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.
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.