Sunday, January 30, 2022

A Modest Proposal for American Single-Party Rule


I made the claim in the previous essay that permanent Republican rule of America is inevitable. If Republican legislatures proclaim Republican electors regardless of the popular vote, they will always have 315 electors. They can do this with existing districts; once they get through gerrymandering, they might have even more. Note: I wrote the previous essay before the scandal broke about the fake electoral votes the Republicans planned to create.

But would the Republican Party actually do this? The first reaction of even progressives used to be, No, of course they won’t. They will respect the outcomes of elections. All of us really wanted to believe this. But in recent years, it has become clear that Republicans are ready to take even violent means to grab and maintain power. Before a man actually drove a car at high speed into a racial justice rally in Charlottesville in 2017, we would all have said that this could not happen. Before an armed right wing militia took over the Michigan state house in 2020, we would all have said that this could not happen (see this BBC report). And none of us could have imagined that armed right wing protestors would carry out a violent act of terrorism against the Capitol in Washington, D. C. in 2021. If they have already done these violent things, why would they not take forceful but non-violent action to secure permanent control over the country?

Therefore, instead of saying, They could but they won’t, we must say, They could and they might. If so, how could they do this? I will make a modest proposal (sensu Jonathan Swift) of one way they could solidify their absolute control. How can they actually institute policies that can make white supremacy the law of the land? Just having 315 electors forever into the future is not enough to accomplish this.

They could partially disenfranchise people who are likely to vote against them. They have already tried to do this by making it very, very difficult to vote it you live in a district dominated by minority voters. But they could make it official. They could, for example, pass a law that a minority vote counts as only a partial vote. They could, for example, pass a law that says a minority vote is actually only three-fifths of a vote. I did not just pull this number out of the air. In the original constitution, slaves were to count as three-fifths of a person for purposes of population size, even though none of them could vote. It would not be too much of a stretch to claim that the votes of ex-slaves, as well as Hispanics and Native Americans, would each count as three-fifths of a vote.

You can easily imagine that this would be challenged in court. But since the Constitution does not explicitly forbid this, would the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court actually turn down such a law?

One can imagine that, should a three-fifths law be implemented, there would be a rush of people who would claim that they are not minorities, thus holding onto their right to be counted as a full vote. Barack Obama, exactly half black and half white, could have claimed to be white as legitimately as to be black. Most members of most Native tribes are not full-blooded Natives. Go to a Cherokee National Holiday, and almost everyone you will see looks white. You don’t have to have a certain minimum “blood quantum” in order to be considered Cherokee. My mother was about one-eighth, which is exactly the same as her great-grandmother who was Cherokee enough to have come to Oklahoma in 1838 on the Trail of Tears, and exactly the same blood quantum as the most famous Cherokee Chief, John Ross. I could easily “pass for white.” But my Cherokee ancestry is a matter of public record. I am 17/256 Cherokee.

Conservatives have long considered part-blood minorities to be minorities. No Republican considers Barack Obama to be white. Homer Plessy, the “black” man in the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson decision, was seven-eighths white. Republicans would want to expand the non-white portion of the American population to be as inclusive as possible, in the event of a three-fifths vote. This idea goes back as far as whites have dominated darker people; the “one-drop” rule, made into law before the Civil War, said that if you had even one drop of dark blood, you were dark. In some cases, including part-blood Natives in with the three-fifths votes would backfire. Here in Oklahoma, a lot of the right-wing extremists look white but drive around with Native nation license plates. But, on the whole, white racists would benefit from classifying minorities according to the one-drop rule.

The old days are past when counting “three-fifths of a vote” would take longer than a simple tally. But now a computer can do this calculation, for a whole state, in a few seconds.

I can find nothing that would prevent a permanently Republican federal government from instituting a three-fifths voting rule except the fear of a lawsuit over constitutionality. In such a case, even many reliably “blue” states would flip red, and the Republicans would permanently have much more than 315 electors. You could calculate the result. Just take the percentage of minority citizens in each state, multiply them by 0.6, leave the whites at 1.0, and calculate the results. You don’t even need a computer for this, though a calculator would help. I choose to not spend my time doing this.

I am not being any more serious about this than Jonathan Swift was with his Modest Proposal. I am just trying to get you to think of the possibilities. Whatever happens, we must be aware that the future of the United States might be one of permanent suppression of minority votes.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Democracy is About to End: An Evolutionary Prediction

Ever since the American Declaration of Independence, democracy has been considered the highest achievement of society. Some countries embraced it, some were forced into it. Even today’s dictatorships try to pretend that they are democracies. Less in the achievement than in the image, democracy (widely considered an American invention) has been revered for almost 250 years.

But is it something that we idealistically invented, or is it the product of human evolution? I argue the former, and that human evolution will eventually cause the extinction of democracy.

