Peaceful Transitions of Power are a Miracle

Peaceful Transitions of Power are a Miracle. By Tim Kowal.

Americans used to know about something called the Miracle of 1800. The reason America’s first transition of power from one political party to another was called a “miracle” was because the peaceful transition of political power in a democracy was not something that had been known to work.

There is, in fact, no particularly good reason to think that it should work. And yet, miraculously, it did work. Perhaps it was that Americans, still fresh with patriotic feeling for their new country, forged in a Revolutionary War, willed that it work. Who knows?

But even when it did work, there was no real reason to assume it should go on working. Yet, Americans saw it go on working. Perhaps there was something exceptional about America. Who knows?

In fact, the peaceful continuation of American democratic governance went on working so well, and for so long, that Americans began to take it for granted. They began to see peace as a sort of natural state of their political life. And political violence as something, strange, foreign. …

In the bad old days, too, Americans used to acknowledge death as a fact of life. Illness was commonplace, and it took from all groups, not just the old. Poverty, too, was a typical and certain condition. If a person did not work, he would not eat. And then, almost suddenly, there came a point when Americans could expect good health, and a long life, as the rule and not the exception. And to accompany that good long life, Americans could assume a comfortable and satisfying job, and settle in somewhere in the broad middle-class. These became nearly as certain as the Laws of Thermodynamics. Exceptions to the rule prompted questions that someone was to blame for upsetting the natural order of things. …

But then came 2020:

That year upset the presumptions of perpetual good health, perpetual prosperity, and perpetual peace. The year 2020 came with these three sobering and ancient lessons: Good health is a miracle. Prosperity is a miracle. And domestic peace, too, is a miracle.

Health, prosperity, and peace are not the story of human history. The story of human history is sickness, poverty, and war. They are the domestic product of every people, in every time, in every place. And we have no right to insist otherwise. Ever. …

It is now early January 2021, and it is clear those lessons, however cruelly drilled into us, were not learned. We still insist on health and prosperity, enforced under pain of law. We will take them by force, if necessary. And we still take peace for granted. We assume democratic governance is naturally and automatically self-perpetuating. …

All you need to know about the Capitol riot:

When Trump supporters broke into the Capitol building Wednesday, January 6, 2021, they acted wrongfully. Their actions were wrongful for exactly the same reasons BLM supporters’ actions were wrongful when they broke into hundreds of buildings, both private and government, over the summer of 2020. These acts were wrongful because violence, except in self-defense, is wrong. And no justification of self-defense was ever offered by either group.

That short paragraph is all that needs saying about that. Yet we are now treated to endless versions of it, offered at indulgent length, by every person who is paid to offer political opinion in America. All talking heads think the country needs to hear, on an endless loop, that violence against our democracy is wrong. Fine.

But Americans already know that violence is wrong. What they need to start hearing is why our democracy is worth keeping. And what they really need to hear is that our political class cares about our democracy — that they don’t just care about maintaining the assumption that they are entitled to rule over our democracy, without meaningful challenge.

All it takes is one rigged election:

Both groups who committed recent violence in America — BLM in dozens of American cities in 2020; Trump supporters at the Capitol on January 6 — happen to have acted for the same reasons. They both stopped believing the very thing we ought never to have taken for granted: that our system of democratic government still functions.

They both stopped taking for granted that our democracy is worth keeping. In 2020, these people on the left half of America told us that, for them, the Miracle of 1800 was dead. And on January 6, 2021, these people on the right half of America told us that the Miracle of 1800 was dead for them, too.

That, my friends, is a serious problem. These BLM supporters and Trump supporters were not attacking democracy. Their violence was not a threat to democracy. For these people, democracy was already dead. The violence we witnessed was the violence our democracy, during its miraculous existence, had kept at bay. As our democracy continues, in the eyes of growing numbers of Americans, to die, I am afraid we will see the ancient violence fill its place….

Now the political class is making things worse in a hurry:

Violence is always lurking just beneath the surface. We do not place blame for man’s fallen nature. We only ask how to mitigate it. We used to call this civilization. Violence is also mitigated through speech. Not polite speech. The only kind of speech that could ever serve as a substitute for the thrill of violence is the kind that lets ‘er rip. No mute buttons or fact checks or penalty boxes. A man who would just as soon fight his opponent is not going to submit petitions to a censor. If you desire democracy, you must give a man his adverbs.

Trump tells his supporters he hears them. Trump’s opponents want to censor them. They’ve already censored Trump himself. Raucous free speech was one of the ways we ensured peaceful democracy. Not polite democracy. And not always exactly peaceful. But peaceful enough. …

Our political establishment is a government without a country. Trump’s supporters are a country without a government. …

The Trump supporters’ spontaneous, stupid, and wrongful actions against the government is not the real story. The real story is the government’s wrongful actions against its people. That is why we do not have peace. And that is why we will not have peace for quite some time to come. Except the Orwellian kind. …

Democracy is not a thing that may be taken for granted. Democracy, if indeed it can last at all, lasts only as a result of…of what, exactly, we have never been able to answer. That is why the first peaceful transition of power in 1800 was called a miracle.

The rulers of the political class, those currently with the most power, are the big tech people. They can cancel anyone, anytime. They have many people’s vital info and secrets on the cloud or in your phone records, and they can leak those secrets. They bought Biden his victory, and Biden owes them big time. They are the richest and most powerful individuals, and they are smart. They now rule the roost.

But the tech lords are foolish and ignorant when it comes to history, politics, and people. I know this class of people. I used to work in Silicon Valley, and did a PhD at Stanford just a few years ahead of Elon Musk, Larry Page, Sergei Brin, etc, in the same technical milieu (CS and EE). They are technically wise, but relatively clueless in the ways of the world. The have scant knowledge of history, so they do not know what is likely to happen in various situations. They never had that road map,and lacked the curiosity or time to acquire it. They have no idea about people who are much less smart or rich than them, because they have neither been there or studied it. The ones at the top became very wealthy before 30, before they became wise. Everyone sucks up to them and flatters them, so they do not grow much. They are perpetual adolescents in so many ways.

They are great at programming machines. Machines don’t have feelings, don’t care or know if they are being disrespected, and won’t burn your house down if they get really annoyed at you. A machine only remembers what you allow it to; you can just turn it off then start again. The successes of the tech overlords are in a technical world of machines and business, not among real people.

(Btw, unlike them, I came from a political background. Also, I have always been fascinated by history, and why things happened. In grad school I was constantly amazed at how naive these people were on people and politics, because they came from technical backgrounds and were really only interested in tech. I felt like a fish out of water for a long while at Stanford. The careers people did tests and told me I had the opposite personality types of the engineers and techies I was working with, but assured me this was a good thing. I almost left, twice, but persisted.)

The West has systematically wiped out the part of our society that knows about history and politics, the repository of wisdom on how to build and guide a successful society. The left did it, via cultural Marxism and the march through the institutions. The Arts faculties of universities used to teach how to run a civilization, having built the world’s best civilization. But that’s mostly gone now. A few old people and amateurs are the main repositories of such knowledge now. (Amateur: for the love of it, from Latin, amor, to love.)

Which makes the West, and the tech overlords, a pushover for any smart political types who understand people. Smart operators (and psychopaths) will see the tech leaders as putty that is easily molded, because they have few defenses or little knowledge. So easily led.

The next few years ought to be interesting, in the sense of the Chinese curse. We will be treated more like numbers, or records in a database, by people who are accustomed to complete control over the empire they are programming.