The War Within – Why Progressives need to accept the war Corporate Dems have waged.

Ever since the corporate Democrats and their donors teamed up against Bernie in the primaries, the debate has gone back and forth on whether we should just fall in line and support Biden. For Bernie supporters our next move will possibly be the most important of the movement, do we stay organized, our splinter into a thousand pieces? Let’s really start to think about how we can accomplish the agenda, but most importantly we need a thorough understanding of our enemies and how they sabotage us. We will also explore the flimsy reason why we wouldn’t go to war with Biden and company. In life and especially in politics you are never sitting still, if you aren’t moving forward, you are moving backward.

Flashback to 2015 when Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and Hillary Clinton rigged the DNC and democratic primary against Bernie Sanders. Did you know the DNC didn’t even allow Bernie access to their voter database(they give access to all candidates)? If you aren’t familiar with the process, imagine the RNC choosing Ted Cruz over Trump, and giving all data and resources to Cruz. Bernie had to start completely from scratch on outreach. Despite being essentially cheated and constantly dogged by Hillary and the rest of the corporate dream team, he still fought like hell to stop Donald Trump. Then after she lost the election, she spent all of her time publicly blaming Bernie for her loss, pathetic! It is truly amazing that Bernie has the integrity to take the high road and not blow up on them. 

Back then, we had no idea how to react to Trump, we were led to believe this was the evilest human to date. It was a no brainer that we could never support Trump, and any vote against Hillary could only be sexism or racism. Plus the first time around Bernie was such a long shot that it lessened the feeling that something had been taken from us, in a sense we couldn’t lose what we didn’t have. It was mostly in hindsight that we saw the Clinton shenanigans with the DNC and with the Iowa vote count, that we realized how close we were. More importantly, the first run showed us that we did exist in politically relevant numbers. Perhaps the biggest lesson missed was the strength and determination of the Corporate Dems aka our opponents. We underestimated them then, and underestimated them in 2020, to our downfall.

The 2020 Sanders campaign showed so much grit and experience from the first time around, yet no amount of skill and experience could win. When Bernie pulled ahead of Warren and started knocking Pete around at the polls, it looked like a sure victory. Then came a crucial lesson for us, the media bats last. After a pitiful campaign full of gaffs Joe Biden leaned into the political establishment and won South Carolina handily. Even though Bernie won Nevada by a similar margin, Joe received 4x the amount of positive coverage as Bernie. 

Then the unthinkable happened, behind closed doors, every greedy corporate Dem led by Obama connived up a plan to stop Bernie Sanders at all cost. They would all drop out to endorse the man in 4th place who had no agenda and seemed to be facing rapid mental decline. Never in history has someone in Pete Buttigieg’s position dropped out so early. Never forget that when this weasel gets a cabinet position in the Biden administration and Bernie doesn’t. Another lesson we didn’t learn with Warren in 2016 that we must remember with Pete- our most dangerous enemies are in blue and they are right beside us. If you don’t remember Warren endorsed Hillary when she could have tipped the race for Bernie, we should have known she would be the final dagger on Super Tuesday when she refused to drop out despite never finishing second in any state. If you watch Game of Thrones(Spoiler alert!), this is exactly like the scene where the knights watch all stab John Snow with the deception being led by Ollie, the small boy that John mentors, who stick the very last knife in his stomach. 

This is where we have to take a step back and really study our adversaries. In 2020 we quickly forgot who was really against us and how motivated they were to stop us. Clearly, we are losing the internal battle for the party. Let’s not forget the Democratic party is a shell that stands for nothing except the person in charge. If we want someone like Bernie to ever be able to win, we have to start picking off his adversaries. Replicating AOC’s victory should be our number one goal, let’s pick off vulnerable corporate Dems. Even if we can’t beat them we cannot allow them to ignore us by staying quiet and submitting to them. The Republicans cream us because they allow invigorated and aggressive members to take the world by storm. Pelosi can’t let people like Bernie in because they expose her as what she truly is- Republican Lite. The big picture lesson, we will never beat the Republicans, without beating the Corporate pseudo-Republicans on our own team first. Despite the trash-talking, we actually have to prove we have more voters than them. Say we actually go toe to toe with them and fight just as hard but keep losing, then we will have to look internally at the fact that our message does not resonate. For the time being, our enemies in blue seem to be a larger roadblock than our message.

Jesus the Socialist

Did you know that in Europe, most Christians are on the left. Well that is at least how the parties are established. If you hold all other things constant it makes sense, Jesus was about helping the poor and disadvantaged so it would make sense to support the side that believes in welfare programs for the poor. This is another interesting cultural difference with the US, generally speaking Europeans tend to believe that society at large is responsible for the welfare of the impoverished. While in the US, we generally believe private operations and individuals at churches and nonprofits should administer welfare to the impoverished, not the Government or society at large. Interestingly our priorities are extremely apparent when you get off any interstate exit in a city and see all the homeless people, very possibly veterans, begging for money despite the fact that there are more empty homes than there are homeless in the US. The most important questions for today are, why do Christians overwhelmingly support Republicans and do progressives have something to offer them? 

To address why Christians support the right, lets examine all the topics outside of abortion, even though it appears to be the driving force, similar to Racial Justice and LGBT rights on the left. So, how have we come to the place where the Christians in America truly believe that Democrats and liberals have been waging a war against them for ages? First let’s look at all the areas where they are correct and how Dems constantly barraid them. Then let’s start to dissect where there is serious overlap with the progressive movement and the Christian faith. 

If you did not grow up in a church you probably haven’t heard many of their arguments other than the extremely political fights that make the news. One message echoed repeatedly is that the church and faith writ large is always “under attack”. Now if you are a protesting BLM activist you likely feel the exact opposite, make sure to check out our Cancel Culture and lack of meaning post if you missed it. While this message of attack is as old as the bible itself, it has become almost exclusively political. It is hard to tell when exactly it happened, back in the 90’s and early 2000’s people didn’t completely assume that if you are a Christian you had to be a Republican. Now we are led to believe that faith and Conservatism are not mutually exclusive. While this is hard to pin down, it’s a safe bet that social media helped wedge this gap. However this defensive posture from people of faith is a move out of self defense. It might be hard for some of the ultra woke to swallow this but imagine you are raising a family in a small rural area. You are a farmer, a christian, a great member of the community who gives back. However any time you turn the Television on, all you see are extremely liberal people writing extremely liberal shows for extremely liberal actors. Everytime you watch sports you are blasted with a political message. Take a step back from whose right technically on those issues, we have someone who is contributing to society and chooses to live a rural life, taking care of his family and paying taxes. Yet everywhere he looks at a screen, liberals are screaming that he and his neighbors are the problem. Imagine keeping to yourself and doing all the things our culture tells us we should do, work hard, take care of your family, etc. and all of a sudden you are “evil and obstructive”. 

