Thoughts on Election Day: Relax—Both Parties Are Going Extinct

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 11.42.58 AMWhichever side emerges victorious, both Republicans and Democrats should face up to a much bigger truth: Neither party as currently constituted has a real future. Fewer and fewer Americans identify as either Republican or Democratic according to Gallup, and both parties are at recent or all-time lows when it comes to approval ratings. Just 39 percent give Democrats a favorable rating and just 33 percent do the same for Republicans. Not coincidentally, each party has also recently had a clear shot at implementing its vision of the good society. If you want to drive down your adversary’s approval rating, just give him the reins of power for a few years.

– From Nick Gillespie’s article: Relax—Both Parties Are Going Extinct

Like so many others out there, in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, I became terrified about the future. I knew the financial system was a corrupt fraud (still is), and I became filled with fear as far as what might happen next. The fear wasn’t that a horribly dysfunctional and immoral financial system would come unglued, rather the fear was based in the uncertainty of the general public’s response.

Historically speaking, many of the worst political regimes are swept into power in a reactionary wave following the destruction of an older, flawed system. Hence the saying: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Or even: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. In other words, if good intentions coupled with tremendous upheaval can cause a hellish outcome, imagine the potential impact of bad intentions within such an environment. Those were the thoughts that filled my head during those years.

Over time, I picked myself up out of the fear bunker. Not because the media told me everything was ok, and certainly not because the stock market was rising. I transitioned from my brief period of fear because I recognized it as the negative and useless emotion it is. Furthermore, I had taken some precautions to protect myself should the worst case scenario unfold, but beyond that, I concluded that you need to live your life and try to have a positive impact on the world, rather than shiver in a corner. In fact, that’s exactly what the status quo wants, an ignorant population terrified of everything, paralyzed in a corner. In such a state one can be more easily manipulated by propaganda.

The other thing that helped me become more filled with optimism about the future was the things I was seeing at the grass roots level. The grassroots response from both anti-Democratic establishment “progressive types” and anti-Republican establishment “libertarians” had striking similarities. On many of the most significant issues of our day, these two “activist” groups had a surprising degree of overlap. I first noticed it with the emergence of both the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the Tea Party. This venn diagram sums it up well:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 11.16.22 AM

I expressed this perspective tirelessly, but it largely fell on deaf ears.

The defining moment where I think both sides finally realized how much they have in common, came last year when Rand Paul filibustered on drone strikes. I outlined my thoughts in the post: #StandwithRand: The Filibuster that United Libertarian and Progressive Activists. Here’ an excerpt:

Personally, I would have preferred the issue that united libertarian and progressive activists to have been the Federal Reserve, since it is the core cancer of this country and indeed the world. Without Federal Reserve funding, none of the awful things our government and multi-national corporations do at home and abroad would be possible, but you don’t always get what you want.  If civil liberties is the issue that does it, so be it.

I follow an eclectic group of people on Twitter.  Several of them are what would be best described as “progressive” journalists and activists.  When I witnessed several of them tweet in support of Rand Paul, my antennae shot up straight into the stratosphere.  Then I realized that Rand had quoted the work of several of them on the Senate floor (including one of my favorite journalists Glenn Greenwald), and I knew I something special was happening.

Ever since the dawn of Occupy Wall Street, I have pushed heavily to try to unite the “tea party” and OWS.  I recognized that at their core these two resistance movements had the same grievances with “the system.”  Unfortunately, the tea party was largely co-opted by mainstream Republicans, while OWS was crushed by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.  In reality, it isn’t about these two “movements,” rather it’s about ideas.  At this stage in the game, we have very established activists on both the libertarian and progressive side of things.  As someone that reads them all, I can tell you that the prominent ones on both sides are genuine, moral and intellectual.

What Rand Paul did yesterday was finally bring the public debate to where it needs to be.  In doing so, he united activists that are quite opposed on many issues (less than they think, but that’s for another day).  This is extremely significant and we need this momentum to continue.  Those of us that care about the core principles that made this country great need to stick together, find common ground and not allow the establishment to control the debate any longer.

