More gruel
Republicans Are Destroying Individual Liberty

Republicans Are Destroying Individual Liberty

People find the greatest range of individual choices within a healthy, humane collective. To date, the most successful means of creating such a collective has been through representative government. Like a bundle of sticks compared to a single twig, joining together in collective institutions makes individuals powerful. By investing a portion of our individual power in a collective government, people have found the means to curtail abuses by the wealthiest among us and build institutions we could not have supported by our individual power or wealth. 

A powerful representative government has produced the widest range of freedom and prosperity human beings have ever enjoyed. Republicans are determined to destroy it, and all the values it represents. 

Darwin understood that evolution had more than an individual dimension. In the Descent of Man he explained:

A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.

Natural selection favors those who can construct a healthy, beneficial collective identity. Living in a successful collective creates a powerful range of choices for those fortunate individuals. No one has yet developed a more humane channel of collective power than representative government.

A brilliant kid in Germany benefits from a powerful social welfare system, excellent schools, ready access to healthcare and an abundance of opportunity to become a medical researcher. The same kid, with the same talents, born in Guatemala, Tanzania or Alabama has fewer rising currents to ride. She may outperform her peers in school. She might dodge accidents and pandemics, perhaps even scraping together enough of the necessities of life to thrive. But without access to a rich fabric of public nurture, she will not match the achievements or contributions of her more fortunately-placed peer. 

Develop a deadly, but treatable disease in Angola and your chances aren’t good. Even if you have a lot of money, you’ll have to travel to a healthier place to get cutting edge chemotherapy or surgical treatment that a French postal worker takes for granted. Got a world-changing business idea? You better live in a place with strong capital investment, honest courts, transportation infrastructure, and access to global markets. The widest range of potential choices rises from personal initiative combined with a healthy, humane collective. Strip the power of representative government and you’ll experience a cascade of collapsing personal choice.

By cooperating, the small become big.

Americans once possessed an identity on which they could build collective power, though it didn’t extend to everyone, limiting its beneficial potential. For a time, a large majority of Americans were able to see themselves as a tribal “us” by imagining into being a shared “white” identity. That white supremacist identity, the foundation of our white nationalism, was always as much a straight jacket as a benefit, corrupting our understanding of reality and constraining our range of compassion. It did however, for a time, allow Americans to construct a relatively decent collective existence, especially in the parts of the country where it was least virulent.

White supremacy failed because it was too small to serve us, but too many Americans cannot imagine a world without it. They will burn down every channel of collective power to protect their white identity and the meagre benefits it granted. 

Modern Republican politics will not “take over” America. It can only destroy it. Republicans aren’t offering any solutions to any problems with any credible relationship to reality. Republicans are the embodiment of entropy, tearing apart an emerging new vision of “us” whose existence they won’t accept. 

Over the past few decades, as the GOP was engulfed by waves of Dixiecrat refugees seeking to defeat the emergence of a post racial future. They cycled through several waves of alternative value systems. None of them worked. None of them could hold together their internal inconsistencies or function effectively in the real world. All that’s left of Republican politics is rage and entropy, the will to destroy any collective future.

Thanks to white rage, the nation that eradicated polio and smallpox can’t vaccinate its population. Americans no longer get the choice available to people in many other countries, to live without the looming threat of a preventable disease, because our capacity for collective action has been destroyed. We don’t get the choice to get healthcare without a job. We don’t get the choice to travel on healthy, efficient, green infrastructure. We don’t get the choice to halt the destruction of the environment in which we live. A Republican focus on the individual has destroyed our range of choices, leaving us less free than much of the rest of the world.

The only remaining hope of Republican politics is that elderly whites can divorce themselves from any form of collective participation, taking their accumulated gains with them, however modest those gains might be. They’ll leave behind a third world model in which the rich rule through patronage and government is reduced to a dysfunctional shell. 

Democrats are far from perfect, but the choice between Democrats and Republicans is now a choice between representative government and dystopia. That’s not politics as usual. No electoral system can survive if a wide enough mass of citizens is seeking to destroy it. We will defeat Republican power by any means necessary, or we will lose the freedoms that come from humane, representative government. 

Our most powerful tool in defeating Republicans will not be guns or even votes, but our capacity to build a unifying vision of “us” that will animate a new Republic. Whoever defines a new “us” around which a solid majority of Americans can rally and collaborate will win. Republicans have no hope of doing this, so they’ll seek to destroy every existing channel of collective power while they can.