“The Left has won the culture wars, now they are just riding around shooting the survivors.”

Funny how the Left is the party of tolerance, just not Christian tolerance, unless you are Joe Biden pandering to religious Black voters. While the church has a penchant for forcing their flavor on other religions or the non-religious in public places, the Dems never defend freedom of religion or speech when it comes to Christianity. However they fight tooth and nail for any member of the Muslim faith. While they probably do need more legal and moral support, if Vegas were placing odds, I would be the Democrats are exclusively pandering to the woke crowd and don’t have a genuine interest in helping the Muslim faith. 

Let’s call for a cease-fire. From a purely political perspective, with the Dems ramping up the cultural war on Christians, the Republicans are able to guarantee victory across the south and the midwest. From the left’s perspective it is a dumb strategic move to further this narative by constant attacks on the rural religious lifestyle. Who knows, maybe Texas would already be blue? Before your next attack on “some dumb republican I grew up with” try to find overlap.

How exactly we find common ground is a tall order, but not an impossible one. Let’s start with Eugene Debbs, the legendary Christian-Socialist. Yes, you read that correctly, Christian-Socialist! Debbs grew up in Indiana the son of a small business owner. For context, during Debbs lifetime American Cities and factories flourished, leading to many Americans seeking employment from someone else for the first time in their lives, for more on this check our piece on American Entrepreneurship. Growing up and even into adulthood Debbs did not even consider himself a left wing or liberal person, he was fairly centrist. He was however extremely religious, his faith came before all else. His political views started to change when he became head of a rail union, this is what led Debbs to his lifetime of organizing and agitating. 

In light of today’s politics, Debbs’ ability to tie american kitchen table values to socialism(and he really said it, no democratic socialism) highlights the complete failure of imagination we see in today’s corporate democratic party. Really try to clear your mind of any knowledge of Debbs and image this line coming from the pulpit of a church or a town square of a small town(it did!)-

“ It matters little whether Jesus was born at Nazareth or Bethlehem. The accounts conflict, but the point is of no consequence.

 It is of consequence, however, that He was born in a stable and cradled in a manger. This fact of itself, about which there is no question, certifies conclusively the proletarian character of Jesus Christ. Had His parents been other than poor working people — money-changers, usurers, merchants, lawyers, scribes, priests, or other parasites — He would not have been delivered from His mother’s womb on a bed of straw in a stable among asses and other animals.

 Was Jesus divinely begotten? Yes, the same as every other babe eve born into the world. He was of miraculous origin the same as all the rest of mankind. The scriptural account of his “immaculate conception” is a beautiful myth, but scarcely more of a miracle than the conception of all other babes. 

Jesus was not divine because he was less human than his fellowmen but for the opposite reason that he was supremely human, and it is this of which his divinity consists, the fullness and perfection of him as an intellectual, moral, and spiritual being”

That is an excerpt from his 1914 essay Jesus The Supreme Ruler. Before you get concerned this is not some radical religious left hook or something, it is just to highlight that the conservative right does not own religion. They are however appealing to and defending Christian voters, meanwhile the Democrats are actively disrespecting them at all turns. 

Trump won in 2016 as a result of 1% more of inner city voters that were not highly motivated to show up. To win you don’t have to win a whole group, sometimes you just have to give them less of a reason to hate you. Oh yeah, and maybe we should be trying to share some common values with our fellow Americans!

The Creative Commons – Taking Back our Productivity

John Maynard Keynes, a highly quoted economist by conservatives and capitalist predicted in 1930 that our efficiency would rise so much that we would only work 15 hours a week. Keynes thought that by now his grandchildren would only work Monday and Tuesday and have a five day weekend. No spoiler here, we all know wages have not risen higher than inflation since the 1980’s. People are working longer hours for lower wages. There is now a massive and new class in America, the extremely hard-working poor. Is there a term that is more opposite the American dream than the phrase working-poor. This means they have the right effort, not “welfare queens”, hard working Americans trying to make ends meet and they are simply unable to on the wages of today. On top of that we see that after each recession more jobs are permanently displaced, meaning that the person who lost that job will never get it back and instead move to waiting tables and working retail- the sector where the majority of “new” jobs appear. Where did Keynes go wrong? How did he miss that we would make less money relative to cost of living? 

It all lies in productivity, Keynes knew that our productivity was increasing at a break-neck rate and assumed that at some point we wouldn’t have to spend all of our lives working. So what did he miss? Massive inequality, see keynes was right about our efficiency, except all the gains were taken by the ultra wealthy and not distributed among society. Hell, if we actually did divide up all the money in the US evenly, every person in the country would have $750,000/year. Pretty disgusting to think we could eliminate child poverty/hunger, homelessness(many of which are veterans), and so many other problems if it were only a priority. 

It is easy to see that Keynes is wrong in his final assumption, we are still working 5 days a week. However the basis for his hypothesis holds true, we have become more efficient/productive with every passing year. 

This graph from the economic policy institute at once redemes Keynes and shows his blind spot. It shows the flaw in the assumption that the “rising tide lifts all boats”. One thing Keynes could never see coming was the creation of the Creative Commons and the wealthy’s ability to own and profit from the general public’s data. 

So what are we talking about with the Creative Commons? It’s hard to say exactly but the businesses who profit from it that we are referring to here are businesses like Google, Uber, and AirBnB. Essentially we are seeing individuals own complex systems that only exist through the effort of all involved. Think about the fact that Google does not create any content that it displays on its search results, their value and product is presenting info they do not create to then study your behavior and sell that to businesses. Google is more complex which is why we believe it has made it so far without threat of anti-trust, lets look at Air BnB and Uber. These companies exploit the fact that there are individuals who need rides and individuals who have cars looking to make money. What is Uber really adding here? Yes the founders built the original software, but they aren’t riding or driving, they just built the apparatus first and get to permanently take a cut of all rides. 