A year later, we face another midterm election in which crony establishments from one of the two fraud political parties will be swept into power. I can still pretty much count on one hand the number of decent and intelligent members of Congress. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that the future belongs to those of us in the center of that Venn diagram.

Such thoughts were wonderfully articulated by the editor of Reason, Nick Gillespie, in a post from today titled: Relax—Both Parties Are Going Extinct. Here are some excerpts:

Whichever side emerges victorious, both Republicans and Democrats should face up to a much bigger truth: Neither party as currently constituted has a real future. Fewer and fewer Americans identify as either Republican or Democratic according to Gallup, and both parties are at recent or all-time lows when it comes to approval ratings. Just 39 percent give Democrats a favorable rating and just 33 percent do the same for Republicans. Not coincidentally, each party has also recently had a clear shot at implementing its vision of the good society. If you want to drive down your adversary’s approval rating, just give him the reins of power for a few years.

What’s going on? The short version is that political, cultural, and even economic power has been decentralizing and unraveling for a long time. Whether you like it or not, The Libertarian Moment is here, a technologically driven individualization of experience and a breakdown of the large institutions—governments, corporations, churches, you name it—that used to govern and structure our lives. The result is that top-down systems, whether public or private, right wing or left wing, have less and less ability to organize our lives. That’s true whether you’re talking about the workplace, the bedroom, or the bar down the street (that may now be serving legal pot). This is mostly good, though it’s also profoundly disruptive too.

Indeed, the signal characteristic of the past several decades of American life has been the ways in which all sorts of decision-making has been pushed outwards to individuals or end-users in whatever system you want to gin up. In virtually any commercial transaction, for instance, even budget buyers have far more information and leverage than they did 30 years ago (think of the immense difference in the experience of purchasing a car before and after Edmunds.comcame online).

Traditional authorities in social institutions such as churches wield less control too. Our world is in so many ways more based on voluntary exchange than ever before. As Albert O. Hirschman would put it, we’ve got more ways of exiting a given situation and giving voice to criticism too. That in turn leads to a premium on what the economic historian Deirdre McCloskey has recognized as the “sweet talk” of mutually beneficial exchange and persuasion rather than brute force. (Sadly, the fact of decentralization doesn’t mean that centralization by government and other large forces isn’t also taking place.)

As far as his last line here, I would argue that the forces of centralization see the threat they face and are aggressively doubling down where they can. Indeed, this battle of centralization vs. decentralization is the defining battle of our time. For more detailed thoughts on this, check out:

Networks vs. Hierarchies: Which Will Win? Niall Furguson Weighs In

Ex-CIA Officer Claims that Open Source Revolution is About to Overthrow Global Oligarchy

Now back to Nick Gillespie…

For liberals, it’s always 1965 and social justice is just one mega-entitlement program away from arriving. For conservatives, it’s always 1980 and the next tax cut will solve all problems forever. Each side can appreciate some but not all aspects of decentralization. Conservatives and Republicans can embrace it when it applies to some economic issues and to things like school choice, but they can’t abide the profusion of sexual and cultural identities and the diminution of authority in general. Liberals and Democrats may be more comfortable with some of the latter but then they want tighter and tighter controls and limits on all sorts of commercial transactions.

A key point here he fails to mention is that most of these self-described “liberals” and “conservatives” are actually from the baby boomer generation. These folks will inevitably fade away from a generational perspective, and millennials simply do not think in such terms.

Levin can at least diagnose the problem and recognize that this leads to an evacuation of traditional politics. In this, he’s years ahead of Vox’s Ezra Klein, the sort of liberal dogmatist who isn’t quite able to step outside of his own bubble. Klein recently wrote about how #GamerGate proves “the politicization of absolutely everything”. Don’t you see, wrote Klein, that “our political identities [have] become powerful enough to drive our other identities.” Sure, dead-enders are more bitter than ever. But what Klein can’t acknowledge is that fewer of us actually invest in our political identities. That helps explain why party self-identification keeps heading south and approval for political parties has been on the skids for a long time.

