Moving in Lockstep

Earlier this week, I mapped the locations of factions that are forming within today’s GOP. But the Republicans (with the notable exception of Donald Trump) have been reactive agents in the nation’s long-running conflict. It is the Democrats who typically take the initiative. Hence, they call themselves “progressives.”

The circle’s left side exhibits a different dynamic than the divisions on the right. Democratic leadership has constructed a uniform block of national and state politicians, capable of acting in unison. This group agitates for increases in centralized power. The surface presentation of these Beltway Believers is one of diversity. When viewed spatially, however, they occupy a specific location on the partisan spectrum. It’s characterized by uniformity.

It’s surprising how often the Democrat Party is conflated with liberal values …… as if they were one and the same. The same occurs on the right. But political parties must be analyzed separately from their brand.

The values of liberalism are more broad than the worldview of the party now purporting to represent them. And in recent years, many liberal members of America’s thinking class have begun to break away from the centralized factions of that tradition, using phrases like “lack of ideological diversity” or “diminished protection of free speech.” To get a general sense of some of these figures, read the Harper’s Letter to the Editor.

So, the Party has moved higher on the circle’s left side, while other self-described liberals are now entrenched within the low quadrant. Perhaps some occasionally vote with leadership, but a chasm has opened.

Another group of liberals also resides in the lower left quadrant, largely unacknowledged. Movements like permaculture, new urbanism, functional medicine, and local sourcing exhibit great energy and grassroots growth. But they’ve been forced to operate at the margins of political power.

Rather than embrace the intellectual ferment provided by low circle liberals, the party treats this quadrant as an unnecessary distraction to its top-down priorities. Instead, Democrat elites have crafted strong alliances with other centralized organizations, like major media, the tech monopolies, and agencies of the deep state.

Here again, unacknowledged allies aid this group. For example, centralizing Republicans frequently cooperate with DNC initiatives. And the Federal Reserve, while posing as “non-partisan,” enables party policies with its easy money approach.

This leaves many occupants of the circle’s left side with a difficult choice. Those who would normally sit at the liberal pole are often drawn to centralized policies because no other political representation is available. A move to lower positions would leave them with no power.

What impact does this have on the nation’s future? As the media continues to insist on a left-right interpretation of the political spectrum, the true battle is steadily morphing into a top-versus-bottom conflict. This situation has been correctly perceived by occupants of the lower quadrants, but those members still haven’t formed meaningful alliances.

The fate of the republic might hinge on whether liberals and conservatives of the lower quadrants can begin to generate political leverage where none currently exists.

Mapping the Republican Civil War

While the Democrats march in lockstep behind Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the impending election certification has exposed deep fissures between prominent Republicans in the US Congress. The positions of the three main conservative groups can be understood when placed on the political circle ……


Players like Mitt Romney, Pat Toomey, and former house speaker Paul Ryan have made their position clear over the past few weeks …… and over the past few years. They’ve also shown the terms Never-Trump and RINO to be near-synonyms. This group’s core characteristic is a deep faith in institutions – primarily corporations and the agencies of central government. In their view, to question entrenched election officials is to question the foundations of the American republic itself.

This group cloaks its views in statements about “democracy.” But their primary opposition is to Trump: they believe he’s an imposter, ill-fitted to lead the institutions they hold dear. Potential election malfeasance is a secondary issue to them.


It’s no coincidence that Josh Hawley of Missouri, the first senator to publicly object to the electors, was raised as a Methodist, attended a catholic high school, and now identifies as an evangelical. Not all of the (initial) twelve senators to contest the tally self-label so stridently as religious, but they do populate the middle of the circle’s right side. This zone will identify with centralist initiatives at times, but it also maintains contact with the party’s more libertarian members.

As has been addressed in previous posts, there is no such thing as a “centrist,” despite the efforts of folks like Mitt Romney to pose as moderates. But if there were to be a center wing of the Republican Party, it would be geometrically defined as those who occupy the area near the right pole. They are neither authoritarian nor anarchic. And they’re surrounded by conservatives on both “sides” – both above and below.

This group has traditionally supported Trump. But the election issue is still primary to them because they see potential fraud as a threat to democratic rule. Note that their stand has been labeled as a calling of conscience …… a hallmark of the values axis to which they hold proximity.