Let’s take a step back before this hyper exploitation. Think about the business of making software, this is where Bill Gates made his billions. You make software at a high R&D cost, but after that there is virtually no variable cost, meaning no additional cost to sell a unit. This allowed Microsoft to retain its massive profit margins and rapidly accumulate wealth. Imagine all the homes and schools across the globe that sent Gates $50-75/year. Now zoom back in on Air BnB, they don’t even have software they are selling to end users, they created the only meeting hub where property owners can speak with renters. Once they own that hub they are like the local mafia, you want to do business here you have to permanently kick in to my coffers, even though you are providing all of the value. This would be like private citizen billionaires owning the roads and being able to put up tolls freely, could you imagine the outrage! 

This picture becomes even more grim as we see the horrors of social media, where corrupt billionaires(Mark Zuckerberg) own the virtual space where we interact with our community. What does Facebook really offer you? Other people! They use you to lure in your friends, once you’re all there they record your behavior and sell it to businesses. They don’t inherently do or add any value, they simply sell your friends to you, then sell access to likely consumers to businesses. They only know you’re a likely consumer, they monitor your internet usage and social media activity. 

While we are nowhere close to a solution today on how we can take back the creative commons, we must begin to wrestle with these concepts. What if Uber was non-profit and took 10% of what they currently do? What if postmates paid a living wage with benefits? How can we distribute the technological gains of the last 40 years to benefit society as a whole?

What Progressives Can Learn From Trump.

During the Trump era, neoliberals have found their calling card and a second wind. Their most popular plan is that they aren’t Trump. Their climate policy is going to do more than Trump. Their healthcare plan is that Trump won’t be able to take away the ACA. Their COVID plan is to stop Trump from tweeting. It’s a Neoliberal dream, collecting donor checks and never having to actually legislate or govern. There are two ways to react to Donald Trump if you are not a conservative, complete hatred/anger/shock/disgust or you have taken the time to study and think about what Trump has exposed in Washington. If you remember the 2015 primary battle, Trump was originally opposed by all media, especially Fox. Unlike Bernie, Trump was able to somehow flank the media with their own supporters, forcing them to cave. If we truly seek to change this country, why would we not try to study the biggest outsider and chaos agent of the last 30 years.

All the Neoliberal apologists have already started heading for the exit at this point, no wait they would never click something about what we can learn from Trump. Let’s continue. There are three areas of study around Trump that we can gleam value from- his open corruption with politics, the corruption of the ultra wealthy, and his relationship with the media.

Remember when Saudia Arabia murdered journalist Jamal Khoshoggi back in 2018? Trump commented that it would be “foolish” to stop selling the Crown Prince weapons. When Trump said this, everyone’s jaws hit the floor, and the media went bezerk. Yet what is so fascinating is that President Obama sold billions and billions of weapons to a similarly corrupt regime in Saudi Arabia. This is what makes Trump interesting, his appeal is that he says the quiet part out loud. Should we sell guns that allow the Saudis to kill innocents and create a famine in Yemen? Obviously not from a moral perspective but we all know what is going on, we want the money! Trump is the first President to openly admit corruption. Think about his response to paying no taxes, “That makes me smart!”, and if you think Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama aren’t gaming the system in similar ways you’re fooling yourself. This is the first major lesson progressives can learn from Trump- the veil of innocence in Washington has been ripped back, both parties are in the same corrupt, self-enriching bed. If you refuse to see your own parties guilt and corruption you are exactly the same as the hard headed Trump supporter you hate. Obama has literally been galavanting around with Billionaires and landing massive production deals. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take the same Big Pharma and Wall Street donations as Donald Trump. Don’t let Trump’s shenanigans distract you from the circus of greed and corruption he has opened to the public.

While there is significant overlap here with the corruption Trump revealed within the government, he also pulled back the veil on the power of the ultra wealthy. Oh yeah and remember that lizard-man billionaire Michael Bloomberg who spent $100 million running, just for fun? These men showed us what the life of a Billionaire is like, from private jets and golden toilets to having affairs with pornstars. With Bloomberg we got an up close look at the scale of their wealth, his little $100 Million campaign experiment didn’t even cost 1% of his total wealth. To bring this to scale 70% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. So $100 Million to Mike Bloomberg’s $55.5 Billion would be the equivalent of $10 to most Americans. Really let that sink in, $10. Even if you had $100k in savings it would still only be $1000 to you. People like Bloomberg- Bezos, Buffett, Zuckerberg, Koch, Adelson, Soros any single one of them has enough wealth to end homelessness, or completely control the government through political donations. Fascinating to think of all the problems they could end with the click of a button, instead they are using their war chest to rig the tax codes and regulations to ensure they become even wealthier. This economy is like a pie, a very big pie, the bigger one slice gets the smaller all other slices become, and 1% of the population has half and the other 99% of us are left fighting over the other half. Trump is really the poster child of phony, late-stage capitalism- He inherited all of his money through a tax scheme that cheated the system, he has never produced, created, or built anything, just been a celebrity that can sell just his name to actual creators, the laws of the market never apply as he goes bankrupt time and time again with no consequence, all the while leveraging massive government tax breaks. Look at the stock market, the holy ground of capitalism, the fed is now completely propping up the market by injecting large sums of money to artificially increase the price.  At the end of the day Trump has shown us that the ultra wealthy are the real socialist, never bound to the competition based market while constantly using and merging with the government. 

