April 11, 2020

Leftist bubble popped after vulnerable phase of excitement cycle ended, leaving no demand for therapeutic parapolitics

In September last year I showed how the then-current leftist bubble was just one facet of the vulnerable phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, beginning in 2015 and bound to evaporate after 2019. Similar leftist bubbles showed up during the early 2000s, late '80s, and early '70s, all vulnerable phases. No such bubbles showed up outside of vulnerable phases.

I define leftist bubble to require some overt political angle -- raging against the incumbent administration, and rallying around some specific politician (or group of them) as the hope to end the terror. What makes it leftist, rather than just run-of-the-mill partisanship, is the radical or extreme tone -- McGovern in the early '70s, Jesse Jackson in the late '80s, Nader in the early 2000s, and Bernie in the late 2010s, were all supposed to be going far outside the norm of their side of the political spectrum, since extreme situations called for extreme responses.

"Extreme" does not refer to any objective material conditions -- a war breaking out, an economic crash, etc. -- but to emotional mood swings over the course of the excitement cycle. When people crash from a manic invincible high, into a refractory low, they feel extreme vulnerability. That is what's extreme -- how current events feel -- and the response is equally extreme -- ramping up your emotional intensity to hysteric levels.

This is politics as therapy for those undergoing a profound emotional disturbance. And it is really parapolitical, since it piggybacks on top of real politics, or cosplays as real politics -- but the "movement" is never organized, never acts to achieve collective outcomes, and its presidential candidates never win, let alone wield power once in office. They're just looking for something political-ish because they're desperate for a deus ex machina to cure their bad vibes, and the government is one of the natural places to look to for help, if the bad vibes are so widespread and are reactions to national-scale current events.

I offered a simple prediction for this year that has already happened:

This dynamic needs to be taken into account for those who are planning on leftist politics after 2020. During that year itself, de-radicalization will already have begun, since 2019 is the last year of the current vulnerable phase, and then it's on to the warm-up phase. They will still be shrieking culture warriors, but they'll be supporting outright libs like Liz Warren and AOC, not Bernie Sanders. That emotional state will last into 2024 as well. Prepare for a party atmosphere during the late 2020s.

This is yet another reason why populists cannot rely on leftoids for change -- they're only in it for emotional reasons, and even those are fleetingly cyclical. Yesterday's Free the Nipple babe has become today's MeToo crusader, and tomorrow will be rid of her post-horny victim mindset, ready to revive Slutwalk the day after tomorrow.

I myself stopped paying attention to, or writing about, the left "movement" in the middle of February, and not because I suddenly saw the writing on the wall about Bernie's campaign. I said back in 2018 that he was going to be John C. Fremont, not Abraham Lincoln, in the coming realignment, and that he would lose in 2020 to a latter-day Know-Nothing like Biden (blaming foreign interference for domestic electoral failures: the Catholic Church / Pope back in 1856, Russia / Putin in 2020).

It was more the break with reality that the left was going through at the time -- Bernie's destined to win, and they're trying to rig the primary outcomes because they're afraid. Or, anyone who blames wokeness for Bernie's deteriorating support compared to 2016 is a fascist. Or, whatever happens, this "movement" is Bigger Than Bernie (TM). They were basically starting to write their postmortems, casting about for excuses (Bernie being a wimp, DNC rigging results, Nazi infiltration of the left, bla bla bla). They were not only crafting a postmortem of the Bernie 2020 campaign, but of the entire past 5 years of the leftist bubble, which they had not realized was just a bubble. And the real grifters desperately began trying to keep the bubble inflated beyond its natural life-span.

Since the middle of February, I've stopped listening to leftist podcasts altogether, aside from the occasional Red Scare listen since they're more culturally oriented (against the SJWs, at that). I haven't read any leftists on Twitter, aside from the occasional check-in on @Shialabeefsteak, who was key to understanding the relationships among the various sub-sub-sub-factions of the left / liberal side of the spectrum (another anti-woke leftist).

The only political media I still consume is Michael Tracey, on Twitter and YouTube, since he was never a hardcore partisan leftoid, he liked Tulsi's cross-partisan realignment appeal, and he did not see his goal as getting his tiny little faction of the left to conquer the others. That was the downfall of the "anti-woke left" broadly speaking -- they didn't recruit support or reinforcements from outside the left half of the spectrum during the primary stage, even if they would've welcomed it during the general. They accepted it at the primary stage, if it happened to happen to them, like Joe Rogan saying good things about Bernie -- but for them, that was just a fortunate accident, not a deliberate and sustained plan of theirs to bulk up their side of the battlefield.

They wanted their own anti-woke left faction to conquer the woke left factions first, in a leftist civil war. They were purists throwing a Hail Mary pass, rather than realists who as underdogs would've desperately and eagerly courted any and all support that they could get.

Michael Tracey was not part of that leftist civil war, since he never branded as a leftist, although he certainly favored the anti-woke side. And Tulsi never took part in the leftist civil war, since she also did not brand herself as a leftist, although she favored the anti-woke side as well.

