized that (in their reality) the Ballot Box was gone. Moreover, absent some fixes to the electoral process it was likely to stay gone. In December the courts sidestepped their chance to try and thread the needle one last time, and the red tribe realized that the Jury Box was gone too. A few days later, they watched their messiah get ritualistically martyred (on the internet).

    Where does mid-January find us? The blue quarter of the country is shrieking triumphantly and rampaging around destroying every last trace of the red quarter (on the internet). The red quarter is doing what they’ve been doing for the past 270 years or so: organizing IRL committees of correspondence and re-checking their preps.

    I’m worried about a few things. First, that people who subscribe to one or the other of the two realities laid out here will dismiss the fact that the other reality is REALITY to a significant chunk of the country. Americans have loved a good LARP since 1773, but Americans know that LARPing is performative art, not how things get changed. Nobody in either quarter thinks that that where things stand now is acceptable.

    Second, I worry that purging the red tribe’s Soap Box (on the internet) will hasten the arrival of fourth and final box of American politics. The blue tribe hasn’t grasped that the soap box is the only non-violent option that the red tribe has left to ensure political representation. The blue tribe doesn’t appreciate how radical a departure it is to see red tribe LARPers beating capitol police with Thin Blue Line flags. Something broke in the red tribe this last few weeks.

    Third, I worry that the blue quarter’s authoritarian internet rampage will break into the real world as some Patriot Act 2.0, destroying even more freedom in the name of “combating domestic LARPing”. Excuse me, “terrorism”.

    Fourth and finally, I’m concerned that the lockdowns have destroyed our ability to escape our internet bubbles. We are all losing touch with the fact that the real world is different from the internet and the TV. The main problem with pessimistic views shared by perma-bear investors and Austrian economists is that they undervalue the flywheel effect that maintains daily life. The flywheel of hundreds of millions of people getting out of bed every day and watching each other going about daily life has gotten us through a lot of tough times.

    Right now that life-sustaining flywheel is grinding to a halt. We no longer have the normative power of the crowd watching the crowd be normal. All we see is the internet crazy.

    We need local action on Make - Protect - Teach now more than ever. Stop waiting for Ben and Rusty to tell you what to do, and do what you can where you are.

  14. JP --my mind has been in the exact same place.

  15. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    If it doesn’t come across, I am with you. What I refer to as the “corporate humility” necessary here is exactly what you ask for - the disavowal of months of claims of a stolen election and the disavowal of claims that the capitol events were not Trump supporters incited by Trump strike me as absolutely necessary conditions for a move forward.

    The “warm justice fuzzies” I refer to are not the righteous feelings of true justice I think you and I rightfully crave, but the desire to punish every person who ever supported Donald Trump in any way we can think of until we are sated.

  16. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    I hear you. I don’t agree on the Twitter front, but I hear you.

    I DO agree on the QAnon side, at least to the extent that they do not come to the table with disavowal of their claims. No appeasement of unrepenting QAnons is warranted. Even then I think the scale of Q adjacents is so large that we truly must find paths to bring those willing to reform back into civil society.

  17. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    I am very concerned about that right now. I’m penning a terrifyingly long piece that will argue very specifically that I think the only institution in a position to really take us off that path is (ironically, given the apt IRA example) the church.

  18. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    I’m so looking forward to an end of this pandemic so that we can start really engaging more at a local and small group level. There are a lot of facets of my world that I would like to be much, much smaller.

  19. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    There’s a lot here that’s really good - and I hope you’ll take this to the forum to start a more in-depth discussion with others. But in particular, your point on the lockdown and our ability to escape internet bubbles is really insightful. I wonder how permanent it will be.

  20. Avatar for Laura Laura says:

    Thanks for your reply Rusty, I appreciate it. I’d say that punishing Trumpster Fire Don in any way imaginable would rightly be called vengeance. American patriots want justice not vengeance.

  21. America is becoming harder to recognize by Americans everyday. Those of us from the forgotten continent find Trump eerily familiar. A president (and president-elect) that use the implicit threat of an unruly, unhinged mob in order to counter the unruly unhinged mob on the other side.
    Whether we admit to or not, our decisions are based not just on what is right but in part out of fear of provoking extremist violence from one wing or the other.
    Where do we go from there?
    Eventually, one (or both) mobs will spiral out of control and come to bite the hand that feeds that monster.