It is hard to remember now after years of pro-trump Fox News, but when the President first launched his campaign Fox News vehemently opposed him. Remember his epic showdown with Megyn Kelly when he suggested that she was on her period when she attacked him? How was he able to turn the tides on them? This is perhaps the most critical lesson that the progessive left needs to learn from Trump. Obviously we can’t replicate Trump’s behaviors, but we need to replicate his results, or else we will get crushed every time under the foot of the media. When Joe Biden and Barack Obama were able to get every candidate except Elizabeth Warren to drop out of the race and endorse him, Biden received $100 Million dollars worth of free air time. When Joe Biden won South Carolina by a similar margin that Bernie had just beat him by in Nevada, he received 4 times the amount of positive coverage as Bernie. How did Trump fair at this media game? Well, during his first run he garnered over $2 Billion dollars of free coverage. Yep, the media’s inability to stop talking about him more than likely gave him the presidency, not to mention having a bigger twitter following than Fox, CNN, & MSNBC combined. He got through to their customer base, something Bernie was never able to do with suburban whites, the media kept him locked out. It is possible the media learned a valuable lesson after losing to Trump, their power lies in the ability to limit what information is available, not persuading people. Their greatest tool is silencing a person or cause, if you never show anything Trump does and occasionally show embarrassing moments or just never have Bernie Sanders on a show again. There is what you know you don’t know, what you know you know, and then the things you do not know, that you don’t know them. Things you don’t even think to ask the question about. This is where the media places people like Bernie Sanders and his policies. If the progressive left or any outsider right wing group wants to succeed we must have a counter balance to the media like Trump if we ever wish to have power.

Information Overload

When was the last time you took a vacation and completely unplugged? With COVID there aren’t as many vacations happening so think about the last time you unplugged from media and screens, even for a day. Around election time it is nearly impossible to look away, and now Facebook can shoot you notifications when you are offline, then text messages if those don’t work, letting you know all of your closest friends are up to something that you are definitely going to want to check out. With so much information being thrown at us these days, we never know what issues are actually important until much later when we realize we focused on something that was not essential to our cause. Case and point, do you even remember what Trump did last week that pissed the media and Dems off? No you don’t, but on that given day it was an “election ending issue” that was going to “doom” the Trump campaign. We hear it every day and Trump keeps humming merrily along. This suggests that we are the real victims of the news cycle. We are like a driver following a GPS system where we didn’t choose the destination. Doing constant break checks and illegal U-turns when prompted. Why do we follow another’s directions? Because we don’t know where we want to go, and without disconnecting from all the input, we never will. 

Why does this happen to us? Don’t most liberals believe in their heart of hearts that they are just trying to do the right thing, which is ousting Donald Trump? TAR refuses to believe that all these people just have hate in their hearts. However if we are so driven and on fire against Trump, how do we have record low voter enthusiasm for Joe Biden? How is it even possible in a massive field of candidates that we ended up with someone we don’t even like, didn’t we get a vote? This all boils down to ideology and how our resistance to Power on the right, is canceled out by enriching the powerful from the left. By choosing a “rebellious alternative” of being a Democrat we think we are escaping the system, only to end up as the left leg of the tripod as opposed to the right, remaining a crucial leg of support in our corrupt system. Our woke escape is the same prison, just with different guards. It comes with an extra benefit, once we think we have escaped and become enlightened, we give up on ever trying to improve ourselves or our system. Because “I’m not part of the problem, I drink Starbucks and made a BLM post on my Facebook the other day.” Once we have reached this position, we have been effectively sidelined. And who can blame these people, young people are constantly reading about the imminent destruction of their planet, corporations breaking the law with no punishment, child sex trafficing, Donald Trump ruining America permanently and a million other world ending horrors on any given social media session. Humans have never had this much on their conscience, and we are not evolved to handle all the horrible news of the whole species. 

Once our minds are filled to the absolute brim with negative story after negative story, we become delirious. In the midst of the chaos, we start to lose our ability to think clearly. Think about the Bush era, his mistakes that outraged us came at a digestible rate, we knew exactly what we were angry about. Now there are so many stories of Trump doing irreparable damage that when you ask any two members of “the resistance” what they are fighting for, you’d never hear the same answer twice, and it would change daily. The result is that we have never been more splintered and divided rendering us completely unable to politically defend ourselves against Trump. We’ve got the most soldiers and the highest moral, yet the worst army in history. The Democratic party has no mission and no objective. The fact that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden run the party of FDR shows that the party in itself is a hollow object. It carries no values or principles, it is merely a tool of those seeking power in blue states. With record corporate fundraising, lower personal taxes, and Rachel Maddow viewership through the roof, it’s hard to imagine the rich Democrats really even dislike Trump. Their game has never been easier. 

On the left we love to use the term scapegoat, it brings with it a facist-hitler vibe that we love to throw around at Trump and his supporters. Ex- He is using vulnerable immigrants as scapegoats to close down the border! The Trump as a dictator claim never leveled with us, he is pretty lazy when it comes to the desire to govern and he is obsessed with being popular. This brings an import point up, Trump struggled to lead the Republicans in congress and really govern. So why did the Dems never get a second stimulus deal done? They didn’t have too, Donald Trump is himself the scapegoat of the Democrats. See, Trump allowed the corporate Dems to have their dream scenario, they would all keep enriching themselves with DC connections and his tax break, all the while never needing to have any plan or any policy/legislative agenda. So long as Trump is there to blame you never have to answer for your own activity or behavior, why would you, you’re against Trump so no matter what you’re doing it isn’t as bad as him. This hides the ultimate truth- they are exactly like Trump in the most important ways, they’re filthy rich. If the news can stay focused on Trump’s rude behavior, it will ignore the fact that he pulled back the curtain for all to see the life and corruption of the ultra wealthy like Trump and Pelosi. This is great cover for the Democrats as they try to banish Bernie Sanders into oblivion and kill his message of income inequality. 

This so-called tripod that we all are a part of is here to prop up the ultra wealthy. They take the lion’s share of the pie, even though they use us as employee’s and as customers. This is why our breakout freedom of becoming Democrats is just a better ideological prison, it’s imprisonment so total we don’t know where locked up. See we just became the leg that props up the ultra wealthy who lean culturally left. The most damning trend for Democrats is that they are becoming the party of the rich and successful, openly trading workers for woke-white suburbanites. As of now it looks like Donald Trump won a higher share of Black and Latino voters than any Republican since the voting rights act was passed. See while we were being bombarded with anti-Trump info that clogged our brains, we let the corporate Dems crush candidates that would have flipped the Senate, all the while being distracted from the mass exodus of Latinos, Blacks, and rural whites. Not only did these minorities leave our party, they went to the guy that we have been convinced is a rascist, facist, homophobic, version of Hitler crossed with David Duke. 

