Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is the Dennis Kucinich of Louie Gohmerts, accidentally said something important this week. While exulting in Trump’s successful repression of the Mueller Investigation, she explained why the outcome is really super:
If the president of the United States had been indicted for conspiring with Russia to interfere with and affect the outcome of our elections, it would have precipitated a terribly divisive crisis that could have even led to civil war. We all need to put aside our partisan interests and recognize that finding the president of the United States not guilty of conspiring with a foreign power to interfere with our elections is a good thing for America.
Everything you need to know about the Special Counsel’s investigation and our present political crisis is in that paragraph.
Since World War II, we have dramatically expanded the scope and power of democracy. A larger proportion of our population enjoys the right to vote than ever before. Women are allowed to compete with men for places at elite universities. Catholics, Jews, Hispanics, to a very limited extent even black people, are allowed to compete with young white men for investment capital, elite government appointments, the judiciary, even academic slots. None of this was allowed before the 1960’s, and little of it was tolerated for decades after.
Thanks in large part to expanded economic competition and in small part to government reforms, more power is spread out in more hands than ever before in our country. As public power has grown, the money and effort devoted to thwarting the public interest has grown along with it. Like the arms race that bankrupted the Soviets, the accelerating cost of subverting democracy is pushing our existing institutions to the brink.
When we wring our hands over skyrocketing election spending, we almost always miss the counter-story. Buying elections used to be cheap. In the 50’s there were no enforceable constraints on campaign donations, no reporting requirements, no limits. And wealthy people could buy a politician with pocket money. The corruption we’re witnessing in the present regime was once ubiquitous, though bounded to some degree by the constraints of class etiquette and noblesse oblige. With so little relative access to information, people just never saw the bribery that dominated our system.
As the costs of subverting our political system have climbed, these panicked elites have found allies in the other losers from expanded democracy – mediocre white men. White men were once America’s darlings. They were carefully protected from any form of outside competition by “family values” that let them expropriate women’s work for free. They were protected from competition by laws delegitimizing immigrants, limiting them to work white men didn’t want to perform. They were protected by rules that kept black and Hispanic people from voting, getting an education, or acquiring any of the skills necessary to challenge white dominance.
As America has democratized, breaking down economic, legal and political barriers to competition, once-coddled mediocre white men have been failing. In recent years, mortality rates for whites have exploded. Like a Soviet state-run industry, mediocre white people felt entitled to a lifestyle they couldn’t sustain in a competitive environment. Like the wealthy, they are panicking. Why are so many middle-income whites lined up with super-wealthy trust-fund babies to oppose the democratization of our society? Because like those wealthy elites, mediocre white people face an existential threat from a truly free society.
Gabbard accidentally acknowledged the calculus that lets powerful white people escape justice. Try to hold your betters accountable to the same rules they apply to you, and they’ll stop giving you treats. Keep pressing our public institutions to apply the law equally to wealthy elites, especially wealthy white elites, and those elites will destroy those institutions in front of your eyes. Want to retain some comfortable illusions about the rule of law? Then settle down and know your place.
Our legal system was not built to hold wealthy white people accountable. Historically, powerful white people have only been constrained by the rival interests of other powerful white people. Jeffrey Epstein *was convicted* of running a child sex slavery ring catering to the interests of powerful politicians and never spent any time in a real prison. Powerful people only go to prison in our system if they are incredibly stupid. However, those unspoken rules are breaking down under enormous public pressure, much of it originating outside the political system.
The strategy adopted by the Mueller team appears similar to the logic behind Nixon’s pardon. To protect our institutions, we must maintain public confidence. The first few letters in “confidence” are “con.” Those institutions may be imperfect and even unfair, but the con tells us that they are all that protects us from worse than Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump.
Disruption is coming regardless what compromise we make. Forces behind the expansion of economic and political power will be hard to halt. Established elites would need remarkable insight and leadership to stop the expansion of competition and they just aren’t that clever. Their position is eroding, but as they fail they are destroying valuable institutions we will regret losing. We should not be handling them with kid-gloves.
We need to elect leadership that will end our decades-long Gabbard Compromise. Beware of politicians who tell you to be nice. Reject anyone who uses terms like “civility,” “outreach” or “building bridges.” In reality, we have the upper hand. Trump lost the last election, and he’ll perform more poorly this time around. Most of the remaining power of our embedded elites comes from our fear of them. Those clinging to power and wealth against a rising tide of competition are vulnerable. Force their hand with nerve and determination and we will win.