Every politically engaged person answers two Fundamental Questions. No one is exempt. And yet, our national discourse attempts to ignore this truth. The majority of prominent political figures acknowledge only one Fundamental Question.
For example, Mitt Romney, pretends to address only the Values Question, where his paternal leanings classify him as a conservative. But Romney is also focused on the Power Question, though he acts as if it’s not a priority. His history indicates an attraction to concentrated capital and centralized control …… in organizations like Bain Capital, the U.S. Executive Branch, and the Mormon hierarchy. This places his political position near the circle’s top, though he’d rather have us believe he’s a right-leaning “moderate.”
Most mainstream political figures are similar to Romney. They pretend to be all about Values while covertly coveting Power. But they’re not the only figures who answer both Questions. Everyone does ……
Lindsay Graham: Conservative Values. Centralized Power. Upper Right Quadrant.
Hillary Clinton: Liberal Values. Centralized Power. Upper Left Quadrant.
Jordan Peterson: Conservative Values. Citizen-based Power. Lower Right Quadrant.
Joe Rogan: Liberal Values. Citizen-based Power. Lower Left Quadrant.
Large groups of individuals, working in unison, also submit answers to both Questions. In these cases, a similar dynamic often applies: a prominent institution might focus on one Question while largely ignoring the other. The Federal Reserve is one such entity: its emphasis has traditionally been on the execution of its vast, top-down financial and economic control. Only recently has it dipped a toe into the tepid waters of climate change and woke values.
The Fed could be forgiven for engaging in a limited approach because its mission, as designated by Congress, is to focus on a particular form of Power. In other cases, however, the tunnel vision is far less honest. For example, one of the Fundamental Questions is often ignored, intentionally, by America’s two political parties. Here again, Power is their prime concern. But they steer the collective conversation toward an exclusive focus on Values, much like an adult distracts an uncooperative toddler with “Look! A Balloon!”
The goal – for both major political parties – is to guide the citizens into a one-dimensional view of the world, where the liberal versus conservative Values Debate is paramount. Meanwhile, the duopoly quietly grants itself far-reaching, concentrated powers.
But the parties’ prime concern is far different than their left-right grandiloquence would indicate: each wants to gain a tighter grip on Centralized Power. The public rhetoric is belied by their choice of allies – the Wall Street Bankers, corporate CEOs, K Street lobbyists, and media personalities who participate in their consolidation of control.
The top of the circle sees itself as the active player in the American citizen’s affairs. By default, therefore, it looks at the wider population as passive recipients of top-down policy. Sometimes, the pacifying efforts take the form of economic handouts. Other times, outcomes are mandated more directly. At still other times, scaremongering is pursued, with the alleged threat alternating between a variety of potential bogeymen: sovereign nations, terrorists, environmental catastrophes, gun mischief, and the like.
Only rarely does Centralized policy help the common American to become more resilient, more aware, more informed, more self-sustaining, or more willing to question the dominant paradigm. Dependence is the usual goal.
In contrast, for those who reside in the lower half of the circle, qualities like transparency, initiative, incrementalism, resilience, and innovation are regarded as basic rights and responsibilities. They see their own quadrants as the rightfully active participants in America’s governance, and they seek to force the oligarchs into a more passive role.
At its heart, this is a conflict about agency. And agency aligns with the political circle’s vertical axis. The top believes everyone should operate under its auspices. The bottom thinks each citizen should be responsible for their own actions …… and should contribute to the health of their own community.
This growing conflict is causing Americans to leave both political parties in droves. Thus, in a pattern resembling Californians leaving their homes for a fresh start in a new state, rank-and-file Republicans and Democrats are steadily declaring themselves independent of their former party loyalties.
The sequences unleashed by such changes are difficult to predict. Loyalties are shifting and coalitions are realigning. One thing is now clear, though: the needs, rights, and responsibilities of the citizen will remain secondary in Washington and Wall Street until the political parties are compelled, from the outside, to address bottom up power.
If the republic is to survive, the duopoly will have to stop pretending that only left and right matter. They’ll need to come clean on the country’s other Fundamental Question.