We for one are tired of the pain of reality smashing us over the head every election when we find that corporate Dem leadership is completely full of it. In essence we are equally misled about reality as the fake-news spreading trump conspiracy-theorist that we spend all of our time attacking. Perhaps the only way to escape this corporately planned-news cycle reality is to start to unplug from time to time. Not anti-media, because that would be the same as the Dems. Even if you are anti-Trump, he is still setting your agenda. If we are anti-media and consume nothing, our behavior is still determined by them. This is the struggle with ideology, how can we begin to change the rules, norms, and cliches of our society if we are trapped in the old ways. Guard your mind, because filling it with the Dem garbage of the last 4 years led us to actions(russiagate, impeachment) that secured a Trump second term before COVID took him out politically. We might not get so lucky next time. 

Check-Box Activism

There seems to be no shortage of upset and outrage these days. On a positive note, people do seem to want justice and equality. However, each person seems to have their own definition of justice and equality. Each side is going to war with an enemy that exists only in their own mind. The left is possibly more active than ever before, or so it seems, yet they are not solving any of the issues they are protesting. Police fatally shooting minorities is still just as large a problem, Occupy wall street is now a laughing stock of the elites and inequality is soaring. What happened to the MLK civil rights era style organizing? Obviously we will never have another MLK, but that is no reason to throw out effective tactics. Both sides have lessons to learn and responsibility to bear for our current state.

With all the outrage on both sides we need to back up and see where we have all gone off the rails on common sense, and honest effectiveness. Honest effectiveness is included because if we are objectively honest with ourselves, trying to gut each other on social media is not actually an effective or successful political strategy. You will never, and have never brought voters to your point of view from argument, this is a psychological concept, you trigger people to dig their heels in. With that being said, common sense tells us to occasionally get out of the trenches and check out the big picture. The classic business line- “there is a difference between working in a business and working on a business. If you only work in the business you can’t work on the business.” We all seem very angry and highly motivated, we’re going at it everyday online, but to what end? From the left and the right, it’s easy to see neither are making progress, even where there is overlap like in the case of a second stimulus package. So how is our energy and political engagement being diverted from what we want? More importantly, why don’t we care?

The idea of Check-Box Activism is based on a psychological concept of Jaques Lacan about why we engage in empty or symbolic gestures, or actions that have no real consequence. Think about the fact that we give and value gifts based on their uselessness- repurposing an old tool into artwork that hangs on the wall. All of our actions are actually directed towards this symbolic realm the messages we are sending are more like this, “I’m not really giving you an expensive or useful gift, but a priceless gift that I worked on to let you know that I care about you and our friendship, the gift is just a medium” And to the receiver we see the a grandparent receiving a piece of artwork from a grandchild, they will hang it up where it will be on display to proudly tell visitors, “my grandchild made that for me, it took hours and hours” with the real meaning “My grandchild made that for me because I am that special and because they love me that much.” 

Prior to social media, if you wanted to take a symbolic gesture that signals to everyone what you believe, you could go organize or actually volunteer. The only actions available were in private(inaction) or public acts of expression and engagement with the Government. Now we have a “Brave New World” style apparatus in social media that is doing a classic Bruce Lee redirect of our energy against us. Before social media to calm that internal desire to take action, and to clear your conscience you had to take action. Now we see tragedy and want justice, so we go online and retweet about climate change, we take our bags to the store, and an internal switch flips that says “I have done my part”. We feel internal pressure release with an “ahh” and hear the CHECK of crossing an item off a list. On its face it appears that we are lazy, yet that simply is not the case. 

So why do we spend our time in frivolous ways? Every person feels societal pressures in some way, it just depends on your upbringing and specific family culture. If you are a young person in virtually any group, you feel the pressure to go to college, get a great job, buy a house, get married, and possibly have kids. While pressures mount personally, we see constant news about climate change, wildfires, refugee crisis, migrant crisis, sex trafficking billionaires, big money taking over politics, completely public corruption, you fill in the blank. Not only are all of these legitimate, they are being forced down our throats at a rate never seen before with social media. What could the effects be on a brain constantly exposed to emergency and tragedy? Prior to the media, the bad news received was to the extent of your neighborhood. Then with Newspapers and eventually TV, you start getting non-local news. This beckons the question, are we capable of emotionally handling an entire country’s tragedies? We certainly didn’t evolve that way, now we are asking ourselves to not get overwhelmed knowing every tragedy on earth. Oh yeah, and there is an algorithm studying which topics will engage you the most and put it in your face 24-7.

There are so many people and causes screaming in our face to take action that an active tension is built on a daily basis. This makes you feel guilty, anxious that one day you could look back and regret not taking some action. And then…… you make a Facebook post, bashing real people. When we look out at potential options for being active, the only thing we see is that social media icon, and it is so effective because it clears your guilt as if you took action or stood up to a bully defending something innocent. This is Check-Box Activism, of all the things on the list of pressure-

  • Get a house
  • Volunteer more
  • Ask for a raise
  • Do something about climate change
  • Exercise more
  • Do something about racism

The two vague, yet threatening items serve as a distraction from our immediate life and they can be crossed off from the couch. With one post about what you believe and what you’re against, your conscience clears and endorphins flow. CHECK

What is the American Good Life?

In Slavoj Zizek’s 2017 book the Courage of Hopelessness, he mentions multiple revolutions that have tried and failed vs the ones that tried and succeeded. In all these cases he is talking about mass worker/communist revolutions, I would include the American Revolution as well. Zizek brings up this idea of the clichés of daily life and society at large and how they hold our system together. The successful revolutions that totally changed daily life for its people were the Bolshevik and Chairman Mao’s takeover of China. The failed revolutions are too many to name, however the tie that binds them is that they sought to stick with old norms in a new system or completely scrap them without creating new ones, according to Zizek. Lenin and Mao were successful at creating new clichés and norms, they asked the question what did daily life look like for the citizens of a communist society? Let’s use this as the start to a thought experiment.