Figures like Senator Tom Cotton and Representative Thomas Massie have stated that they will not oppose the election results, which likely comes as a surprise to many observers. This stand would seem to place them in alliance with figures like Romney and Toomey, but their actual locations, and views, are quite the opposite. This is the libertarian wing of the party, and their reluctance isn’t so much to Trump himself (Cotton has been an especially strong supporter over the past four years) but to the prospect of handing even more control to a centralist-leaning organization like the US Congress. They believe a congressional intervention would take power away from the citizens over the long haul.


The most disengaged group over the past two months has been the citizen-empowering liberals …… with the exception of their requests that Trump issue pardons to Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. As occurred during the election campaigns, these figures, like Tulsi Gabbard, Glenn Greenwald, and the Unity 2020 group, seem to believe they have no dog in this fight. When positions are plotted on the circle, this makes sense, because they’re equidistant from both presidential contenders.

I find myself writing about this group far more often than any other, despite the fact that I don’t hold membership in their quadrant, and they currently hold the least political power. I address them frequently because they’re likely to become the most important coalition throughout the remainder of the current fourth turning.

This group should be taking a very close look at the facts being presented by Team Trump regarding fraud. If the authoritarian tendencies of the upper left quadrant do manifest as some have expected (including them), members of this group would be the most at-risk to join Snowden and Assange as information dissidents.

The one exception in this quadrant has been James Howard Kunstler, who perceives an existential threat from the DNC and has taken a bold position against its actions.

In the end, potential alliances (and their outcome) will hinge on whether Team Trump can present a smoking gun to the American citizens. To date, Trump’s effort has generated levels of doubt acceptable to his supporters …… but not to others. He’ll need to produce evidence that causes the non-MAGAs to alter their current assessment.

Republicans and Democrats

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.

The Presidency

2020’s campaign rhetoric was threadbare and tiresome before it even launched. “Joe Biden is diminished and corrupt.” “His running mate couldn’t make it to the primaries.” “Trump is a racist misogynist xenophobe.” “His VP wants America to become A Handmaids Tale.”

We’ve heard similar statements in past presidential elections, but the negativity grows with each cycle. Whether we’re voting on Trump, Romney, McCain, or Bush ……. Biden, Hillary, Obama, Kerry, or Gore ….. each side seeks to discredit the opposing candidate. “This person isn’t qualified to hold the office.”

While our attention is drawn to specific individuals within the current news cycle, the longer arc of history gets overlooked. For example, George Washington presided over three cabinet level secretaries and one attorney general. In contrast, today’s federal government has more than 2000 departments, agencies, administrations, authorities, and commissions, employing as many as 9.1 million people. The bulk reside under the executive branch …… and therefore, the president.

The following chart serves as a rough proxy for growth of the office’s power since the 1930s. Note the “massive spending” for the existential threat of World War II at the far left side ……

Chart Credit: Wikideas1 (CC BY-SA 4.0) Data Source:

This revenue and spending chart tracks actual numbers. But it also functions as a metaphor for the intensity of our emotions. Every four years, we encounter “the most important election in American history.” The statement might seem hyperbolic, but its assertion is supported by the data: our reactions ratchet up each cycle because vast additional resources have come under a specific person’s control.

Regardless of political party or personal character, each president is able to issue executive orders, to appoint long-serving judges, and to prod congress into passing budgets that meet his or her policy priorities …… a few of the many dominions administered by the office. This enormous expanse of power has been granted over a period measured in generations. Control has gradually been concentrated in a particular location.

When we correctly perceive that a single individual, whom we’ll likely never meet, will make crucial decisions about our lives, it causes our assessment of that person to change. Normal human missteps are magnified. Forbearance and forgiveness carry too much risk. Thus, much of the country considers the Democratic candidate to be a loathsome force. And a different piece of the populace takes the same view about the Republican.

Is it any wonder the stakes feel so high every four years? Is it surprising to see the political parties pursue dishonest and illegal tactics when so much control is at stake? Why wouldn’t we be concerned about the person who captures all that power? One character flaw could have existential ramifications.

This situation has been accepted as a given. When the next cycle comes around, we brace for greater conflict. But, as the graph shows, the conundrum is of our own making. There are other options. For example, how often have you heard the phrase “not my governor” in your state? Or …… has “the resistance” ever developed against your town’s mayor? Many people don’t even know the names of their local leaders. Those officials don’t hold enough power to impact our lives. We focus instead on the real action …… in Washington DC, New York City, or Silicon Valley.