  22. Mike, I agree with the Right dealing itself a mortal wound and the need to rebuild. Colin Powell just renounced the Party which is a big deal considering that he faced down people like Cheney years ago.

    But, the left is mortally wounded as well. They have been playing with fire with Identity politics for years and it is turning into a circular firing squad.

    There is a risk of a third party, a moderate party, emerging if the two parties don’t limit the impact of the extremists. Socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and very very inclusive.

    The Pack ought to study the Problems Solving Caucus and No Labels org (now with Gov. Hogan as the Vice Chairman)

  23. With all the talk now about whether this is a coup or that is a coup, notice what we’re suddenly not taking about. Things like whether the government can deliver first-world levels of stimulus and healthcare to its nominal constituents. Something tells me Jeff Bezoar (that was autocorrected from Bezos, I’ll leave it because it’s hilarious) and Jack Dorsey are quite content with this change of narrative.

    The American pie continues to shrink, and the rats will continue to eat each other. I don’t think Red and Blue will reconcile, or even rise up in any meaningful way against the real bad guys, there’s just too much mistrust baked into the R and B models of the world.

  24. Hopefully you’re right but it could also be a big piece of the problem. Just took a blue highway road trip from Atlanta through Tennessee, Kentucky, Southern Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Easter Colorado, Southwestern Wyoming and into northern Idaho. As might be anticipated Trump billboards were omnipresent but I was surprised by the number of Christian Indentity solicitations and Yehwah signs along with the sheer number of small improvised looking churches. 90% of what you get on the radio is hate and misinformation. 100s of miles of grievance (much of it justified) between the occasional big city which the locals perceive as taking all their tax dollars, their children and their culture while sucking the economic life out of their little towns. Institutions in general have failed them across the board. Obama quote about bitter and clinging to their guns and religion works as a stereotype for the reason most of these descriptions ring somewhat true. 50 years of bad wars and the horrific treatment of our combat veterans has bred an a sizeable number of skilled and angry men and women. Militia groups have been really good a recruiting from the ranks of this disaffected segment of our population. Aside from the IRA example the really scary one is the Sunni/Shia mess being fomented in the Middle East. Repression of violence builds ever increasing levels of hatred. Those not in power have no qualms about taking out the opposition (politicians, press, “soldiers”) which in turn brings surveillance, repression of rights and reprisals. Enough of this rant. Too much Covid time reading up on and sinking into the Black Hole of Armageddon (religion end game).

  25. Traditional denominations are hemorrhaging adherents. Small scale evangelicals are exploding in number. More comforting to “worship” with your tribe and assign the “blame” for all of your troubles on the infidels. Clergy in traditional denominations are much more liberal than their congregations. See road trip (albeit skewed sample) observations.

  26. If we can’t generate enough decent paying jobs, healthcare and child care socially liberal, fiscally conservative won’t cut it. If Bernie was currently 45 years old I think within two elections our political parties would coalesce into have nots and elites with the elites on the survival end of the gerrymander/repress the vote of the illiterates spectrum clinging to the idea that the they know what’s best for the country.

  27. Completely agree on trying to bring back the less strident, potentially repentant Q supporters. We must be careful not to accidentally validate their positions by allowing complete free reign of their existing beliefs on thoroughly debunked topics.

  28. I won’t disagree on how the Right feels (I have plenty of personal experience with family members), but many of your boxes have also been taken away from the Left except for the largely impotent soap box (especially in the era of ‘fake news’); watching a news anchor lament the state of a norm broken, or a late-night comedian rant is cathartic, it’s funny, but it’s worthless when we live in split realities and the other side has no embarrassment (see Graham on late term SC appointments).
    Our ballot box has been taken away by gerrymandering, voter suppression, the inherently biased nature of the Senate and EC (17% of the population controls half the Senate). On top of this there has been excellent maneuvering (by Machiavelli’s standards) by McConnell to obstruct the traditional functioning of government and destroying norms (he’s the worst offender, but there are those on the Left who contributed).
    Our jury box is taken away - Again, McConnell has expertly denied Obama’s ability to appoint judges, then slotting every open slot with primary criteria as being partisan and young. This is amplified by any prosecution of legitimate crimes being turned into “witch hunts” and “hurting national unity”. Additionally neither side is interested in taking on larger corporations and hugely impactful white collar crime.
    And no sane American wants to resort to the ammo box, and the huge amount of destruction and human suffering it would cause.
    I don’t know the total solution, but I agree - more local engagement and less isolated bubbles, more education, and policies that meaningfully address the pain people on all sides are feeling (economic, healthcare, addictions, etc.)… is needed.