Democracy is a kind of altruism, in which people give up some of their individual rights to others. For example, warlords want to be dictators, but a democratic system forces them to surrender these rights for the sake of the rest of the people in the country. However much the right-wing militias in America want to impose their will on the whole country by force of arms, the Constitution prevents them from doing so.

This kind of altruism would seem to be good for everyone. In democracy, the selfish interest of almost all individuals is best served by pursuing the interests of all of us. Democracy, rather than roving bands of warlord separatists, is the most efficiently selfish way for almost everyone to maximize their wealth, health, and safety. Try to imagine a country in which every investment could be destroyed by militias without notice. Would you invest in Afghanistan?

But the course of history is inexorably going toward single-party rulership. I will focus just on the United States.

The Republican Party has openly declared that they are going to establish a permanent single-party rulership. Donald Trump demanded that all states with Republican legislatures should appoint a slate of Republican electors, even if the Republicans lost the popular vote. This is what they plan to do. I believe them.

Can they do this? The Constitution, apparently, supports their right to do this. Right at the beginning of Article Two, the Constitution reads, “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” No legislature has ever appointed electors in contradiction to the popular vote, but there is no reason they cannot begin doing so in 2024.

One would think that a legislature would need a justification for declaring a slate of electors different than the one indicated by the popular vote. Actually, they don’t, but they would probably want to have a justification to use. We all know what that justification would be: the popular vote cannot be trusted because there is a suspicion of voter fraud.

There will always be suspicion of voter fraud. Always, always, always. If a Red legislature says they have suspicions, then there are suspicions. Evidence? They have made their claims that the Democrats “stole the 2020 election” with no evidence whatever; why should they start needing evidence in the future? All the Red legislatures would have to do is to say, sorry folks, we think that there is fraud in the popular results.

Let’s consider the numbers from the 2020 election. Reliably Democratic states collectively have 213 electoral votes. Reliably Republican states have 229 electoral votes. (Even some of these states, however, have been partly Democratic in the past. Oklahoma, where I live, used to have a Democratic governor, as did Texas.) The other states (Virginia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia) have a total of 86 electoral votes. If, as they plan, Republican legislatures from these states declare Republican electors either in defiance of or agreement with the popular vote, there will be 315 Republican electors. They intend this situation to be permanent; I  believe them. We will therefore have, starting in 2025, a permanent Republican president.

This situation can lead to a permanent one-party rule in America. Once the Republicans rule, they can pass legislation, or at least proclaim executive orders, that will block minority voters from voting. Who is to stop them? The Supreme Court will not. Congrass? There are moderate Republicans who would consider the destruction of democracy to be unacceptable. But they have been deliberately displaced from positions of leadership in Congrass. Any remaining moderate Republicans will be putting their careers on the line by opposing whatever Donald Trump might decide to do. These Republicans, which is to say most Republicans, will allow the extremists to do what they want.

To the Trump Republicans, Democrats are heathens, but moderate Republicans are heretics. Guess which one is worse.

For each of the “swing” states, there are two possible outcomes. First, if the legislature in any of these states is Republican, then the electors will be Republican. Second, if the legislature in any of these states is Democratic, and such legislatures vote to accept the blue popular vote without overturning it, violent militias will storm the state capitols and take them over by force. They have already done so in Michigan (see article here). All I am saying is that they will do so again. These are the two reasons that no swing state will ever again have Democratic electors.

Throughout human evolutionary history, from tribalism to civilization, most people have wanted forceful leaders to impose their will on everyone else. They are deluded into thinking that these forceful leaders will represent them. Then the situation gets out of hand. It is unclear how many Germans really, really wanted Hitler to exterminate the Jews. But they supported him until it was too late. Then they just had to go along with him. Above all, humans are afraid to take a stand against abusive power.

The result must inevitably be that the world will consist primarily of dictatorships that are ready to go to war with each other; and these dictators will have the allegiance of a minority of their citizens, while a majority simply goes along with them.

Neil Young claims that love, spearheaded by his music, will save us. Were it only so.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

People Like Me

If the world were full of people like me, I fantasize, it would be a much more peaceful world. It would be a world in which time and resources were more efficiently used because people would not use them against one another. I enjoy being good. People from my past, some of whom I had completely forgotten, keep re-emerging on social media hunting me down to share their memories of me. I’ve done some not-so-good things as well, but it appears, from my reputation, that the good things have prevailed in my image.

But there is one very real sense in which the world would be a shambles if everyone was like me. You see, I don’t consume very much. I do not take expensive vacations or patronize expensive entertainment. I do not go out to eat very much. I am frugal and I enjoy it. A lot. And my wife is even more frugal and enjoys it even more. The high point of her month is when she shows me the utility bill, which compares the average Tulsan, an energy-conscious Tulsan, and us, and we use less electricity than even those considered to be energy conservationists.

