The gridlock that House Republicans find themselves in—three days running—to elect a Speaker is a nice metaphor for the current state of America: angry, polarized, and unable to move forward. This problem has been brewing for many years, as new technologies have decentralized and democratized everything, undermining old top-down institutions, and shifting more knowledge and power to individuals. The Speaker, just like media elites, corporate CEOs, and the other overlords of centralized institutions, used to wield almost dictatorial power, but that world is gone, replaced by something far more messy, diverse and democratic.
Diverse and Democratic, we are told, are virtues that make for a stronger America. I agree with this, but I doubt that most who publicly preach this civic religion really mean it. In fact, what they really mean, ala Orwell, is Conformity and Control. Because it turns out that America is an extremely—and beautifully—diverse nation. Radically democratic, you might say. Everyone has different abilities and desires, work goals, strongly held beliefs, and different philosophies about raising and protecting their children.
This is just another way of saying that we hardly agree on anything. And that’s OK. Because our differences are often where the good stuff about America happens: disagreement, clash and innovation, cooperation and competition, and yes, even cultural appropriation. All of this can be beautiful—our unique strength. That is, as long as government social engineers don’t step in and start deciding, for all of us, whose life decisions will be forced upon the rest of us through the brute force of the state.
Of course, that’s exactly what our government betters have been doing to political minorities—the losers in a Game of Thrones—for years. Every election is more polarized and angrier because the spoils of victory have become an all or nothing proposition. Lose, and you lose everything.
And that may be the crux of gridlock in Washington, DC right now. The epic clash between true diversity and democratization, and unchecked power. Every political fight today is about who wields the power to suppress and dominate. It’s about elites trying to reestablish Conformity and Control. Think about the rhetoric from the political machine (Republican and Democrat alike) suggesting that they view the 20 or so members demanding more representative rights for their constituents as some kind of virus infecting the body politic. A virus, or “terrorists.” Which I suppose, makes the people who supported Lauren Boebert in her reelection a virus as well, something to be eradicated if government is to function as they think it should. This seems like very dangerous thinking, and yes, radically un-American.
We are in the middle of a paradigm shift. The sclerotic institutions that used to tell us what to think and do have been irreparably disrupted by technologies that liberate individuals to think and do for themselves. So how will this radically democratic world work? Well, it already does work exceptionally well in private life, in the ongoing process where we work things out, solve problems and move forward. Sometimes we do things together, or sometimes we act alone; whichever makes more sense.
The solution for House Republican leadership, assuming they want a real solution, would be one that figures out how to give all of these minority opinions a voice in the process. Open the process and create regular order, with votes and amendments, just as Justin Amash has proposed, where all members can represent their constituencies, as diverse as they are. That’s supper messy, time consuming, and a lot of work. Which suggests a Congress that will do far less for us, or to us.
Regardless of what happens in the House of Representatives, I’m not naive enough to believe that they will fix anything. The only real solution comes from you and me, with all of our beautiful differences, working things out for ourselves. Only we can stop the Game.