This is a race to define the future. Win, and Americans could dominate the next century as we did the last. Lose, and Darwin predicts that power will pass to others who master the challenge of collective action.


  1. Just a little afterthought while we wait for the next essay. Going back to what Chris said about Republicans convincing Latino voters to become white. The news out of Virginia has conflicting evidence for whether Latino voters have continued their shift to the GOP. However, there’s evidence to suggest a shift in New Jersey. Full story here:

    I mentioned before something similar happening during the California recall election. Assuming this is indeed a trend, then what we are seeing is Latino voters beginning to vote more like white voters, with the new partisan divide forming around education level (non-college Latinos can thus be expected to trend Republican, while college-educated Latinos will remain Democratic).

    It’s still too soon to tell, and we might not be able to draw any solid conclusions until the autopsies of the 2022 midterm (I fully expect the Dems to lose both chambers of Capitol Hill). But as I’ve said in a previous comment, the Democrats need to get it together and engage with Latino-majority populations year-round. Right now they’re losing out on a lot of the culture war issues. So they need to engage with them on the kitchen table issues and demonstrate they can deliver on those.

    The problem is – as Chris also pointed out some time ago – progressive stances on culture war issues are much more palatable to the Establishment megadonor class than progressive stances on economic issues. Thus we know which one Democrats are gonna push for.

    (Full disclosure: I say this as someone who is VERY progressive on social issues.)

  2. Well, looks like Republicans are well set up to rout the Democrats in 2022, unless:

    > The Democrats pass both bills. (I put the chances here at 50/50)
    > The COVID pandemic largely becomes background noise. (20%)
    > Lower income wage earners see wages rise faster than inflation. (50/50)
    > Inflation seems set to cool off by around the primaries (33%)
    > AND the Democrats coalesce around a unified narrative that accredits their leadership (5%)

    Total chances: 0.0825%

    This is also leaving out whether weird bond market craziness that’s popped in and out over the past two years suddenly explodes into a financial crisis and also nothing else bad happening.

    1. By the way, this isn’t off of Virginia alone.

      In my area so-called ‘competitive’ fights were absolutely trounced by Republicans, safe seats became competitive, and the Republicans outright made showings in local races nobody thought they’d even touch. A safe state supreme court seat went to a Republican unknown.

    2. Imagine what happens day 1 of the new House after the 2022 election. Not a single thing more on the Biden agenda being accomplished (not that anything has yet anyway). Articles of Impeachment being drawn up over the Afghanistan pullout, or whatever other silliness the death cult can dream up.

      Oh, and let’s not forget Breyer’s SCOTUS seat. Because apparently the loser party can’t even hit fish in a barrel with that one.

      The Dem’s deserve to lose. They are incapable of marching in a straight line, while the death cult wipes out any that defy the tyrant. Politics in the u.s. is a bloodsport, and the Dem’s do not recognize that. When the House goes to the fascists, that is the first official sign that democracy is over in the u,s. It is already dead, but most of the obtuse can’t see it.

      Democracy needed a champion that recognized that ruthlessness and other very undemocratic concepts were needed to allow it to survive. Instead, we have Biden, and the Progressive Caucus.

      Oh, and on your list, you forgot add things like the trillion dollar crypto market imploding (or taking off), some global warming catastrophe that makes the latest ones look like a spring shower, another housing crash like 2008, and maybe China not waiting until 2025 to invade Taiwan.

      1. @Jon: Not that Dins would ever admit that that’s exactly what he’s saying, but that’s exactly what he’s saying. Apparently Democrats need our own version of the Dear Leader to rally around, because obviously we’re doomed otherwise.

      2. Actually, I have said that very thing before. I used the poor analogy of Crowe in Gladiator. The loser party really has no grasp at what is happening.

        The got rocked Tuesday in traditional elections, because they give the woke far too much credence. Now they are high-fiving each other over a bill that STILL has to be:

        Sent to the CBO, then
        Sent to the Senate, then
        Sent back to the House, then
        Sent back to the Senate again.

        And this was the one that only made it through because some repubs actually bucked the party line and voted for it.

        Tell me what the situation is with Breyer.
        Tell me when Garland is going to drag Bannon in chains before Congress.

  3. It occurred to me long ago that the thought leaders of the cult of “individual liberty” had a natural affectation for authoritarianism. I saw it most readily among the right-libertarians back in the late 00s, from the way they openly bristled at the very idea of representative, multiparty democracy. Oftentimes they would breathlessly quote writings from the Founding Fathers decrying “Tyranny of the Majority.”