  29. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    I think my piece will be published tomorrow morning. It will be a commitment to read, but I’ll be interested in your thoughts, Rick.

  30. Avatar for Laura Laura says:

    Before you hang it up, you might enjoy reading this illuminating piece.

    I grew up in a Mormon family in southeastern Wyoming and can relate very well to the anti-government identity associated with that religion, which is kind of the same as everywhere in the Western US I’d say. Settler mentality abounds out here. I haven’t ever lived in or visited the South though and was intrigued by the reader letter in that article above that talked about evangelical culture there and how “God told me” is part and parcel of it. I saw a parallel with traditional media vs social media in it – we actually need some sort of gatekeeper in the absence of widespread critical reading and thinking faculties.

  31. Avatar for Laura Laura says:

    So nihilism is your answer then?

  32. Sounds more like realism than nihilism to me.

  33. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    Yes, I read that one and admire David French. It actually goes even beyond what he writes there, unfortunately, although the very special role played by a pandemic year in which social media-facing ministries were front-and-center is a key one.

  34. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    Unfortunately, I think the grievance identity is a fundamental feature of the widening gyre for both sides. There is a grievance-related “Greater Truth” for each political pole that has created a justification for all sorts of behaviors. In both cases it is a Greater Truth that is rooted in some reality, which gives all of its ancillary manifestations the benefit of the illusion of universal relevance.

    I wrote about this a bit in this note.

  35. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    I don’t think that necessarily implies nihilism at all, just that we cannot put our full trust in repairing or working through that existing party power structure, but I don’t want to speak for Landvermesser.

  36. Long time reader first time poster. There are two paths forward, one is that the Democratic leadership – who now control the Presidency, the Senate and Congress – govern to pull the country back together.  Biden needs to lay out a vision for unity and a genuine, believable inaugural address that is focused on ‘we are all in this together’ that is not simply a demand for those on the ‘right’ to disarm, both literally and figuratively. The other path is that the left continues to demonize anyone who disagrees with their narratives, and forces through a partisan agenda that basically forces those who disagree with it to either roll over or fight. Despite the fact that the election made it clear that we are basically a 50/50 country, the scary thing now is that it looks like the second path is still the one that the Democratic leadership is going down, and they are using the capital riot as a mechanism to unleash a domestically focused ‘Patriot Act’. 

    The people in charge - and the people in general - really do need to understand that we are perilously close to a Northern Ireland scenario. It was one thing to push for partisan legislation and partisan victories such as pushing for identity politics to be elevated in all institutions while the country was more or less unified. What must be understood now is that those type of partisan policy’s pursued now run the very real risk of leading to severe civil conflict if not outright civil war or secession, and the result of that will be worse than anyone can imagine.  Meaning, pursuing political initiatives such as ‘social justice above all’ is fine when the country is in very good shape and there is no risk of severe domestic discord.  In that environment centrist leaders like Biden (who may not believe in this leftist agenda) may stay quiet because they do not want to destabilize their own coalition.  But in the current environment where there is a real risk of a catastrophic breakdown that nobody but the extremists on either side want, it is time for those responsible centrist leaders to police their own radicals, and make public commitments to not pursue extremely divisive issues.  The country needs to be put together again.  And since the Democrats now control the Presidency, The Senate and Congress (as well as Big Tech and most media channels), it is up to them to take the lead here. If they use this opportunity to continue to demonize the right, and continue to pursue a partisan political agenda, then they will be responsible for the ensuing conflict, because it should be clear that there are huge numbers of people who would rather fight (in the real sense of the word) than accept this. It is time for the grownups to act grown up.  Team Elite needs to realize that the country is on the brink of a historic disaster that calls for an entirely different framework of what is important, and what the governing agenda should be. If instead they view the current moment as an opportunity to crush the right, then that is a mistake that history will not forgive. 

