Kunstler’s Commitment

The verdict is in, folks. James Howard Kunstler has made his decision on the 2020 election. He’d rather have gonorrhea than cholera.

In a recent column, Kunstler stated he’ll vote for Donald Trump over Joe Biden this November. His choice isn’t so much a vote “for” the orange man. Instead, it’s a vote “against” the hypocrisy, gaslighting, and grift of today’s Democratic Party.

His thesis was thorough in its indictment of the DNC. But it’s even more significant as an early indicator of November’s results. Kunstler is typically one of the first figures to correctly assess a complex, evolving situation. His choice tells us the swing voters of 2020 are more likely to break toward Trump.

To understand who today’s swing voters are, we must first assess the political position of the current president …… as opposed to who he was as a past candidate. In 2016, Trump attacked the establishment as an outsider. His supporters saw him as an agent of change.

But now we’ve all witnessed four years of Trump’s association with figures like John Bolton, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, and James Mattis. We’ve watched him jawbone the Fed’s top-down economic policies. We’ve seen the liberal use of executive orders. Trump has a track record. As president, he governs from a location far closer to the top of the circle than the 2016 candidate ever indicated.

The 2016 presidential race was the first election in generations to be decided along the power axis. That electoral result was a reaction to the authoritarian tendencies of Obama’s administration. And of Hillary Clinton’s commitment to a continuation of those policies.

In the general election of 2016, Trump’s position was lower than Hillary’s on the circle. This gave him a crucial advantage when voters calculated less on left versus right, and more toward top-down versus bottom-up.

The mainstream political analysis only interpreted that race in terms of liberal versus conservative, though. Hillary’s strategy in the general election followed the standard template: to control the “centrist sweet spot” in the middle of the one-dimensional left-right line. Since Trump didn’t fit the old paradigm, most pundits saw him as an inexplicable outlier candidate who was destined to lose. They realized too late that a new paradigm was governing voter preferences. Then their hastily planned countermove was to plant the panicked seeds of Russiagate and “the resistance.”

This obtuse and cynical reaction has not been lost on the majority of Americans through the ensuing four years, including many who are ambivalent about Trump. Thus, when we fast forward to 2020, polarization along the power axis is far more firmly entrenched. More folks realize that a battle is on between the credentialed class and the rest of the citizenry. The action is now vertical, not horizontal. Significant numbers of citizens have moved their positions downward on the circle.

If Trump had held more firmly to the tenets of his 2016 campaign, he would hold a major advantage today with the occupants of both lower quadrants. But those advantages have been diminished by his upward move on the circle.

In theory, Trump’s upward shift should have provided an edge to his opponent. Therefore, a simplistic assessment of the 2020 race would tell us that the democrat only needs to get lower on the circle than Trump. But Biden, following the DNC’s lead, has taken a position closer to the top pole.

“Simplistic” is the key word here, however, because elections aren’t won or lost based on simple geometry. Instead, a complex distribution of 130+ million positions must work itself out by early November. Groups of these positions often clump into nodes or clusters. Therefore, some aggregations, like the Never-Trumpers, are still located high in the upper right quadrant, similar to the typical positions of 20th Century Republican officials. Other players – members of the Woke Movement, for instance – have become even more authoritarian, thus moving upward within the upper left quadrant. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans are gradually moving downward on the circle, shifting from their previous higher positions on the right and the left.

This brings us to the swing voters of 2020. You’ll find these figures in a region equidistant between the two candidates, far down on the circle ……

The Democratic Party’s candidate has an advantage with this group because most of them either identify as liberal, or have historically voted with the democrats. But Biden has already squandered his best opportunity to gain their trust. If he had selected Tulsi Gabbard as his running mate, or even Andrew Yang, these voters would be more likely to look the other way on the Democratic Party’s growing authoritarian tendencies. But he didn’t.

I suspect that discussions with Gabbard progressed far further than anyone has fathomed. There must be figures among the DNC leadership attempting to stage interventions against the party’s intent to inflict self harm. But Biden couldn’t pick Gabbard (and , likewise, Gabbard wouldn’t entertain an alliance with Biden) for the very reasons outlined in Kunstler’s essay. The party has fully committed to a woke version of authoritarianism.

