An Age of Ayahuasca?

Most Americans favored local, horizontal organizations from the time of the earliest European settlements through the late 1700s. As a Christian society with an entrenched warrior ethos, the colonists’ approach to two fundamental questions placed them in the lower right quadrant of the political circle. The distribution of positions looked something like this ……

This set of answers placed the new society in conflict with the British government’s authoritarian controls. Ironically, the ensuing war began to push America’s political outlook upward on the circle.

Alexander Hamilton is one example of this shift. Wartime experiences convinced him that some form of concentrated control would be required in the nation’s affairs, leading him to argue for a strong central authority at the Constitutional Convention. He then helped to strengthen that approach as America’s first treasury secretary.

Therefore, in the early 1800s, the country’s collective power answer slowly began to shift from citizen-centric to centralist within the still-conservative, still-Christian, and still-capitalist nation. This trend accelerated during the Civil War, then reached its apex as new corporations like Standard Oil, US Steel, the railroads, and the House of Morgan drove the late nineteenth century economy. America held to the same values as in earlier times, but a new power answer was now dominant.

Populist movements led a backlash against the moguls’ power, however. In response, central government was made more robust. The core components were put in place around 1913, as the Federal Reserve, the popular election of U.S. Senators, and the income tax shifted influence from top-down corporations to institutions of government.

This trend accelerated under Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, as more bureaucracies and regulations were established in Washington DC. Later presidents consolidated those gains. Thus, the twentieth century became a golden age for the upper left quadrant. Power remained centralized, but the liberal values of cooperation, consensus, civil rights, and care for the commons gradually superseded the capitalistic conquests of America’s early industrial age.

A counterclockwise movement around the political circle can thus be discerned across a span of more than three hundred years. The eighteenth century favored the lower right quadrant. The nineteenth featured a shift to the upper right. And by the twentieth, the upper left was in control.

If the trend continues, another shift can be expected. Liberal values would remain dominant, but America’s power answer would become more decentralized, horizontal, emergent, and self-organizing. The lower left quadrant would rise ……

Two questions come to the fore. First, what would American society look like under an ascendant lower left quadrant? Second, how would the transition take place?

Characteristics of the New Paradigm

The lower left quadrant was largely depopulated in the twentieth century. But emerging signs of virulence are now visible. Grassroots trends like permaculture, functional medicine, and local sourcing find a home in this part of the circle. Related movements like vaccination choice, new urbanism, and homeschooling span the axis between lower quadrants.

Under citizen-empowered liberalism, the nation’s value structure would largely stay the same: issues like environmentalism, women’s equality, and LGBT rights would remain priorities.

In contrast, difficult changes would occur in the pragmatic arrangements of American life. Large bureaucracies, both public and commercial, would scale down. Entertainment conglomerates would fall from favor. Federal control and funding would diminish. Wall Street would retrench.

These losses would be offset by the growing influence of asymmetrically structured local communities. Free speech and transparency would be prioritized. Psychedelics usage would be legitimized, and possibly ceremonialized. A myriad of new organizations with diverse goals would emerge, featuring horizontal, fluid connections between members.

A shift of positional distribution toward the lower left would also impact the other quadrants. For example, the lower right would benefit because the upper left’s diminished influence would reduce the threat of Nanny State interventions. Similarly, conservative evangelicals would move lower on the circle, calculating that an alliance with the lower left would protect religious freedoms.

In contrast, centralist conservatives would fare poorly, due to a simple rule of political geometry: when one quadrant gains power, its diametric adversary loses power. Therefore, legacy corporations would languish, American military influence would decline, and the dollar would relinquish its reserve currency status …… among other limitations.

The remaining quadrant – the upper left – has the most to lose from a shift of influence. Therefore, its fate is closely tied to the other major question ……

What Would a Transition to Lower Left Dominance Look Like?

Would the process of change be organized and strategic? Or would it be disorderly? Might it begin with some kind of structure and then morph into chaos?

If the path were incremental, the lower left would have to build strong coalitions within the quadrant. Alliances would also have to be built between quadrants.

Initial indications of an internal coalition are emerging in the “free speech wing” of liberalism, a loose aggregation of free thinking, determined intellectuals. Similarly, nascent alliances between lower left and lower right can be seen in the diverse membership of informal groups like the IDW.

But after two centuries of holding the reins, centralists of the left and right would be unwilling to relinquish their grip on power. This is especially true of the upper left, which has already utilized unprecedented tactics to maintain control. An oligarchic alliance would attempt to stifle the lower left’s growing influence.

This alliance would be resisted by a different kind of left-right coalition: one formed at the bottom of the circle. The resulting vertically-oriented conflict would be intense but would likely be of limited duration. It could turn kinetic, or it could remain cold.

Carefully constructed alliances and coalitions might be bypassed, however. Instead, a runaway train of fiscal and financial dysfunction could create a cascading series of uncontrolled events. In this scenario, citizens would band into hastily constructed, locally cooperative communities just to survive.

So, transition scenarios are impossible to foresee in advance. But relationships between quadrants follow a predictable structure. If the lower left does gain influence, every other part of the circle will be forced to adjust.

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?