Monday, October 14, 2013

A Cold Civil War: The Next 20 Years

Axis and Allies
Omnivore Reader James asks what this'll all look like in 20 years. He references Andrew Sullivan's use of the term a Cold Civil War. What will all this look like in 20 years time? Let's see!

The Lasting Effects of the Hillary Administration
Here's how it happens: Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell put together an 11th hour deal that a bleary, embattled Boehner agrees to pass--with Democratic support if necessary. This is a "total surrender bill" and Druge puts out the Alert Siren: WHITE FLAG.

Cruz launches an attempt to filibuster--but can't round up the 41 necessary seats. He's defeated--but mere defeat will not stop a man like Ted Cruz: He's having none of it. The 'Cruz Missile' invokes the Senate rule for 30hrs of post cloture debate, pushing past the October deadline and into default land. For a few scant hours America breaches the debt limit.

Normally this shouldn't be a problem--but a glitch in the Treasury payment system triggers a collapse of electronic funds payments. As the house struggles to pass the now debated bill, payments are missed. The bond holders invoke their CDO-style insurance properties racking of 1.3T worth of markers against major European financial institutions. In the burning chaos for about 33 minutes on Friday night, Warren Buffet owns Germany.

The world markets collapse.

By 2016 the GOP has split into two parties: The Republicans and the Tea Party (whose icon is a stars and striped Minute Man silhouette). In the 2014 elections, Obama issues an executive order requiring EBT holders (Government food stamp cards) to vote in order for their payments to keep working. The Democrats seize the House along with three Tea Party candidates ... all of whom are later shown to have been practicing wiccans during college.

Hillary wins easily in 2016 as the economy struggles to recover and the presidential election is a split between the former Secretary of State, Ted Cruz, and John Huntsman. Hillary comes in under 270 Electoral Votes--but is confirmed by Nancy Pelosi in the House.

It's OVAR.

Sixteen years later Olthagar Hobbiteater, a troll AI in World of Warcraft, wins the Presidential election by sixteen votes from the last remaining Octogenarians who are not plugged into the world Neural Net. Tragically 11 were trying to vote for Pat Buchannan's cryo-module and the other 7 thought they were voting for Rick Astley. Each of them, the only remaining voters, filled in the wrong bubble.

On The Other Hand
To look at what things might really be like, let's look at trends. The issue with trends, of course, is that they tend to change: If my toddler continues to grow at his present rate he will be 9 feet tall by 6th grade. Surely something must be done! The coming storm of giant 6th graders will require a massive government project to handle.

Still, they're what we've got, eh? Let's look at three different trends (each with its own section) to see where these forces take us by 2033! The trends are:
  1. Demographic trends are increasing the number of minorities (especially Latinos).
  2. There is a growing dissatisfaction within the Republican party (as well as more general calls for a 3rd party of various sorts)
  3. Technology is gonna change--what are he political ramifications likely to be?
(Demographic) Winter Is Coming
Presently 37% of the Republican party is aged 58 or over. Only 6% are in the 18-24 age range. That's not a good sign. On the other hand, 20 years later most of them will still be voting (78, while old, is not too old to vote). The bad news is that the non-Republican demographics are growing faster than Republicans are replenishing:
There Will Be More White Walkers--But Probably Not Enough
For the Latino population, by ~2030, that will be somewhere around 26-30% of the total vote (and that's assuming voting populations remain as now--that's not total population). Today the Latino (not to mention Black ... and Asian) demographic is heavily Democratic. That could change with outreach (cue outrageous laughter).

So ... will Texas turn blue* by 2030? It turns out that depends. Based on the Status Quo of current voting patterns? No.
Looking Kinda Purple Tho ...
According to the article it would take either increased Latino turn-out or ... Immigration Reform to turn Texas blue by 2030 (and if you do both, you get it in 2024). No wonder Republicans are opposed ... to either.

Still, it would not take the 'nuclear scenario' of Blue Texas to end the Republicans as a national party. Without some kind of shift they won't even win another presidential election. Of course: Shift Happens. In any event, at current projections, by 2033 America will be far more racially diverse and therefore, at current standing, far more Democratic. Without some kind of shift on the part of Republicans it's hard to see them winning back minorities in any large numbers.

Cold Civil War Scenario 1: Scenario 1 results in an impotent national party. Under the Demographic Winter scenario the cold civil war intensifies into nationalist terrorism as hard-core pockets of anti-immigrant sentiment (clustered in the South) give up on the electoral process and turn to other-means. This is (rightly) repudiated by the Party of Lincoln--but conservatives can't understand why people keep bringing confederate flags to their events ...

Whigging Out!
What if by 2033 Republicans ... were gone? In 20 years this could happen to the Democrats too--but let's be real? Today? Three Days from the debt ceiling? With conservatives on Twitter calling for Boehner's head? It's the Republicans we're interested in.
Who Do You Think Wants It More?
Considering that Republicans are fed up with their own party, it isn't a jump to assume a split would produce two sectors of the Republicans.
And You Thought RINOs Were Endangered?
To look at this model, we have to ask: what did happen to the Whigs? It turns out? Pretty much? The Civil War. Apparently the Whigs were split between the Northern Whigs (which included Lincoln) and the Southern Whigs (who were pro-slavery). This division led to them separating and finally splintering (one of the parties was the Know Nothing Party. I could make some suggestions as to people from my Facebook page who'd fit right in!).