 In America one cliché would be the American Dream “if you work hard, you can have the life you want”, while being very vague it serves as an underlying support for our whole system. Every society has functioning rules, norms, and clichés that give structure to our lives, even if we don’t like them. Zizek highlights some revolutions completely destroying old clichés, when they took power or attempted too, and people had no conception of what values to hold onto, that level of change was utterly shocking. Where Lenin had succeeded was answering the existential questions of his constituents, what is their purpose and role in the larger system. A very tangible example of this is the fact that most men in America die shortly after retiring, no matter their health. They have nothing to hold on too or work towards, their daily purpose is gone leaving a massive longing for meaning and value. This is the same as a revolution without values and clichés.

Hopefully we didn’t lose any conservatives at the mention of Lenin, because this thought experiment is valuable for everyone. Let’s imagine the country decided, today, to start totally over and the candidate of your dreams was the president with both houses of Congress, bringing in sweeping changes and rebuilding the system. Try to go beyond your current partisan riffs and topics, those have been fixed, what does daily American life look like? What really is the true American good life? If you like Trump, what does your ideal society look like? Let’s throw out an example-

An easy one to start with is UBI. More and more we know that we are losing jobs to technology. Technically we are efficient enough to barely require working, our priorities are just not aligned with life satisfaction. Lets picture the world Elon Musk predicts where the majority of people have been replaced by technology and redistributive taxes on those who own the technology provide enough for everyone in society to make $150,000/year(not his number) from the Government. While this sounds beautiful on the surface, there would be extreme challenges. Americans derive value from working, all of a sudden the free time and resources might feel like a prison, no objectives and nothing to achieve- a complete loss of meaning. This is where we would have to bring in new clichés, our society would have to place much more value on creating, traveling, art, cooking, and recreation(just my examples). This is visible comparing America to Latin American countries, the core of our society is work and the core of theirs is family. If we took out work we would have a massive lack of meaning that will need an alternative. 

Let’s walk around in this “future state” for experiment’s sake. Starting at the top, you wake up in the morning, there is no where to go, nothing required. This work gap leaves ample time to focus on your well-being. We could value mental and physical health as life’s primary goal. Spend time finding the routine, exercise, and mental work you need to live a healthy life. Take time to grow your own food. Ok well if you don’t want to garden your neighbor now sells veggies as a hobby she loves. Next we would need to find meaningful work, this is difficult. The parameters of what to do have been blown out, it doesn’t have to make money. Obviously you can’t just lose all of your money, but now profit is pointless. You also can think very creatively, there are no more businesses benefitting from scarcity, so a business like dollar tree or Walmart would just become the shittiest stores out there. No one would be forced to buy shitty things. People would spend their money differently as well. You would likely buy things that added to your lifestyle and not simply things that sustained survival. 

It would be important to change our ideology. Instead of commercial products being advertised as “cool” we would have to make some serious shifts. We would need a population content striving for personal development and creativity. Perhaps TV shows and media would need to appeal to these aspects, instead of selling mind numbing devices, booze, or crappy entertainment they would actually have to sell to a new class of consumers who didn’t know scarcity. As individuals who were previously not getting enough daily food now had the means to buy groceries for their family, this would be an entirely new lifestyle for that individual. There would be a massive need for education, there would have to be a public effort to educate people on how to handle their money, how to eat healthy, purchase a home, and get loans for projects or businesses. 

The other big shift we would need to make is to Re-Glorify the local and small business. Making small business ownership became the bedrock of American society, small towns would see a complete renaissance. Anyone with a skill could now start their own shop and work for themselves. Taking us full circle from complete lack of meaning to a cliché American life filled with purpose, autonomy, and value. 

So, what is your version of the American Good Life? 

The Conservative Case for raising the Minimum Wage

If you have ever worked a minimum wage job, you understand why they call it a starvation wage- if you were trying to live on just that wage, you would starve. While the minimum wage has remained stagnant in most of the country, cost of living has risen dramatically, especially in cities. 

This graph can be a little confusing, the bottom line is what the actual minimum wage was. The top line is what that amount would have been if adjusted to 2016 dollars. The graph shows that minimum wage in the 70’s was worth more than then our current $7.25, that is because minimum wage has not even been adjusted for inflation. Inflation is what explains the fact that $2/hour bought much more in the 1970’s than today, you can buy less per dollar. This graph shows long periods without any rise in the rate, even as the rate itself was providing less. 

You’re wondering, what the heck is conservative about this so far, buckle up. First let’s refresh the definition of working class. Then let’s dive into corporate welfare, and how the Walton’s are the true “welfare queens” that Reagan raved about. 

COVID showed us the value of a job is not reflected by the rate it pays. Hedge Fund managers and big tech executives didn’t offer a thing to us during COVID, it was the minimum wage grocery store worker, the uninsured Rideshare drivers delivering food, and the working class. It is all too common among elite circles to hear the argument, “fast food workers don’t deserve more pay because it doesn’t take any skills or qualifications to work there.” ”If they want more pay they should work somewhere else or learn a skill”. Or a slightly less hostile “McDonalds has to pay that low to stay in business, its supply and demand, after all, you like $1 burgers don’t you?”

This thought can really only come from lack of experience in the other person’s shoes. COVID has really uprooted many of the seeds of anti-worker sentiment running rampant in the US for 30 years. Thankfully Americans writ large are empathizing with the massive class of working poor in this country. While anyone with a salaried job and benefits was and is understandably nervous about losing their job, they saw fellow community members working in their local grocery store, literally risking their life for $7.25 an hour. The only bright side of tragedy is that it has a way of bringing people together and cleaning the slate. Let’s continue to respect and fight for all workers. 

When you think about the welfare system, sadly many Americans think of a poor, lazy, likely obese, con artist who has figured out how to game the system and live off actual workers wages. While they aren’t poor, the biggest beneficiaries of welfare are certainly con artists(Walmart). Let’s go back to the working poor, we know that the minimum wage is so low that even working 40 hours a week will still not provide the basics of food and rent. Imagine having a family on that wage, on this low wage most workers have multiple jobs and still cannot provide enough for their children. Before children go hungry, these workers are forced to enroll for food stamps. 

Take a big pause here, do we like the idea that in America today you can absolutely bust ass and still need Government assistance to survive? 