So …… now we wait for other figures near the bottom pole to break for one candidate or the other. They include members of the intellectual dark web, and signers of the Harper’s letter on free speech. Many free-thinking citizens are joining them. And it’s increasingly likely they’ll reluctantly break for the incumbent.

Will Joe Rogan announce his vote in some informal conversation? Will the Weinsteins acquiesce after Unity 2020 ultimately fails? Or will they be like many other Americans who choose not hurt their old friends’ feelings in public, but quietly pull the lever for Trump in private?

Does IDW mean SJWs are SOL?

The woke movement hits you hard with its theology. And after simmering in social science departments for years, those doctrines have reached a threshold: apostates can be identified …… and they’re increasingly being cancelled.

Now, with the public conversion of Democratic Party and social media elites to the social justice agenda, the movement’s authoritarian tendencies are being leveraged and scaled. So …… what happens next?

Isaac Newton taught us that for every action there’s an opposite reaction …… a law that seems to apply to politics as much as physics. Therefore, the credentialed class breathlessly awaits a draconian response from “the right.” As their thinking goes, “the left” has made their bold, riotous move in 2020, so the other shoe is bound to drop. Right?

In one sense, they’re correct: an equal and opposite reaction is occurring. But in another sense, they’ve missed the bigger picture. A push-back has already arrived. And it’s coming from …… the left.

The citizenempowering left is now constructing sound arguments against centralist left overreach. This new group’s members have been privately intense and passionate about woke’s excesses . Ironically, however, their public statements were initially muted. They know they’re in an existential fight for beliefs they hold dear. But their voices don’t yet reflect the full-throated confidence of a stand-alone movement. That will come soon enough, though.

This new group is best represented by members of the intellectual dark web, a phrase coined half-facetiously by one of its founders: Eric Weinstein. The IDW does contain a few right-leaning figures, but most members self-label as liberal, including Weinstein, his brother Bret (of Evergreen State College fame), Joe Rogan, Sam Harris, and others.

The IDW was joined in quick order by signatories to the Harper’s Magazine letter on open debate. It was a direct response to the social justice movement’s increasing embrace of cancel culture. Long time free speech liberals like Jonathan Haidt, Nicholas Christakis, and John McWhorter were joined by new converts to citizism like Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

The shift is even impacting journalism. Glenn Greenwald has advocated citizen empowerment for awhile. Matt Taibbi is now asserting his voice. And Bari Weiss defined her sharp break with the SJWs in a resignation letter to the New York Times.

The IDW and its allies are not the early adopters, however. James Howard Kunstler, Chris Martenson, and Charles Hugh Smith, among others, have eloquently outlined the principles of these positions since the early 2000s, and earlier. Later-arriving figures will continue to settle the territory they’ve pioneered.

This new force won’t remain beneath the radar for long. Legacy media will soon proclaim “a civil war within liberal ideology.” These headlines will be titillating, but the credentialed class will continue to overlook basic structural divisions in the partisan spectrum. A fundamental axis has always bisected the left side of the circle, just as it has on the right ……

The cries now emerging from the lower left quadrant hearken back to Paul Revere. They proclaim, “The authoritarians are coming!” But this is not a case of diametric opposition. These citizen-empowering figures still declare their allegiance to maternally-weighted liberal values. Their beef with the social justice movement is not with woke values. Instead, the growing woke preference for top-down institutional leverage is being stridently opposed.

When I first began to speak publicly about the political circle, a common response was, “But there’s no one in the lower quadrants.” Sometimes it was clarified with examples: “Ron Paul is in the lower right, and Ralph Nader is in the lower left, but they’re getting up there in age. Who will take their place?”

They were reasonable questions. The lower left quadrant was demographically denuded by the late nineteenth century’s progressive movement. For most of the twentieth century, it was a barren land. Most liberals believed, as a matter of faith, that the best shot at a better society lay with large regulating institutions.

