Antipope’s 19 Theses

Charlie Stross has written what he termed a new cluetrain manifesto, although it bears no relation to the original except in form. Instead of talking about businesses and marketing, his is about the relationship of labor, capital, and government in the early 21st century.

I don’t think most of his points are all that controversial, with notable exception of 14. I find the idea of mass civil unrest in the Western democracies laughably absurd. For the United States, it’s doubly absurd when it’s supposed to be the outgrowth of a populist economic revolt. As John Steinbeck put it, “[America’s] poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

Populism in the United States1 just as often has a perverse reactionary bent as it does a radical bent, and given the almost 40 years of Reaganism, it’s thoroughly reactionary at this point. Occupy was a glimmer of populism on the left, and while bringing wealth and income inequality into the discussion, it hasn’t gone anywhere. Meanwhile, the reactionary populists, the Tea Party, have made political gains, Obamacare (temporarily?) notwithstanding.

The very political structures have been coopted and the political feedback loops are broken due to asymmetric radicalization. The reactionaries turn out and vote consistently, no one else does. In turn, they control the state power structures, which are elected in off-year (i.e. low turnout year) elections, which in turn set the political maps to maximize control and establish legalized voter suppression. Add in elected judges, and you’ve got the trifecta at the state level, and at least 2/3s at the federal level because of spillover effects and historical control of the federal executive. Personally, I think the claims that this generational lock on American politics will be broken in time, are naïve. The savior demographics, simply don’t vote in large enough numbers, and with uncompetitive elections, why would anyone?2

1 Yes, I know Stross is British, but I’m most familiar with the United States, and his critique is transnational.

2 I still vote, but I’m under no illusion that my vote actually matters except on the most local of issues. I live in an uncompetitive district, in an uncompetitive state.