Updated January 15, 2021
Can’t say I didn’t warn you…though I also can’t claim to have anticipated a bunch of thugs assaulting the Capitol in a frightening — yet thankfully inept — attempt to disrupt the certification of Biden’s win in Congress.
Unfortunately, the aftermath of this discount insurrection and the knee-jerk response that followed has all but locked in America’s grim future. Trump will finally be gone on January 20th, but even if convicted and barred from holding office again what his tenure has unleashed will not dissipate any time soon. A replacement will be found, likely in one of his sons.
The United States is set to collapse this decade— the question now is how far and how much violence there will be. But by 2030 the country as anyone alive today has known it will be gone.
The Democratic Party has proven to the majority of Republican Party supporters — who constitute a majority of the population in about half the states — that it is exactly what conservative pundits have alleged all along. That it represents a cultural movement determined to monopolize power in the hands of the federal government and take away liberties held to be fundamental by conservative Americans.
This isn’t remotely true. The Democrats are probably the least-effective party in the history of politics and utterly incapable of acting as a Maoist revolutionary movement, but truth doesn’t matter once hostilities between groups reach this stage.
Sadly, it truly is more like the early stages of a civil war. The old, never-healed divides within the United States are being inflamed by callous or careless political leaders on all sides. Most discourse is now about demonstrating what side a person is on and demonizing the opposition, people repeating the rhetoric fed by politicians and pundits like chanter crowds at a sporting event.
And with the outbreak of actual violence, the nation has crossed the last major threshold leading over the cliff. This is the Soviet Union circa 1991, Yugoslavia after 1993 — only instead of simply disintegrating into successor states battling over borders, both sides sincerely believe they must retain power in Washington D.C. at all costs in order to survive. That’s a recipe for organized violence in the near future, unless the Red states are ultimately allowed to peacefully secede.
It is a devastating failure of Congress that Trump was impeached (twice!) only after launching attacks on the Democratic Party. In this new post 9/11 moment the reporting has been so wild and the statements by politicians so pointlessly charged no one is waiting for investigations to be completed before assigning blame and pursuing justice. But all indications are the more violent of the pro-Trump thugs who invaded the Capitol were targeting Democratic lawmakers — and also Mike Pence, who they felt had personally betrayed their cult-hero by performing his simple Constitutional duty.
Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic Party notably did not choose to impeach Trump for any of his other numerous offenses across the past four years. He was not barred from running for office in 2016 after explicitly threatening the integrity of the electoral process if he didn’t win. Children died in cages, an illegal murder of a foreign official risked a major conflict and injured a hundred American service members — and then there’s the death of 400,000 Americans to a pandemic countries like Vietnam were able to control.
But only Trump’s attempts to interfere with Biden’s party-anointed accession brought the Democrats’ move to impeach the first time, and in the second they have simply rushed to impeach without considering the broader impacts of their actions. Putting thousands of armed soldiers on the streets of D.C. emboldened the most radical elements threatening American society, who now know exactly how to terrify politicians they dislike. The trolls wanted a reaction, and they got one — pushing them off public social media has simply given them mystique and fed their grievance narrative.
And at the same time, the concerted efforts by Democratic politicians and the media to lay blame for enabling Trump — as justified as that is— has pushed the mainstream Republicans into a position where they depend on the most insane elements of American society to win elections. It doesn’t matter that people believe in alternative facts if there are up to 74 million of them.
When you’re talking about two cultural groups battling over control of a common resource — like the federal government — right and wrong cease to matter, because neither side will agree on what they mean. That’s the fundamental disconnect driving the problem in the first place.
In essence, the Democratic Party is attempting to put the country back together by blaming all its present woes on Trump, promising an era of renewal under Biden — but only if Republicans admit, against the will of their own electorate, that their support of Trump was morally wrong. They are trying to seize a kind of high ground in the never-ending, mutually destructive two-party contest.
The trouble is, when your society is divided enough, the high ground no longer exists. You have to rebuild it, by doing all you can to separate out the truly violent opposition from the rest. This is basic counterinsurgency — which itself is simply taming a low-level civil war by transforming violence into political debates and voting.
Unfortunately, if the past twenty years have proven anything, it is that generation of leadership in the United States cannot do counterinsurgency. It is so committed to living out an endless family squabble between Blue and Red it now appears these are to replace the Civil-War era Blue and Grey.
At this point, the most important objective for any Americans who want to prevent future violence is to embrace alternative solutions as swiftly as possible. The two-party system, concentration of power in the Executive, the lobbyist-politician Beltway complex, obsession with China once again being a wealthy, powerful nation — all must be challenged.
I promise you, Americans — you’re not gonna like it.
Sorry folks, but things are not likely to get better for the United States for quite some time, if ever.
It is very likely that we are living through the last days of the Republic.
No nation can long survive when it allows hundreds of thousands of people to die in a plague many poorer, less advanced nations have proven able to keep under control.