Our French in-laws have a similar view of life. Their idea of a good time is to get together and eat sausages, sauerkraut, and pretzels, or go hiking in the mountains. Their only non-frugal expenditures are on wine and fragrant cheese. Of course, this is because they are French. But just as you will not find me and my wife taking a vacation to Vegas, you won’t find our French relatives going to the Côte d’Azur or Monaco.

As the economy “climbs out of the recession caused by the pandemic,” many sectors (particularly hospitality and entertainment) cry out for us to patronize them. My wife and I are the world’s worst big-time consumers. We were before, and we are even more so now, living as we do in Oklahoma were only a little more than one in three people are vaccinated.


The only way our economy can recover is if a lot of people start wasting money. This is, however, a problem that results from our unrealistically hedonistic economy.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

A Future Full of Plagues


Happy New Year, y’all.

The late nineteenth and the twentieth century was an amazing time of medical progress. Nearly every disease at least began to submit to scientific eradication. Not just infectious diseases, but cancer and nutritional diseases also. It seemed as if nothing could stop the progress of medicine.

But, it was apparent by the late twentieth century, one thing could stop the progress of medicine against bacterial diseases: the evolution of antibiotic resistance. Many bacteria that cause disease (which most do not) evolved resistance against many antibiotics, rendering them obsolete. This actually occurred by the process of natural selection: resistance evolved. By the end of the twentieth century, two things became apparent. The first is that we needed to keep developing new antibiotics. The second is that we had to decrease our reliance on antibiotics.

With regard to the first, we have done an inadequate job. Private pharmaceutical companies have not been developing new antibiotics as rapidly as the old ones become obsolete. This is because new antibiotics are not profitable. When a corporation develops a new antibiotic, it has a limited time span of use. First, each patient takes the antibiotic for a limited time, usually ten to fifteen days. Second, after a few years, the bacteria evolve resistance. It is much more profitable for pharmaceutical corporations to develop and market new drugs against diseases that cannot evolve resistance, and for which the patient must take the drug every day for the rest of his or her life. An example would be depression. The result is that our “armamentarium” (medical historians like military metaphors) of antibiotics is growing smaller each year.

With regard to the second, there are clearly things that we can do. Doctors used to prescribe antibiotics with little regard as to whether they were necessary. Since antibiotics do not work against viruses, doctors began to prescribe antibiotics only after they knew the infection was bacterial, not viral, in origin. This was and continues to be a good thing. But another thing we can all do to reduce the use of antibiotics is to prevent the spread of diseases.

There are many ways to reduce the spread of disease, and everyone knows what they are. As the covid pandemic broke out, and before vaccinations were available, we were told to practice social distancing and to wear masks. These practices were very effective, so that covid incidence began to decline even before vaccinations were widely available. It is now very clear that we can reduce our dependence on antibiotics by using vaccination, masking, and social distancing to control the spread of bacterial diseases. If we do these things, the old antibiotics will become obsolete more slowly, or, if we are lucky, not at all. Penicillin almost became obsolete, but it remains effective for some uses even after almost eighty years of use.

But there are no antibiotics against viruses. For viral diseases such as the various kinds of coronavirus, we have only vaccination, masking, and social distancing. That’s it. (Well, there is one alternative: massive dieoff, in which natural selection produces a resistant population of humans. I have actually had people tell me that this is an acceptable solution to the problem.)

Political conservatives in many countries, however, have shown hostility against all three of these ways of preventing the spread of disease. The Islamic fundamentalists have been rejecting vaccination for decades, with the result that many diseases that could have been eradicated are still in the world. And now Christian fundamentalists, and fierce conservatives (often the same people) reject masking, social distancing, and vaccination with unbridled fervor. They would, literally die—and have you die, too—than to participate in any of these.

New infectious diseases will come along. They always do. And when the next one comes, millions of fierce conservatives will make sure that the disease gets a free ride to spread through the world as much as possible. It is almost as if death from covid (even their own deaths) are a badge of honor to them. If the disease is bacterial, these conservatives who would rather die than to wear a mask will get the germs to spread faster than antibiotics can be used to control them.

The nurse in this photo is showing a headline to a man who is confined to a ventilator because the polio virus destroyed the nerves that allowed him to breathe. The news came too late for him, but the nurse intended it as good news that, at least, the next generation of people would not have to suffer from polio. Neither of them would have guessed that millions of people would consider the polio vaccine to be evil. When Edward Jenner developed the smallpox vaccine; when Louis Pasteur developed the rabies vaccine; when Jonas Salk developed one of the polio vaccines—they could not have imagined that people would consider them evil and actively work against them.

We are, it appears, entering a new dark age of plagues. We have political conservatives to thank for it.