  37. I would like to paraphrase Hanlon’s Razor " Never assume malice where ignorance is possible".

    Framing all actions by an other (s) as an attack or assault direct against yourself is paranoid delusion. Unfortunately it also panders to our current information access methods and sells clicks and ad time.

    If you allow anger, hate and suspicion to rule, you will become a strung out anxiety junkie.

    We’re in a bit of a pinch here, bad actors abound but are a minority and cooler heads need to prevail or we might as well dig two graves for our existing political parties.

    Selden Crisis?

  38. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    Whether history forgives it or not, I cannot say. But I do think that the level of control which the Democratic Party will have, and at what scale they use that control to concentrate power or use state or Big Tech power to exacerbate the widening gyre are going to be enormously pivotal questions for the next 30 years of our Republic.

    Whether those in the GOP who promoted “stolen election” claims repent/relent is a big question, too, although at this point the narrative that they haven’t and won’t seems entrenched enough in common knowledge (for good reason thus far) that I don’t know that even two dozen major across the board apologies would change the trajectory.

  39. PS If you want to see something surreal watch the America’s Cup coverage out of New Zealand ( internet or NBC). It takes a lot to get to visit that country ( reason to travel, negative test to get on a plane, quarantine at a govt. licensed quarantine location and negative test to leave quarantine after the requisite number of days).

  40. the ‘stolen election’ issue is another crucial area that requires a new approach by EVERY politician that wants the country to remain united. It is completely in Biden’s interest to call for a bipartisan commission at the highest level to examine every issue related to elections, to learn from mistakes, to implement best-in-class solutions and to restore faith in that institution. It can be true that there were problems with fraud in the election, and that Biden would have won anyway even if everything was conducted perfectly. That is the path (and narrative) that should be pursued, not only because it is almost certainly the accurate one, but also because it is the only one that dials down tensions.

    But continuing the narrative that there was not ANY fraud (and that anyone who claims there was is a raving fanatic) or that there are not any problems with elections, and everyone should just sit down and shut up, will only fuel further anger. Again, the leadership has two paths forward - they can acknowledge that there are problems and vow to fix them together, or they can continue to insist that any questioning of the electoral system means that you are a beyond the pale fanatic. And that path leads to disaster

  41. Thank you, Rusty, that’s about how I feel.
    If you look at the universe of eligible voters in the US in the last election, I think about 1/3 of them voted R, 1/3 B, and 1/3 didn’t vote at all. I don’t think it’s fair to equate identifying with the third group with nihilism.
    I buy into neither the R brand, nor the B brand. And I see more than a little bit of “price fixing” collusion between their leaderships, which leads me to want to wash my hands of both of them.
    It’s easy to look at one of the parties (probably easier if you’re looking at the party you don’t identify with) and conclude that the party itself is a self-interested agent with its own agenda that can be irrelevant to or even sometimes in direct opposition to the interests of its members. Just look at how presidential primaries work.
    It’s not much of a leap to look at the system consisting of the two parties and see the same thing, a self-interested agent that will tend to look out for itself and respond to threats, either internal or external. One response is to whip up the respective animal spirits of party loyalty in the two factions, keeping them focused on each other as enemies and resistant to “infection” by ideas outside the consensus universe of “R or B”. A hardened B will accuse a third political party, for example, of carrying water for the R’s. And vice versa.

    So, that’s how I think it works. And I think that after all this time, it’s hard-wired in at a pretty low level on a national scale. The hope is in the local and the small. If I could convince my kids to move to our small-town pied-a-terre, we’d do it yesterday but it’ll probably be a few years yet. Scale is killing us all, economically, politically…
    I’m naturally pessimistic, so I think there’s a lot of pain for a lot of people between here and the realization of that hope. But ET helps keep me doubting that at least a little bit.