    It should come as no surprise then that “libertarian” Peter Thiel became a major financial backer of Trumpism. Some 15-20 years ago he said something along the lines that he’d come to the conclusion that “freedom” and “democracy” were inherently incompatible.

    That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. The almost paraphilic fixation on “individual liberty” and “personal responsibility” of the past 40 years has made Americans colder, crueler, and numb to the exploitation of those worse off than them.

    1. As I have said, democracy is dead in the u.s., and the Biden admin is not going to get anything on meaning passed. As of a few minutes ago, it is now clear that Manchin is part of the death cult. He is not a Dem.

      And of course, the death cult has total control over their 50. Not a single one is apparently moderate enough and brave enough to vote against party lines.

  4. Jon

    Tons of data points here:

    Have to drill down a bit, but to me this is the scary bit:

    “After the violent attacks on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, the prospect of political violence threatening a peaceful transfer of power has become more than an abstract question. As noted above, nearly one in five Americans (18%) agree with the statement “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” Republicans (30%) are more likely to agree with this than independents (17%) and Democrats (11%). Among Republicans who most trust far-right news sources, agreement increases to 40%, compared to 32% among those who most trust Fox News and 22% among those who most trust mainstream news sources.”

    1. Love your pen name since I spent a career chasing ions. Plenty of progressives in the red rural areas like there are right wing fascist in blue areas just not the majority in those respected areas. Hoping that we can resolve our differences peacefully. But plenty of people like me who know wood craft and fire arms that are willing to resist a fascist take over of our country. I grew up rural poor working class white and have become more progressive as I gain education and experience. Those 18% think that a civil war would be a state sanction terrorism like the Klan in the 20th century was. They would be protected while the state turned on those they want to persecute. They are idiots. Real civil wars are not that. Most of those people would not stomach a real conflict where they stood a real possibility of them and families being massacre. The biggest danger is the country becoming a fail state unrulable. The younger crowd are not kool with white nationalism. If we can hold the fort until the older frighten old white folks die out I think the country can resolve it’s dysfunction. Those pushing white nationalism know if they don’t cement minority rule now in another generation they will lose dominance and control because of the younger demographics which is why they are becoming desperate.

      1. Some years ago, on another online forum, I ruffled the patriotic feathers of a conservative by saying that Americans were entirely clueless about the consequences of war. That got the predictable response of how dare you disrespect our troops who go into danger all over the world, blah, blah, blah, which played straight into my point. Yes the military (and their families, which includes me) know first hand about the costs of war, but that’s a very small percentage of the population. Most people have no personal skin in that game. There’s also the fact that the last time a large number of civilians within our borders got a real taste of war (displacement, economic collapse, hunger, disease, etc.) was during the actual Civil War. There is no living memory of the horrors. That memory is also fading in much of Europe, as the WWII generation passes on.

        Now to be bluntly honest, if you are still on the Trump train today, even after all the crap he’s pulled, I have nothing but contempt for you. Even so, I do not entertain snuff porn fantasies of slaughtering these people. I also think secession is crazy talk. But like Stephen, I’m not going to accept ‘Murcia-style fascism either. Actual warfare is the last resort and I hope I never see that.

      2. The biggest problem I see in the “hold out until” scenario, is the planets’s insistence we are out of “until”. Nothing is more important than addressing the climate crisis, which is itself the result of an underlying (alpha male? mysogynist?) anti-feminist dynamic. Men act and move on, women deal with the consequences. Women don’t burn it all down to make a point, that’s what boys do.
        I support Ted Cruz claim to Texas. Let the disgruntled whites have it, and let them keep…the oil. In the ground, because we don’t let it out of the Lone Star Nation. NASA will leave, etc. Oh, and they can keep the border wall, as soon as they complete it, all the way around.
        I’m not joking.

  5. Jon

    Galileo had facts on his side, but he still lived out the rest of his days as a prisoner under house arrest. I want to believe truth will win the day, but looking at the myriad ways Republicans are tilting the election tables in their favor – pessimism prevails. Modern day feudalism will thank the filibuster for being it’s midwife. Myths, combined with propaganda, can move mountains.

    We had a chance. Democracy is on life-support, and the indicators are blinking red. As I go to vote tomorrow in Virginia, there is a 50-50 chance a Trump acolyte will be elected Governor. Building a unifying vision is on a generational timescale. The mid-terms are next year.