No nation can long survive when nearly 40% of its people living in a majority of its states believe a free and fair election was somehow rigged against them.
No nation can long survive when, in an election so widely proclaimed to be about the fate of democracy, 30% of the electorate casts no vote at all.
No nation can long survive when the majority of the population is split into two distinct and increasingly irreconcilable truth domains.
Just like no family can long survive if perpetually warring with itself, neither can a nation.
The sad truth is, the United States of America we all thought existed was in fact a myth. There is no true point of unity, no real sense of shared sacrifice and consideration for others that goes beyond petty politics. The political architecture is antiquated and heavily anti-democratic, the history inseparable from slavery and genocide.
More than 50% of the Discretionary portion of the Federal budget — the part paid for by federal income taxes — flows to the military. An organization that bills itself as the finest fighting force in the world — but after twenty years, trillions of dollars, thousands of young Americans and tens of thousands of civilians abroad has by the admission of its own leadership achieved only a modicum of success in Afghanistan and an Iraq perpetually on the verge of civil war or falling under the control of Iran — or far worse, ISIS.
The United States has never transcended its original identity as a brutal settler colony dedicated to extracting every bit of value it can from those lacking the power to resist. This is why half of Americans live on the verge of falling into poverty, why unlike every other advanced nation it has no universal healthcare system, why when a pandemic strikes people are forced to keep working and spreading a virus.
The American myth is collapsing, and with it, America.
So what comes next?
History shows that big, complex political organizations don’t typically last for very long. There are simple reasons, and the easiest way to think of the dynamics is to use a model borrowed from ecology.
Complex systems — anything with lots of independent parts that interact on a shared space — inhabited by complex agents (like groups of people or communities) tend to go through four sequential phases in a constant, looping cycle mimicking the seasons.
In Spring, when resources are becoming more plentiful, you see a period of rapid growth. In Summer, when space for all the new growth becomes limited and the days stop getting longer, growth slows down and the system achieves a temporary stable state. In Autumn though, resources become tighter and tension grows as all agents in the system prepare for tough times ahead. In Winter, everyone and everything retreats, leaving a bleak landscape behind — for a time, until Spring comes again.
Countries work pretty much the same way, though over decades and centuries rather than months. And for the United States of America, Winter is coming on fast.
Historically, empires always crumble and break apart. In the 1990s the Soviet Union’s time came, only half a century before that the European colonial empires — the British, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and Belgian (I know, right!) were disintegrating in the wake of the catastrophic World Wars, both produced by a grand systems collapse following several centuries of European colonization and exploitation of the rest of the planet.
And of course going back before that the list goes on and on. China’s history has been an endless succession of broad unification followed inevitably by fragmentation. India’s has too — much of the Middle East has been the same. Evidence is growing that this patten exists in the Americas too, prior to the grand crash that came with the European’s arrival. Africa, humanity’s birthplace, shows extensive — though often overlooked — similarities.
The United States is set to fragment — how much, how far, and how permanently will likely be determined before 2030.
Presently, the United States’ social, political, and economic systems — the three that really drive these things we call nations — are all at a moment of severe collapse. These systems are also interacting, driving one another on. The social system is facing a stark shift in generational norms, while the economic system is grappling with severe inequality and the political system — already archaic — is has been torn apart by the chaos in the other two.
There are better and worse trajectories leading from here.
On the most hopeful track, the easing of the Pandemic to come in 2021 could allow a centrist alliance in the federal government to direct investment and reforms on a national scale that address root causes across the board. That would involve massive investment in reforms at all level — economic, social, and political.
The United States would need to deliberately decentralize, accepting that people in Red and Blue states want to be governed under sufficiently different interpretations of the Constitution to necessitate a radical increase in local political autonomy.
Basically, the national leadership would have to accept the inevitability of what must now come and adapt to preserve as much of the old America as it can while fostering a diverse set of experiments at the local and regional levels seeking new ways forward.
Long term, that probably looks something like this:
The federal government here is almost entirely devolved to a set of autonomous regions, each free to interpret and apply the Constitution to suit the demands of their own citizens. People and goods can flow freely across internal borders, citizenship remains national, and a limited military is kept to deter direct foreign attacks, but otherwise the regions are separate Constitutional zones who do taxation, spending, and policy separately.
Unfortunately this level of reform would require a level of self-awareness I frankly do not see in the sclerotic personalities presently in power. Joe Biden is already taking the predictable path of installing loyalists in key positions, well aware he stands virtually no chance of being re-elected in 2024. Only half of the 82 million people who voted for him actually supported his candidacy — the other half, polls consistently showed, simply opposed Trump.