  42. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    I’m a little bit torn on this. One the one hand, we wrote several months before the election here, I was concerned that there was a narrative that a massive change to mail-in balloting had no increased risk of fraud. I believe there is, and I think there are practices in the portfolio of both parties (e.g. ballot harvesting, suppression) that occupy a pre-fraud area of inappropriate influence.

    I also don’t think there’s anything close to sufficient evidence that what magnitude of fraud we saw here had even a marginal influence on even the most marginal race. We saw very wide spread migration of stories, in which “This election was stolen” morphed into “There were trucked-in ballots and Dominion changed votes”, which morphed into “Well, I can’t prove fraud because there weren’t observers”, which when disproven morphed into “Well, officials maybe placed ballot boxes or allowed mail-in voting in a way which violated state law or the Constitution”, which when dismissed by courts in those states morphed into, “Look, there was some fraud, and isn’t OK to just talk about it?”

    I’m absolutely up for talking about it. It’s real. It has the ability to be big if we don’t keep a steady watch. We can do so much better. But I think it is important we treat this as an AND. We must have these conversations AND we must see repudiation of the claims that were made before they coalesced into this more general desire to improve election security, etc.

  43. Man, sorry I missed this when it came out. I was literally engaged with a conservative friend, asking rhetorically if any of the concerns and aims of the Flight 93 Election had been met.
    “Buh, buh, buh, election integrity!” was about all the response amounted to. Crickets on the concerns.
    It’s incredible to see so many things intersect, the narrative to both fragment at its edges, coalesce around new centers, and become an actual analytical thing as employed by NCRI and others.

    Here in Arizona we’ve always been a little flexible if not outright weird (Goldwater?), but we’ve stretched the ragged edges of the Republican party about as far as the fabric can stand.The Hegelian left/right model actually promotes a sick sort of stability at the gross level. It makes sense that the Left has both always been at war with the Right, and yet they have always been at peace because they need each other. Not a good outcome when Oceania goes to war with itself.

    Good to read Laura’s, Rick’s and others’ considered responses. I’m off to review OODA and Cialdini’s principles of persuasion to see if I can get my head around (and above) the clag.

    Keep it up.

  44. The Dem response to Yay Election Fraud! was an unforced error being “No Fraud!” There’s always fraud and has been in every election. Maybe in some small city council race. Maybe just one person thinking that their act of civil disobedience by voting a deceased relative’s ballot from a blue city counters unjust gerrymandering by the red state legislature (like happens in Indiana). That opened the door to finding just one instance that could be framed as potential fraud, which was clearly pre-planned by GOP to allow to happen- unforced error.
    The past few decades Fraud! was not a cry for true election integrity, but a meme that the losing party uses to replenish the coffers. Because both parties have had later absolute majorities and not addressed it. The Fraud! meme starts on the preferred party PR channel (Fox/CNN), then with appeals by letter / email with lots of bold font, underlines, and exclamation points. Guessing that a letter asking for donations while supporting the opposing party leadership, doesn’t bring in the donations like a doomsday claim of the end of life as we know it.

  45. I think that President Biden NEEDS to step up and calm the waters between the political parties. He ran on Unity and Healing. In a very close election result it is important for him to take risks with his Progressive wing.
    This is an important moment for Biden;
    if he pushes for the Left Wings goals,
    if he tacitly approves the Impeachment of President Trump
    Even if he doesn’t support a commission to study election fairness

    Then he’ll be seen as just another Democrat politician and as a Hypocrite (falsely using “Healing” and “Unity” to get elected with no intention of following through)

    I’m hopeful he will take the necessary political risks
    IMHO it’s up to Biden now to start the healing.

  46. Avatar for Laura Laura says:

    While I share your cynicism regarding the motives behaviors of our ruling class, I wholeheartedly disagree with your view regarding Fraud! when there is ample evidence that the Republican party specifically uses claims of Fraud! to implement voter suppression tactics and policies in key states to perpetuate minority rule in our “representative” democracy.

  47. Avatar for Laura Laura says:

    I understand your position better now. I guess I’d revise my question of whether nihilism is your answer to learned helplessness.

    It is a gigantic slog to create meaningful change in support of the People for sure, but I guess the American ideals still burn bright in my heart even if I don’t see much evidence of them out there in the real world. It’s important to work for things that you won’t see realized in your own lifetime.

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