That has shifted imperceptibly and gradually, however. Bret Weinstein said it concisely: “I used to believe in top down solutions. But I no longer think that works.” That shift preceded today’s rift between the social justice movement and its new adversaries. In the short term, the lower left will stand staunchly against the excesses of centralist liberalism. Its voices will gain confidence. The battle will be joined.

In the longer term, however, adjacent quadrants must form alliances. And the left side quadrants have too much in common to remain in perpetual existential conflict. Like the right, they must eventually strike some balance between centralized and citizen-based power. If they fail to do so, events will overtake ideology.

It will likely take the better part of our decade to resolve these issues. All four quadrants will take the field. Social questions will intersect with new economic constraints. And the America of 2030 will look vastly different from the America of 2020 …… if it survives intact.

So the answer to the title of this post is “no.” The SJWs are not SOL. But they are due for a comeuppance. There’s a new political force in America. It’s a citizen-empowering liberalism that believes in the power of emergent, self-organizing systems. That new force here to stay.

Forget Waldo. Where are the Wokesters?

Every political movement requires alliances. Therefore, a list of woke players, both visible and intuited, can be assembled from images of the 2020 protest/riots ……

  • Megaphoned crowd leaders
  • Anonymous financiers/instigators
  • Democrat mayors
  • Democrat governors
  • White kneeler/prostraters
  • Street-filling protesters
  • Antifa leaders and trainers
  • Antifa street tacticians
  • Black Lives Matters leaders/trainers
  • BLM street tacticians
  • Media cheerleaders
  • Congressional cheerleaders
  • Academic cheerleaders
  • Rioters/looters
Photo by Life Matters on Pexels.com

At first glance, this broad spectrum of participants appeared to coalesce spontaneously, and their 2020 surge seemed to be part of a chaotic process. But this impression can’t be entirely true. And in the fullness of time, we’ll find out if it’s even remotely true. Certainly, some level of training and preparation occurred in advance.

Either way, the coalition has a structure because its members sort spatially. Therefore, an assessment of its constituent parts can be informative.

Left Pole ……

The kneeler/prostraters are a subcategory within the general population of peaceful protestors. They join such efforts out of a desire to “do the right thing.” Their position near the left pole indicates a focus on matters of conscience, almost to the exclusion of pragmatic concerns.

The street-fillers mirror many of the same characteristics as the kneelers-on-command. They’re typically drawn to protests based on moral concerns. This is the group the media attempts to highlight, as opposed to those with violent or looting tendencies, because the peaceful protesters participate for idealistic reasons.

Some of these positions extend slightly upward along the upper left quadrant. The higher a position sits in relation to the horizontal axis, the more a person’s pragmatic concerns will mix with those of the conscience. Thus, some of these members will pursue more savvy interactions with, and questioning of, the movement’s mid-level leaders …… while their brethren near the left pole follow along more gullibly.

Top of Circle ……

The other boundary of this movement is defined by a group with very different motivations. The anonymous financiers and instigators are focused only on the pragmatic concerns of centralized power. They elicit little concern for questions of conscience.

Entities at the top pole rarely show their faces or divulge their resources. In foreign interventions, the Central Intelligence Agency takes on the role of anonymous financier/instigator, leading to conspiracy theories (either true or false) that they’re involved in America’s 2020 strife. Allegations of interference by “the Russians” – a foreign central governmental entity – are a similar conspiracy theory.

Whether or not the CIA, Russians, George Soros, or some other entity is involved, the top-down training of the protest organizations requires funding and expertise from a deep-pocketed source. Unfortunately, no investigative reporters have shined the light of transparency on these actors.

The group slightly to the left of the top pole is a mix of democratic governors, congressional cheerleaders, Antifa/BLM leaders, and other prominent members of top-down institutions. The spread of their positions near the top of the circle varies based on individual roles, with those favoring centralized control residing higher in the quadrant.

Mid-Quadrant ……

So, both boundaries of the movement have been defined. Remaining positions fit into the quadrant’s middle region ……

It has been said that the allied army won World War II on the backs of its sergeants. It relied heavily on the astute judgment of those on-the-ground decision-makers. In 2020, the Antifa and BLM street tacticians attempt to perform a similar role. They use the strategic directives of the movement’s upper circle leaders to guide the actions of those closer to the left pole.