To investigate this collective blind spot, it’s helpful to examine the language each campaign crafts to combat its opponent. The core message – for both sides – remains unchanged through every election cycle: “The other candidate isn’t qualified to hold the office.” This sentence contains two nouns. The first is candidate. The second is office. In each election, all of our attention is drawn to the first noun. None is drawn to the second.

If Americans are going reverse the growing dysfunction that currently plagues our society, the second noun will require some analysis. We’ll need to determine just how much power one office should control.

Unfortunately, the presidency is only one component within a long march toward the centralization of power in America. Real control is concentrated in just a few institutions, locations, and players. They increasingly determine the narrowing framework within which our lives are conducted.

Today, in November 2020, our fate is once again being determined at the national level. It is occurring under questionable circumstances and intense emotions. We’ve been stuck in this pattern for many cycles. Do we want it to continue?

Before 2024 rolls around, we might want to ask: “Just how much power should a small group of people be granted over the rest of us?”

Greenwald v. Intercept

As we all learned in grade school math, when a negative is multiplied by a positive, the end result is a negative. The principle applies to politics as well: when a bad paradigm is paired with some very smart people, a bad outcome should be expected. Thus, we observe the messy divorce between Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept.

The question this situation presents isn’t “Why did they break up?” Instead, we should ask what would cause intelligent people with mismatched agendas to get together in the first place. The answer is clear if you’ve put much thought into the structure of political paradigms: it seemed like a good idea under America’s deficient, one-dimensional model of partisanship ……

This narrow, flatland approach to partisan positioning makes the two parties’ differences seem incidental. Sure, Greenwald occasionally acts the centrist by appearing on right leaning media, but those are mere quirks of his genius, correct? Likewise, The Intercept has placed all its chips on blue with the woke agenda, but that isn’t so inconsistent with Greenwald’s outlook, is it?

When their views sort on a better model, the structural differences in their outlooks become clear. The power axis clarifies just how far apart their worldviews actually are.

Both parties hold to liberal values. Therefore, they sort to the left side of the circle. But their orientation toward power differs. This places their locations far apart. Greenwald has championed transparency and free speech, regardless of personal cost. These, and other qualities of citizen empowerment, place him low within the lower left quadrant. In contrast, The Intercept’s orientation is more neo-Marxist. It finds a home quite high in the upper left quadrant …… the home of centralized solutions.

It’s likely that their conflict has been intensifying for a very long time. And the breaking point might have been spurred by an election season move of the news site upward on the circle …… a location even higher than the one shown above. It’s difficult for two parties to resolve their conflicts when there are too many degrees of separation between them.

Greenwald’s position in relation to the news site he founded is one of many misunderstandings created by a deeply flawed paradigm. Such confusion is resolved by shifting to a two-dimensional construct. For example, Tucker Carlson has moved lower on the circle in recent years. Thus, Greenwald’s position is closer to Carlson’s than it is to The Intercept ……

Substack will be a better home for Greenwald than the Intercept ever was. But can he exert effective leverage on the political landscape within that format? Only time will tell. But this is actually a secondary concern: his switch to a new site is less important than a switch to a better political paradigm.

As for The Intercept, expect a deeper purge in the near future, as Greenwald’s low quadrant allies fail to meet the purity standards the news site now requires.

The Future of Unity 20xx

The Unity movement was (and is) a noble concept initiated by a courageous figure, the evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein. While there’s a need for its impact to continue beyond 2020, all efforts aimed at the current election have been suspended. So, why was the initial initiative a long shot? And what will need to change for the movement to gain traction?

Despite its superior motives, Unity 2020 stalled for the same reason the political system is failing: participants can’t draw productive distinctions within their discourse because our political language is based on a much-too-limited spatial model. For example, here’s how the major party candidates distribute along today’s one-dimensional spectrum ……

The positions of Biden and Trump aren’t that far apart on this construct. One sits to the right of center. The other is to the left of center. Significantly, there’s really no place for the views of a Unity member on this line.

When the major party candidates are placed on a two-dimensional model, their positions still aren’t that far apart ……

But the locations of people attracted to the Unity platform can be plotted on the broader construct. Note that the two duopoly candidates are far closer to one another than they are to Unity’s positions ……

Unity 2020 sought to draft additional presidential contenders because its members’ distribute to the greatest possible distance from Trump and Biden. A geometric relationship was at work, in which the probability of a push-back was highest at this location on the circle. The typical Unity views on free speech, the oligarchy, data dissidents, and other issues reside quite far from those of the establishment.