In a world where you can personalize and individualize your online experience, your clothing, your work situation, even your sexuality, why would anyone join up for ossified, rigid, centuries-old groups such as the Democrats or Republicans?

And that’s why the future of politics and policy doesn’t belong to doctrinaire Democrats or Republicans who want to control large swaths of everyday life. It belongs ultimately to the libertarian decentralists such as Paul who not only understand what is happening to America but are growing comfortable with it. Americans are increasingly wary of government’s power, and they don’t want it to teach a single set of morals either. Everything is proliferating and people just want a government that will keep people from starving on the streets and get out of the way as they go to the corner pot shop to buy edibles to take to their friends’ gay wedding celebrated by ministers who are not forced to do so.

Amen to that.

So my final conclusion on this, another election day sham, is to not get discouraged. Things are changing at the grassroots for the better. The battle of decentralization vs. centralization, networks vs. hierarchies, will not be easily won, but it will be won. Keep fighting.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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13 Comments

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  1. The Democrat and Republican parties are not going extinct. They merged, more than decade ago, into the Unified Corporate Whore Party – and didn’t bother to tell anybody that isn’t a political insider.

  2. Im more concerned with ideologies than political parties. Parties are just tools to advance an ideology, so if Democrats and Republicans become extinct it just means that liberals and conservatives will just create new ones. If not flock to the Green and Constitution parties respectively, granted neoconservatives might have a problem going to the Constitution party as they are anti-empire but the point still stands.

  3. i was speaking about the venn diagramm today. i voted in the upper west side of new york for myself zeev kirsh as a write in for EVERY candidate other than congressional. voted a write it for “empty seat until a constitutional convention”

    . thing is , many of the local candidates were running unopposed. even if i were the winner, and not a single vote was registered locally for the machine democratic nominees running unopposed for local positions—–my vote would still lose!!!
    hahahahah.

    i fart in your general direction democracy.
    zeek

  4. Executive Secretary To The Stars

    Mike, one of your best and certainly one of the most important messages you’ve put out there. This is not about “bucking up the troops” to keep hoping against hope there is some faint flicker of the possible in all of this. It is inevitable…exactly. They are dying and well deserve their reward.

    People are making a grave mistake when they look to the political arena to determine if change is in the air. That’s like going to a showing of Saw VI hoping you’ll find some good operatic performances in there.

    Politics is not being passed…it is being lapped. The indifference of the young, the contempt of the old is expressed more clearly with every election. Decentralization is not a choice, it is an evolutionary imperative that every thinking person is doing already, whether consciously or unconsciously. It is the natural response mechanism that develops as a social revulsion to the inflammation of what politics has become…or perhaps always has been.

    I think one can not unreasonably hope that politics is going the way of the Church in the Middle Ages. What once was impenetrable, inescapable, invulnerable eventually was overthrown. I believe politics as we’ve come to know it is trending the same way.

    Unless you’re very young, it’s quite possible we won’t personally see the switch in its completeness. But I think it quite possible we will see the straws in the wind that unmistakeably point in that direction. Eventually, I believe we will see the next iteration of worldwide social organization, but one that has a built-in bias to the individual, decentralization and cooperative exchange.

    If you want to see a model of this today, involving millions world-wide, go to http://www.avaaz.org. While I don’t support every initiative they take, I totally support the mechanism that bypasses governments, NGOs, traditional service organizations and all the other rigamarole of bureaucratic administration that exemplifies such an advanced case of sclerosis. Almost 40,000,000 members across the planet, they can raise a million dollars in days, get half a million signatures on a petition in hours. To watch those who sign petitions show up in a rolling display of national flags may even choke you up; it does me. It means that, no how much shit has been spread on top, there are green shoots pushing up. It couldn’t come too soon.

    Keep fighting, indeed. It’s our common humanity at stake.

    • Michael Krieger

      One of the best comments I’ve seen in a while. Thanks for taking the time.

    • @Executive: “…politics is going the way of the Church in the Middle Ages…”

      Absolutely agreed! I recently finished a very readable history book covering the 1450-1550 period, “A World Lit Only By Fire” that describes the downfall of the “infallible” Church….

