I have often asserted in this blog that twenty-first century political conflict cannot be described using today’s dominant political language, which relies too much on the terms left and right (though those concepts do represent important values orientations). Instead, our era’s existential dispute aligns vertically – between those who support more centralization of power, and those who seek a release from its tightening grip, using some process of decentralization.
A picture has emerged of two combatants sharply divided. Central bankers, regulatory bureaucrats, corporate CEOs, social media monopolists, and other avatars of concentrated power attempt to control an aging system of economic and social structures …… by ratcheting up the centralization further. But unexpected new adversaries continue to pop up on the streets, around the capitol, and in chat rooms.
The potential chaos created by this conflict has spawned apocalyptic prophecies …… many of them surprisingly well-researched and data-driven. There’s James Howard Kunstler’s Long Emergency, James Rickards’ Road to Ruin, the World Economic Forum’s Orwellian “Great Reset”, predictions of a return to Wiemar era hyperinflation, worries about an impending civil war or super-sized economic depression, and competing visions of woke dystopia. This brief list only represents the tip of an iceberg.
Most predictions of the future address: (1) some potential collapse, and (2) a descent into dystopia. In contrast, few scenarios envision an attempt to resolve today’s partisan divisions.
In subsequent posts, I’ll explore one potential pathway toward a resolution: the Constitutional Convention. This option – rarely discussed to date – is not an infeasible scenario. While none of the republic’s twenty-seven amendments have been passed through such a gathering, Article Five of the Constitution does provide a pathway.
One indicator that this option could come to fruition is evidenced in a slowly emerging trend: our conflict’s center of gravity is beginning to shift away from national structures …… toward non-national structures. One instance of this pattern can be seen in the greater willingness of state officials to challenge decisions made in Washington DC.
For example, liberal centralist state governors, like Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, have begun to subtly sabotage the national conservative policies they disagree with. Similarly, red state governors are pushing back against the actions of big tech, and the Biden administration, in the latest top-versus-bottom conflict. (Their recent moves are usually misinterpreted as liberal versus conservative, but they more accurately reflect civil war within a Republican party that’s torn between its centralizing and citizen-empowering wings.)
This venturing of states into matters of national policy isn’t new. But the trend does seem to be gaining in intensity since the beginning of our century. The challenges of state attorney generals to Obamacare represent an example.
But such actions are only one factor that could lead to a future constitutional convention. The states occupy an intermediate position between deeply concentrated national power, on the one hand, and a new impetus for individual and local assertions, on the other. The interplay between these opposing forces, and the misunderstandings or machinations that are likely to arise, will be explored in coming posts.