I was concerned about Unity’s approach when its initial language seemed to reference “centrist” new candidates from the left and right. Centrism is a damaging concept, as has been outlined in previous posts, like Centrists and Sasquatches, because the so-called centrist usually supports an increased centralization of power. The terminology was apparently removed from Unity’s website, though.

Unfortunately, the deeper issues underlying the centrism paradox can’t be fixed until a two-dimensional model is adopted. This problem manifested early in the Unity effort, when certain candidates were proposed, despite holding views that reside near the circle’s top.

William McRaven staunchly defended deep state member John Brennan and served loyally in the Obama and Bush administrations. His criticisms of Trump were popular, but they didn’t express a desire to empower citizens who sit low on the circle. Instead, he railed against Trump’s personality, as well as Trump’s policies regarding American interests abroad.

Likewise, the centerpiece of Andrew Yang’s campaign, Universal Basic Income, would require additional bureaucracies, regulations, and enforcement. It follows the path of centralism in positing citizens as passive recipients of administrative aid, rather than as assertive activists on their community’s behalf. The endorsement of Jack Dorsey, a tepid supporter of free speech (at best), solidifies Yang’s credentials as a centralizer of power ……

In contrast to these concerns, the vote on draft candidates was a solid indication of Unity’s longer-term viability. The two leading choices – Tulsi Gabbard and Dan Crenshaw – hold lower quadrant positions ……

The exact placement of these two figures on the circle is something that could (and should) be debated. Perhaps one or both of them actually orient lower …… or maybe higher. But it seems clear that Crenshaw is a citizen-empowering conservative and Gabbard is a citizen-empowering liberal. In fact, Gabbard’s views are nearly “diametrically opposed” to McRaven’s, based on her opposition to policies he supported under previous presidents. In contrast, the positions of Gabbard and Crenshaw are in close proximity to one another …… perhaps even closer than shown in the diagram above.

Thus, the proposed draft candidates hold positions that are closer to Unity 2020 positions than are Biden and Trump’s ……

A joint ticket of Gabbard and Crenshaw would have aligned with the Unity movement’s goals, but sadly, we won’t get to see how they fare against the duopoly’s candidates. Instead, as things now stand, Unity members will function as crucial swing voters in the November 3 election.

If it chooses, Unity could have a bright future. New organizations are required to give a voice, and structure, to the growing wave of like-minded citizens. There’s also a need to build new inter-axis alliances between the circle’s lower quadrants. These are tasks at which Unity could excel moving forward …… if it relies on a two-dimensional model of political positioning.

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 the social science departments of universities for years, those doctrines have reached a threshold: apostates can now be identified …… and they’re increasingly being cancelled.

With the recent public conversions of the Democratic Party, corporate broadcasters, and social media elites to the social justice faith, the movement’s authoritarian tendencies are suddenly being leveraged and scaled to a degree that many find disorienting.

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 the 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. The push-back has already arrived. And it’s coming from …… the left.

Unbeknownst to many – including every member of America’s punditry – the liberal tradition is divided into two major components: an “upper left”, oriented heavily toward institutional, bureaucratic power, and a “lower left”, focused on individual and community empowerment. The new battle lines of the country’s culture war run between these two groups. And the citizenempowering left has now begun to construct sound arguments against centralist left overreach.

This previously unnoticed contingent has been privately intense and passionate about woke’s excesses for quite awhile. Ironically, however, the members’ public statements were initially self-muted. But they now know they’re in an existential fight for beliefs they hold dear and they realize that something must be done. 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, as logic would indicate, 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 citizen-based flexing, like Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

The shift is also 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 even earlier, in some cases. Later-arriving figures will continue to settle the territory that those brave souls have pioneered.

This resurgent 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, per se. Instead, the growing woke preference for top-down institutional leverage is the approach they oppose.

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?”

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

That orientation has shifted imperceptibly and gradually, however. As those government agencies found that they shared common ground with the agendas of large corporations, many liberals found themselves searching for an identity. Bret Weinstein summed it up concisely: “I used to believe in top down solutions. But I no longer think that works.” The shift of mindset in similar thinkers 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 disconcerting new economic constraints. And the America of 2030 will look vastly different than the America of 2020.

So the answer to the title of this post is “no.” The SJWs are not SOL. But they are due for a backlash. There’s a growing political force in America. It’s a citizen-empowering liberalism that believes in the power of emergent, self-organizing systems. That new force will form unexpected new alliances, most notably with citizen-empowering conservatives. The “lower left” is 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

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?