      …a church that had metastasized completely beyond its religious charter and become EXACTLY like today’s State–a predatory/parasitic tool of a sociopathic elite.

      And in the same way as the Gutenberg Press exposed and destroyed the information monopoly of the corrupt Church…so the internet is doing to today’s State.

      The parallels are astonishing!

    • fuck avaaz and your advertising for yet another 501c3 that takes advantage of not paying taxes at the expense of everyone who does pay taxes.

      until avaaz takes up its main cause as eliminating tax exemptions for non-profits, as well as major tax reform for the middle class and poor——–then i cannot take your words seriously.

      why?

      your whole comment that mike applauded talks about the future of deinstitutionalizing society and then you plug your own institution at the end of it.

      this is like the harvard professor lawrence lessig trying to raise money to end money in politics, —but at least he openly acknlowedges his outright hypocrisy and asks you to simply accept it.

      when will avaaz at least take the first step of acknowledging its own role in perpetuating a stacked deck .

      the non-profit tax code is a huge part of decrepit institutional-ism defining the american predicament.

    • Executive Secretary To The Stars

      Just saw your muttering…it hardly qualifies as comment. At a time when AVAAZ is doing things like campaigning to stop brutal violence against women, save the last vestiges of forest as a safe passage for exotic animal migration and similar causes, you want them to become the global equivalent of the National Taxpayers Union. Is your motto “Let’s Set Our Sights Lower!”?

      If you seriously, in your most fevered imaginings, think the big problem with Planet Earth is the tax status of non-profits, I think you really ought to get out more.

      You could start with some of the topics Mike covers here regularly. Oh, he’s probably just a poser, too. I’ve never seen any of his attacks against non-profits so he can’t be serious about true liberty.

      I could go on but it really isn’t worth the electrons. From any metric of relative worth, an organization like AVAAZ is doing much good work. As I said, I do not support every campaign but I do support free association of people world-wide coming together to try to solve problems the elite can’t or choose not to fix.

      Oh, one last thing: “fuck avaaz and your advertising for yet another 501c3 that takes advantage of not paying taxes at the expense of everyone who does pay taxes.”

      You do realize this is exactly the “argument” that US attorneys use on credulous juries when they’re prosecuting tax resisters, don’t you? But you’re such a profound thinker you don’t mind crushing taxes as long as we’re all crushed equally.

      Wade in any ol’ time. I can count on hilarity ensuing.

  5. “Like so many others out there, in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, I became terrified about the future. I knew the financial system was a corrupt fraud (still is), and I became filled with fear as far as what might happen next…Over time, I picked myself up out of the fear bunker. Not because the media told me everything was ok, and certainly not because the stock market was rising. I transitioned from my brief period of fear because I recognized it as the negative and useless emotion it is. Furthermore, I had taken some precautions to protect myself should the worst case scenario unfold, but beyond that, I concluded”

    stylistically excellent writing. maybe just use the word “I” a little more

  6. “I expressed this perspective tirelessly, but it largely fell on deaf ears.

    The defining moment where I think both sides finally realized how much they have in common, came last year when Rand Paul filibustered on drone strikes. I outlined my thoughts in the post”

    That’s good, use the word “I” even more and tell us how right you are. Tell us how right you have been about your bitcoin prediction, slow action until the summer when it takes off again.

  7. “Furthermore, I had taken some precautions to protect myself should the worst case scenario unfold, but beyond that, I concluded that you need to live your life and try to have a positive impact on the world, rather than shiver in a corner.”

    Michael–a really well-written analysis, fine work sir!

    It’s amazing how similar my journey has been. From my “Saul of Tarsus” scales-off-the-eyes moment, I went into what can best be described as a quiet rage at the system.

    But when I began preparing, ensuring my family’s safety and health, my fear and anger dissipated almost entirely.

    Now I’m short-term pessimistic, but more optimistic long-term than I’ve ever been.

    It may be hell for a while, but we are seeing a monumental shift for the better in human history that only comes along every five hundred years or so.

    We are entering a new Reformation/Renaissance period.

    It’s just hard to see from down here.

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