And 2020 was a one-shot deal. Trump was defeated less by Biden and more by the pandemic — Democrats are already quick to forget he won more votes than any other Republican candidate. If 2020 was — as Biden’s boosters fatally billed it — a referendum on Trump amounting to a choice between democracy or dictatorship, then the majority of Americans in a majority of states voted for the latter. The real breakdown of American voters came out to be:
That’s a coalition that will not last — and in truth, the characterization isn’t fair. Yes, many Trumpists are fascists — but as many people voted for Trump because they feel he is all that protects their way of life from being obliterated by America’s Disneyfied cultural oligarchy which relegates rural people (who have less money than suburbanites on average) to the same kind of Subaltern, stereotypical existence in the national consciousness as Black Americans long have been.
Joe Biden is merely a tourniquet on a wound likely to require amputation in the end. He represents the revenge of the Old Guard that brought us to this exact place, essentially the Democratic Party’s peace offering to the few remaining Old Guard Republicans, an attempt to kick the can of reform down the road when demographics will magically deliver (so they believe) a permanent Democratic majority.
Reform and the good trajectory is unlikely — sadly, the middle trajectory for the United States is grim.
Firmly trapped in their respective ideological corners, the two parties continue their dysfunctional cold civil war for the next four years. Any real reform attempt is quickly knocked down by the Republican majority which will never accept Biden as the legitimate President. Only visibly centrist programs will be enacted, most too little and too late.
The Progressive wing of the Democratic Party is all but certain to be dissatisfied with everything Biden’s Administration does. It has funders and its own self-sustaining self-narrative, so in 2022 they will launch primary challenges against a wide swathe of Democratic party incumbents, working to expand the Squad just as Trump’s people will go after the last few old style Republicans.
The outcome of that charade will most likely be nearly zero effective change, with all attention swiftly turning towards the 2024 Election, the media hyping a Biden-Trump rematch as Biden’s polls sink and challengers line up, leaving him with no political capital and utterly incapable of accomplishing much while partisan wars continues to rage. The economy will recover in 2021, 2022, and 2023 — but the long-term consequences of Covid and all the chaos of the Trump years will mount. It won’t be easy going abroad, either — America has been revealed to be terribly weak. It’s credibility is gone, and it will be pressed on multiple fronts, likely unable to respond effectively at any stage.
2024 is likely to see a complete fragmentation of the American political landscape, with three distinct parties emerging:
The Democrats, now incorporating the 10–20% of Republicans who are anything close to moderate, focusing on the suburbs.
The Trumpists, fully 40% of the electorate including the rural areas, exurbs, and suburbs in the south.
The Progressives, concentrated on the West Coast and Northeast, taking seats in safe Blue states with large urban populations where the Republicans are now fading entirely.
There is no real precedent in the United States for a three-party system, because when you do elections by district in first-past-the-post style two parties is the typical result. But it may well be possible for a three-party system to exist as regional politics become more salient than national.
But if this does emerge, we will begin to see elections where three candidates win electors and no one reaches the 270 threshold, repeatedly throwing elections to Congress. This could lead to one or more very chaotic elections, making 2020 look like a cakewalk, and I suspect will lead to the slow collapse of federal government as everyone loses faith. Where the states go after that is probably up to their leaders — band together in new organizations, or go it alone?
And finally there is the bad trajectory, which could well produce the first map above. It is still very unlikely that states would ever again attempt secession or that the military would break apart — both the real preconditions for a civil war redux.
However, when people stop believing in the legitimacy of a government things can swiftly get out of control. Most states are firmly in one camp or the other, and there appears to be a growing antipathy between Red and Blue states playing out at the national lavel. Things can get out of control — if 2020 proved anything it is that America is not an exceptional country, it is subject to the same laws of human behavior and organization as any other.
So far, Americans have thankfully shown a real reluctance to engage in political violence — despite this being the country of mass shootings, most Americans recoil from the idea of violence on their streets. It will take at least four more years for feelings to shift so substantially that we face a real risk of organized combat between anything other than groups of thugs.
However, the longer dysfunction continues, the more unpredictable the situation becomes. Americans pay out huge sums in taxes to governments at the state and federal level that appear more interested in waging petty turf wars than fixing the very real structural problems tearing the country apart. Why they should continue to do so will become a question more will ask as time goes by.
The fundamental problem with the United States of America is that it isn’t a democracy at all. It is a Republic, prone to the mortal threat facing that form of government: the elected Representatives turn out to be self-interested cowards unable to see past their own prejudices.
It is a Republic, and at the federal level, a Federation to boot. What that means is that, like Rome, like the British Empire, like the Soviet Union, the structure that knits America together — its federal government — is extremely prone to fragmentation.
This is not a bad thing at all. Checks and balances, separation of powers — history has shown these to be vital to a democracy. Most modern democratic governments have adopted them, many inspired by the United States.
The issue is that our elected officials are mostly rotten — and made that way by a Byzantine nightmare of a governing system that was long ago turned away from protecting Americans and instead became a pay-to-play game to determine who gets to exploit them.
America now faces a simple choice:
Reform, or die.