We’ve seen today’s tacticians brandish the most effective tool of this conflict: the megaphone. It directs crowd energy in much the same way that a sergeant directs kinetic firepower. Instead of artillery and bullets, f-bombs and university-approved rhetoric are employed.

Some tacticians have no doubt recruited a demographic that differs greatly from the idealistic, conscience-centered left pole members. This other group participates in vandalism and violence. Here again, there has been little journalistic curiosity about the instigators, their methods of inciting violence, and their financing.

Toward the top of mid-quadrant are sympathetic mayors. But they’re not oriented as high as a governor or or other high office holder. Activist city council members orient slightly below mid-quadrant. And academic apologists span the entire zone.

The Upper Left Quadrant ……

So, the woke protest/riots are best understood spatially. They invoke the upper left quadrant’s full spectrum. Those who lean more toward centralization of power will lean less toward liberal values …… and vice versa.

The above diagrams represent the base case condition for a coalition. If the edges fray, to involve less than a full quadrant, the movement will fizzle. Similarly, if membership can be expanded beyond the confines of the quadrant, the odds of permanent societal change increase.

Where Is Julian Assange?

Julian Assange is still incarcerated in Britain on the date of this post. Thus, by all conventional metrics, Belmarsh Prison must be considered the where of his existence.

But Assange’s legal problems are part of a larger story. A different kind of where created his current situation. And that other location will influence some key decisions the rest of us must make about America’s future.

Here’s a representation of his spot in GPS World ……

Meanwhile, another aspect of reality – our collective political framework – shows a different location for Assange. This other locale seems to matter more to him than the physical spaces he has occupied.

Julian Assange is not a left-right figure; he doesn’t fit on the traditional political model. Instead, his worldview orients vertically …… along the power axis. He has chosen a citizen-empowering position at the lowest point on the political circle.

Through boldness and tenacity, the Wikileaks founder has staked out – and held – an important new piece of political real estate. When he established this position on the barren frontiers of twenty-first century partisanship, the surrounding area was largely devoid of inhabitants. But that has begun to change.

In one of life’s ironies, Assange’s efforts to pioneer new partisan territory have been boosted by his sworn adversaries: the deep state actors “diametrically opposed” to his position. The more these avatars of centralized power constrain his physical location, the more they call attention to his groundbreaking political location.

This battle, instigated by Assange, has also shifted the political ground under his adversaries’ feet. State (and corporate) bureaucrats can no longer hide behind the false “centrist” label, protected by the cover of a one-dimensional model. Instead, they’ve been forced out onto open terrain, where their centralizing tendencies are on full display.

Assange and his associates model the qualities of citizen empowerment: a transparent sharing of information, flatness and flexibility in human organization, and true social & intellectual diversity …… among other characteristics.

In contrast, the deep state actors conform to the dictates of top-down power ….. tightly controlled “classified” information, deeply hierarchical organizations, and enforced uniformity in action & opinion.

These characteristics can help each of us to understand where our own partisan choices reside on the circle. For example, if you stridently support Assange, your position will be located in one of the lower quadrants. In contrast, those who dislike him will reside near the circle’s top.

A significant minority of partisans will be ambivalent about the power axis, though. Those folks, who orient primarily toward their values choices, reside near the left and right poles. They’ll question whether Assange’s agenda can have much impact on their hopes for the culture. His position will seem too far away to be of much relevance to the wokesters and evangelicals of America.

But the partisans of those locations will still be required to plot a path on the power axis …… and the differences between their two choices are stark. If they choose to adopt the qualities of citizen-sufficiency, Americans will forge hard-won alliances between people of differing values. In contrast, if they continue to leverage centralized power on behalf of their beliefs, America’s cultural conflicts will devolve into a zero-sum civil war.

Julian Assange has sacrificed his personal freedom, his financial future, his family life, and even his supersized libido to protect his position on the political circle. His example places a stake in the ground. It draws that line in the sand. He compels us to consider a fundamental question: which pole of the power axis will establish a better future for our society?