The Whig split came after badly losing a presidential election (27 states out of 31). If the same thing happened again?

They'd say it was voter-fraud.

No, but really? It's entirely plausible that facing a near-zero chance of winning the presidency the Republican party could splinter along Tea Party lines and cast about for a while before forming new parties. Because of the way our political system is set up, the obvious answer would be to lose the 20% of the Base and try to carve out 20% from Democratic moderates. Possible--but ugly. I'll assume by 2033, though, we've seen a Medicare collapse (scheduled for the 2020's) so Fiscal responsibility is in again.

Cold Civil War: Trend 2 leads us to a fragmented set of local / national parties that let various models compete and experiment. We probably have very socially conservative parties in the South trying to find common ground with more socially liberal small-government parties in other parts of the country ... and some big-business style small government groups looking for synergies as well. This will eventually result in something national--we're just not sure what.

This probably keeps the "war" aspect on the back-burner as the 'market' handles the competition (each group is competing for votes rather than giving up).

(The Future's) So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades
We can't look 20 years into the future, though, and assume things will remain "the same." What if what happens in two decades brings massive changes in modern western life? That could completely reshape politics. We'll avoid collapse scenarios because they are, simply put, neither interesting nor likely within that time-frame. Instead let's start with what happened in the last two decades or so?
  • The World Wide Web and Windows 3.0 (1990--'94 for the Moasic Browser)
  • Google (1989)
  • Electric cars and Hybrids (1997)
  • MP3 Players (1998) and the Smart Phone (2007)
  • Wi Fi (2003)
  • Lasik (1990)
  • The Hubble Telescope (1990)
  • TiVo (1999)
  • GPS (1993) and the Pentium Processor (same year)
  • Stem Cell Research (1998), Genome project (2003) a faster, cheaper genome sequencer (2005)
  • Digital Photography and ubiquitous cell phones (there are more cell phones in the world today than toothbrushes)
These may not have revolutionized your life, exactly--but in the next two decades we should see:
  • Driverless cars (which remodel the entire automotive, servicing, and auto-insurance landscape)
  • Cheaper space-flight (dunno what that will do)
  • Integrated computing (wearable, maybe implanted) like google glass.
  • Natural-Language computing (Siri, Glass, etc.): Intelligence augmentation
  • Vastly improved medicine
  • Computing power coupled with vast increases in memory speed and connectivity to make every electronic relationship with you personal
  • Next-Generation Data Mining
Things we therefore might see that are of interest:
  • Electronic voting from home
  • A Total Surveillance State (run by the government and corporations alike)
  • Electronic cocooning where we live our lives inside computer modulated environments (like self-driving cars, virtual classrooms and offices, personal movie theaters, and so on).
In this event the Republicans (and the Democrats) have a big choice to make by 2033: what is their position on computer surveillance? Currently the Republicans began it--and the Democrats have continued it. If this becomes a real issue (wait for The Omnivore's review of The Circle to weigh in on this) then there could be a break-out in the Libertarian sector of the Republicans who have been against this from the start.

Cold Civil War: In this scenario incremental changes in technology drive a real concern about privacy and government intervention into the middle class and the result is a shifting of the "sanity window" that brings the Libertarian party into the viable spectrum. At that point, by 2033, we are voting from our living-rooms and possibly voting against being able to continue doing so (Comcast is trackin' our votes!). If this happens, the social issues get buried under a unifying threat from a generally liberal surveillance state.

The State Of Play: 2033
Here's my guess for 2033: By this time the Republican party has long-since splintered and has gone through a dark time of giving up on national influence. What re-creates it (or something like it) are two forces. The first is the way the US Governmental system is set up--it highly favors two parties (and Leftwing dreams of a parliamentary system won't come about without us getting a new flag). Secondly, technology is pushing us towards a surveillance state in the name of best-facilitating targeted advertisements.

By 2033 there are pockets of hard-core racism in places where many shops have the word 'Dixie' in their names but on the whole, the rest of America is far more integrated. We've gone through a Social Security / Medicare crash with the death of the baby boomers around mid-to-late 2020's. The face of the New Republicans are small-government, big business, and non-surveillance--more or less the Libertarians.

Social Conservatives, 20 years out, have lost most of their major battles. Gay marriage is standard and accepted. Polyamory is becoming acknowledged. Religion has morphed into a kind of 'spirituality' that most of them don't recognize. Medicine has made temporary sterilization cheap and easy anyway: abortions are comparatively rare and no longer a hot-spot. The integrated military is more about the "integration" of networks of fighting robots than social classes.

Class warfare is extant--but there is a larger Canadian style safety net with higher taxes. This is what the Libertarians are trying to roll back--as well as to influence the US's stance in global markets (less so, per se, than at home).

And we're waiting for the singularity to come.

It's right around the corner.

* house

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