    1. Bingo.

      Who, precisely, in the Dem party is going to create and spread the gospel of this unifying vision when the Dem’s openly squabble amongst themselves to the point of total legislative immobilization?

      With 48 Dem’s plus 2 from West Virginia and Arizona, exactly what legislation has been passed in the past 9 months? Now visualize what it will be like after the House goes red in 2022.

      The death cult, however insane and evil, is totally united with a leader who is primed to take over again, with no visible opposition. The death cult does have a “unifying vision” for their half of the population, and the rest will be dragged into that vision whether they like it or not. The tyrant is a moron and pure evil, but he is a savant when it comes to control of the insane.

      When Jan 2025 comes around, the Dem’s will be completely awestruck at how quickly the “legislative process” finishes the job started in 2017.

      Democracy is already on death row in the u.s., and the date of execution has been set. Only way to stop it is the elimination of the leadership of the death cult, which goes against the values of the Dem’s. They will hold onto their precious values, until it is far too late to do anything to prevent the execution.

  6. This Sunday morning one of our elders Bob gave the sermon. It was about unity and coming together in love. To recognize our common humanity , of being created in God’s image. To stay faithful to what Jesus taught us. To love everyone. Bob is a black Hispanic man. He was preaching to a diverse church that looks like Orange County Florida a minority majority county. BTW in my lifetime Central Florida once was a Klan hot bed. No more. Through out history, especially this country’s history, the church will lead the way for social change. My bond with Bob is our common faith and belief in the worth of all humans. Once you get to the point of realizing there are no lesser people and that all of us have worth and dignity you find your tribe is those around you. Who ever is in your orbit. Unlike many other churches we have a vigorous and large youth ministry. Partly that is because the kids already see things this way. The move to white nationalism and nativism is being slowly damped out. If we can keep the chaos in check until enough of the old frighten white people pass on this dysfunction I think will pass.

  7. DFC

    I don’t disagree that a “unifying vision” serves a purpose, but I deny that we need it. We have it already and Democrats aren’t using it.

    Democrats seem to agree with Republicans on the Right’s fundamental position: that reality is a construct of politics. We meet them in that arena, where insanity is a tenable position; where there are no facts at all, only perceptions and presuppositions; and in doing so we make a tragic, wasteful mistake. Conservatives aren’t just wrong, they’re dangerously self-deluded in this thinking, and fate in the form of the COVID virus has delivered them has delivered them all the proof any sane person needs. They risk their own lives and the lives of fellow Conservatives when they behave as though their beliefs inoculate them against a plague. They demand to be respected by the rest of us in this suicidal argument. Their “unifying vision” is a unified lie. Meeting it with some other unifying vision is an accommodation they don’t deserve.

    Our “vision” isn’t a narrative or a myth or some Blue counterpart to Red slogans. Our weapon is fact. It already unifies us, all of us, red and blue, because no matter how deep one’s rabbit hole goes, there is still no alternative to the fact of fact. Their insane rage to politicize it only demonstrates how self-destructive they’ve become; they’d hang Anthony Fauci because he is the embodiment of empirical thinking and the scientific method, and the massed might of their narratives and unifying vision can’t make him wrong. Their story dies when confronted with the facts. Their fury to see reality as their subjective, personal vision is wrongheaded and wasteful.

    They want a civil war and they’ll attack our empirical positions with pretend weapons.

    What’s really amusing is that no matter how passionately they want this carve-out from reality, they can’t leave reality. They have real bodies. They use real money to pay real bills. And they really suffer the costs of their delusions when they make sacrifice after sacrifice to serve their political idols. The virus is just one example. Any homeowner in Texas pays a premium for the inadequacy of their isolated electrical grid, because their political leaders tell them not to look at the facts, only at the unifying vision of virtuous independence from Federal regulation. Any voter in the coal states subsidizes obsolescence because their political leaders tell them to warm their buildings with a unifying vision instead of adapting to the new reality.

    Political leaders on the Right are desperate to extend the past because their assets lie there. Narrative–unifying nostalgic vision–is the way they buy one more day of sacrifice from constituents. The whole fight needs to be swept of such fairy tales. All the measures and measuring that they hate and fear are already working, proving in test after test that they win against “vision”. Let Republicans take themselves down with their own magical thinking if that’s their demand, but we have ubiquitous, useful fact on our side and seeing that is the clear vision that works.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.