This is where the Walton’s come in, remember the stories in the news about Walmart holding food drives for EMPLOYEES!? Yes they acknowledge that many of their workers do not have enough food to eat. However lets focus on how they are truly the recipients of the most welfare. By lobbying the government minimum wage companies can get the wages to stay inhumanely low, Walmart can stomach starving people because they know these workers won’t starve to death because they are forced onto the Government’s payroll. Imagine if food stamps didn’t exist, guaranteed we would hear the same stories we hear from China of people keeling over right on the job. Many Walmart workers would lose the roof over their heads. At the end of the day if you pay taxes, you are really paying Walmart’s payroll. If the national minimum wage was gradually raised to $15/hour, we would see the amount of workers seeking welfare drop significantly. 

At the end of the day based on capitalist values, it isn’t the employees but the Walton’s who cannot compete with their own hard work, they only succeed by changing the laws that the government has laid out. Wait a minute, using the laws and government to succeed, isn’t that socialism!? You got that right, socialism is here, you just don’t qualify.

Does the Right Own Religion?

Did you know that in Europe, most Christians are on the left. Well that is at least how the parties are established. If you hold all other things constant it makes sense, Jesus was about helping the poor and disadvantaged so it would make sense to support the side that believes in welfare programs for the poor. This is another interesting cultural difference with the US, generally speaking Europeans tend to believe that society at large is responsible for the welfare of the impoverished. While in the US, we generally believe private operations and individuals at churches and nonprofits should administer welfare to the impoverished, not the Government or society at large. Interestingly our priorities are extremely apparent when you get off any interstate exit in a city and see all the homeless people, very possibly veterans, begging for money despite the fact that there are more empty homes than there are homeless in the US. The most important questions for today are, why do Christians overwhelmingly support Republicans and do progressives have something to offer them? 

To address why Christians support the right, lets examine all the topics outside of abortion, even though it appears to be the driving force, similar to Racial Justice and LGBT rights on the left. So, how have we come to the place where the Christians in America truly believe that Democrats and liberals have been waging a war against them for ages? First let’s look at all the areas where they are correct and how Dems constantly barraid them. Then let’s start to dissect where there is serious overlap with the progressive movement and the Christian faith. 

If you did not grow up in a church you probably haven’t heard many of their arguments other than the extremely political fights that make the news. One message echoed repeatedly is that the church and faith writ large is always “under attack”. Now if you are a protesting BLM activist you likely feel the exact opposite, make sure to check out our Cancel Culture and lack of meaning post if you missed it. While this message of attack is as old as the bible itself, it has become almost exclusively political. It is hard to tell when exactly it happened, back in the 90’s and early 2000’s people didn’t completely assume that if you are a Christian you had to be a Republican. Now we are led to believe that faith and Conservatism are not separable. While this is hard to pin down, it’s a safe bet that social media helped wedge this gap. However this defensive posture from people of faith is a move out of self defense. It might be hard for some of the ultra woke to swallow this but imagine you are raising a family in a small rural area. You are a farmer, a Christian, a great member of the community who gives back. However any time you turn the Television on, all you see are extremely liberal people writing extremely liberal shows for extremely liberal actors. Every time you watch sports you are blasted with a political message. Take a step back from whose right technically on those issues, we have someone who is contributing to society and chooses to live a rural life, taking care of his family and paying taxes. Yet everywhere he looks at a screen, liberals are screaming that he and his neighbors are the problem. Imagine keeping to yourself and doing all the things our culture tells us we should do, work hard, take care of your family, etc. and all of a sudden you are “evil and obstructive”. 

“The Left has won the culture wars, now they are just riding around shooting the survivors.”

Funny how the Left is the party of tolerance, just not Christian tolerance, unless you are Joe Biden pandering to religious Black voters. While the church has a penchant for forcing their flavor on other religions or the non-religious in public places, the Dems never defend freedom of religion or speech when it comes to Christianity. However they fight tooth and nail for any member of the Muslim faith. While they probably do need more legal and moral support, if Vegas were placing odds, I would bet the Democrats are exclusively pandering to the woke crowd and don’t have a genuine interest in helping the Muslim faith. 

Let’s call for a cease-fire. From a purely political perspective, with the Dems ramping up the cultural war on Christians, the Republicans are able to guarantee victory across the south and the midwest. From the left’s perspective it is a dumb strategic move to further this narative by constant attacks on the rural religious lifestyle. Who knows, maybe Texas would already be blue? Before your next attack on “some dumb republican I grew up with” try to find overlap.

How exactly we find common ground is a tall order, but not an impossible one. Let’s start with Eugene Debbs, the legendary Christian-Socialist. Yes, you read that correctly, Christian-Socialist! Debbs grew up in Indiana the son of a small business owner. For context, during Debbs lifetime American Cities and factories flourished, leading to many Americans seeking employment from someone else for the first time in their lives, for more on this check our piece on American Entrepreneurship. Growing up and even into adulthood Debbs did not even consider himself a left wing or liberal person, he was fairly centrist. He was however extremely religious, his faith came before all else. His political views started to change when he became head of a rail union, this is what led Debbs to his lifetime of organizing and agitating. 

In light of today’s politics, Debbs’ ability to tie american kitchen table values to socialism(and he really said it, no democratic socialism) highlights the complete failure of imagination we see in today’s corporate democratic party. Really try to clear your mind of any knowledge of Debbs and image this line coming from the pulpit of a church or a town square of a small town(it did!)-

“ It matters little whether Jesus was born at Nazareth or Bethlehem. The accounts conflict, but the point is of no consequence.

 It is of consequence, however, that He was born in a stable and cradled in a manger. This fact of itself, about which there is no question, certifies conclusively the proletarian character of Jesus Christ. Had His parents been other than poor working people — money-changers, usurers, merchants, lawyers, scribes, priests, or other parasites — He would not have been delivered from His mother’s womb on a bed of straw in a stable among asses and other animals.

 Was Jesus divinely begotten? Yes, the same as every other babe eve born into the world. He was of miraculous origin the same as all the rest of mankind. The scriptural account of his “immaculate conception” is a beautiful myth, but scarcely more of a miracle than the conception of all other babes. 

Jesus was not divine because he was less human than his fellowmen but for the opposite reason that he was supremely human, and it is this of which his divinity consists, the fullness and perfection of him as an intellectual, moral, and spiritual being”

That is an excerpt from his 1914 essay Jesus The Supreme Ruler. Before you get concerned this is not some radical religious left hook or something, it is just to highlight that the conservative right does not own religion. They are however appealing to and defending Christian voters, meanwhile the Democrats are actively disrespecting them at all turns. 

Trump won in 2016 as a result of 1% of inner city voters that were not highly motivated to show up. To win you don’t have to win a whole group, sometimes you just have to give them less of a reason to hate you. Oh yeah, and maybe we should be trying to share some common values with our fellow Americans!

TAR’s guide to stress management

There has perhaps never been a more stressful time than the pandemic. It has been and continues to be a gnarly concoction of economic fear and fear for our health. Some days have been emotionally overwhelming. We would like to share some of the successful tactics we’ve used for handling stress and open an invite for collaboration here.

While there are a million ways of handling stress, most tactics are some deviation of mindfulness. Simply put, being able to disconnect or unhook from emotion, thoughts, and reactions as they fly through your brain. The goal is not to cease thought or stop having mood swings, that is impossible, but you separate from them. Like the new Fleet Foxes song “You are not your season”, the day’s crazy emotion or thought is not who you are. This is easy to write about, in reality if we can “unhook” from our constant thought/daydreaming for mere seconds of every hour, that is game changing. This is hard! Stress wouldn’t exist if we were naturally monks who could never get wrapped up in emotion, but we evolved to survive not be blissful.

There are different categories(arbitrary) of stress management, first there are activities like exercise, meditation, etc. then there are monikers, and finally drills. We did in fact just make up those categories. Activities are typically straightforward, and the most evidence based. Monikers are generally unknown to the general public and never used, sadly being positive is not culturally very cool. Finally there are drills, interestingly humans are running negative drills constantly that undermine their peace of mind and destroy self esteem. 

Let’s start with activities, one of the main reasons why exercise can be so powerful is the concept of little victories. When you are able to push yourself and get that run in or go to yoga before work, you have started the day with a win, giving you a boost chemically and psychologically. You are only as confident as your most recent achievement, and if your brain is dwelling on eating that pizza and skipping a run, you won’t have much confidence. Typically our emotions end up controlling our actions, we feel bad and talk ourselves out of running, luckily for us the process also works in reverse. If we can take action despite our emotions resisting we can change our emotions. If you press on and go for the run anyways, the results feel more rewarding, and you are in a positive mood. 

The second activity is meditation. At the core of meditation, you are “expanding your window of tolerance of the human experience”. Think about the last time you had to pick up to-go food and had to wait in a restaurant. How many seconds did it take once you sat down to pull your phone out? That is your window of tolerance, you could only handle existing without distraction for that many seconds. Don’t feel bad, the largest companies in human history hire the greatest minds on earth to figure out how to make the cell phone more addicting than drugs or gambling. Effectively grinding our window of tolerance down to a nub. We recommend the Waking Up app, but no matter where you start, you can’t go wrong. 

The next category is the use of monikers. Monikers and running mental drills are ways of describing automatic thought processes that already occur. The point is to use these processes to our advantage, as opposed to our detriment. If it has never occurred to you, we do not have control over our thoughts, they run rampant, changing sporadically like a toddler with the TV remote. Since we can’t stop thinking(we wouldn’t want to, thought is a great tool) we need to try and get a grip on this overpowered brain of ours. How? Self-talk. We are constantly thinking negative thoughts in our head and reinforcing negative beliefs. “I’m always late!” “I’m not good with numbers” “I’m super disorganized”. Why we do this comes down to survival, if you were nearly killed by another group, your brain tells you that you “do not fit in with them”. The problem is we are still telling ourselves these narratives in everyday scenarios. It is important to ask yourself the question “When did I start to believe that about myself?”

This biggest challenge with changing the way you talk to and about yourself is that it isn’t cool to be a positive person. Even though everyone hates negative people in particular, being positive is viewed as goofy or uncool. You will be set free when you take out that “cool card” you got at 13 and cut it. This isn’t a childish activity, start noticing the little degrading comments you feed yourself all day and see if you can swap them for something like “I feel healthy and confident” “I always work hard”, “If I work hard and treat people right, I believe thing will work in my favor”.

Next time you are nervous about something coming up, a big meeting, an interview, anything that makes you nervous, and watch how negative your thoughts are. More than likely you are picturing the worst scenario that could happen. This is where the mental drills come into play. Just like self talk, you are currently running mental drills naturally, but mostly negative drills that are causing you to dwell on past shortcomings. In the book Psycho Cybernetics(Tony Robbins inspiration) Dr. Maxwell Maltz puts the human brain and the computer side by side on problem solving. When a computer has a problem to solve, it goes back to its memory to see how it solved past problems and find the right solution. When we have a problem we also search our memories, however we only highlight failures. Imagine a computer that used past failed responses to problems, your computer would crash constantly. Again this is an old survival technique that we no longer need. Before going into an interview, picture it going perfectly. Use the theater of the mind to play through yourself nailing the questions and them responding positively. Research shows our brain responds to imagined scenarios the same as actual scenarios. Yes that’s right, visualizing is as powerful as actual practice. 

While you are imagining the upcoming scenario, you should always have the cookie jar close by. This is a concept pioneered by the GOAT, David Goggins. Goggins is the world’s hardest man, after growing up with an extremely abusive father and getting extremely overweight, he became a Navy Seal and runs the world’s toughest long distance races. The cookie jar is where you keep all of your achievements and all the challenges you have overcome. Anytime a scenario is daunting reach into the cookie jar and remind yourself that you have done things tougher than this and come out on top. This is another reason exercise is so powerful, if going on a run at dawn is 10x more challenging than your upcoming meeting with your boss, you’ve just shrank the size of your anxiety and worry drastically by viewing it at scale. At scale means compared to everything else you’ve been through and overcome. 

In conclusion, remember that while negativity is toxic as hell to others, at the end of the day you are only holding yourself back. Next time you find yourself in a pickle, with a broken down car or job troubles, objectively notice how negativity literally can NOT help the situation in any way, only make it worse.