* * *

After Bernie suspended his campaign a few days ago, I decided to check in on the online left again, and I was surprised by how totally it has fallen apart in just a few months. People aren't tweeting as much, if at all, podcasts have effectively shut down (or a regular host has gone AWOL), everyone's blaming Bernie -- not tough enough, not woke enough, or whatever -- and otherwise trying to find any off-ramp they can.

None of it is due to the coronavirus pandemic -- the preemptive postmortems were already there in February, and the real meltdown came with Super Tuesday, when Biden blew out Bernie for good. That was well before widespread awareness of the coronavirus, let alone the lockdowns and quarantines.

The only explanation is the changing of phases in the excitement cycle, from vulnerable to restless / warm-up. People are restless to de-radicalize and get back to normal life, as they no longer feel so vulnerable, where all social stimuli -- including current events -- are painfully over-stimulating. They no longer feel the need for a savior to rescue them from their refractory state, where they're incapable of defending or providing for themselves due to crashed energy levels.

They feel less victimized and traumatized by current events. They're ready to come out of their shells, and although the quarantine is putting a halt to that for the time being, they're chafing at their situation and are getting ready to defy it, rather than wallow in depression and helplessness indefinitely. Especially once summer weather arrives and horniness rebounds to levels not seen since 2005. They're feeling restless, in tune with the new phase of the excitement cycle.

We can also rule out the failure of the Bernie campaign as the reason for the popping of the leftist bubble -- Bernie lost the primary in 2016, and that didn't pop the bubble. The GOP won the general in 2016, and that didn't pop the bubble. All sorts of Bernie-approved candidates in the 2018 midterms lost either their primary or the general, and that didn't pop the bubble. Leftists had zero electoral successes to point to in 2016 and '17 and most of '18, yet the bubble only kept inflating larger. A handful of DSA-endorsed candidates won in the midterms, but they weren't so numerous, and those results came very late in 2018. Something else was inflating the leftist bubble from 2015 through most of 2018, and it was the vulnerable phase of the excitement cycle.

Throughout 2019, Bernie did far worse in terms of polling, support, enthusiasm, etc., compared to 2016. That portended eventual failure once primary voting began, but already in '19 there was plenty to demoralize a rational supporter. But the leftist bubble was not rational, it was emotional -- and the vulnerable phase was still going on throughout '19, so it kept the leftist bubble going, despite collapsing prospects for success.

Why didn't leftists use any of these earlier failures as an off-ramp to leave the "movement"? Because they all took place during the vulnerable phase of 2015-'19. Only when that phase ended in 2020 did they all suddenly start looking for an off-ramp. It was a change in their emotional reaction to the world, not a rational reappraisal of objective conditions.

This generalizes to the other facets of the leftist bubble -- not just electoral politics, but the whole Me Too hysteria, the panic over Nazis under the bed, hysteria over Russia / Putin, hysterical drive to impeach Trump, panic over the rise of fascism here or elsewhere, panic over Trump's genocidal xenophobia (baby-sized concentration camps on the border, Muslim ban, etc.), and all the rest of it. By this point, Me Too is totally dead, no one's talking about Nazis (let alone punching them), no one's proposing that Russia / Putin caused the coronavirus pandemic or that Trump's responses to it were malevolently influenced by Russia / Putin, and if anything people are shutting their mouths about open borders or even expressing a desire for stronger travel controls (AKA closed borders).

None of those hysterias ever had any rational basis, nor does the sudden abandonment of them by their formerly ardent adherents stem from a rational reappraisal of existing facts, or the discovery of new facts. Hysteria is not part of the factual / non-factual domain. It's an emotional matter: when people were in a vulnerable refractory phase, they felt hysterically victimized, and now that their energy levels are restoring to baseline levels, they no longer resonate with any of those hysterical reactions. Some hacks may try to keep selling them, but the public -- including leftists -- is rapidly becoming less and less interested in buying them. They no longer resonate emotionally, and are on their way into oblivion.

Well, that is, until the next vulnerable phase of the cycle, but that's not until the early 2030s. I do not hold out hope that people will learn any lessons from this experience, since the late 2010s will seem like ancient emotional history by the end of the 2020s. I probably won't be able to control my own reactions then either, and I know in advance that I could get sucked into another political bubble at that time -- mere knowledge of a process does not allow you to alter its trajectory. You may know that once you've already eaten a satisfying meal, you can't make yourself eat any more, and that you'll feel sick at the thought of it. But when you're hungry, you can't accept that on an emotional level -- your eyes are bigger than your stomach.

I certainly don't expect better from everyone else, who can't even see this excitement cycle repeating itself. But whether you can see it coming from a mile away, or you get totally blindsided by it, it's going to happen to you just the same. A mass psychological phenomenon like the excitement cycle is too complex for one person, or even a small group, to substantially alter its outcomes. The best you can do with foreknowledge is to brace for the inevitable impact.


  1. The 2030s should be in another rising crime period so future wokeness will likely come with guns and bombs like the 1970s New Left or Maoist-style "Smash The Four Olds" campaigns.

  2. Mass violence will happen this decade, if it strikes. Peter Turchin's been predicting that for awhile, based on the 50-year cycle of mass violence below the international level (riots, uprisings, school shootings, etc.).

    The last peak was circa 1970, so that means the next peak should strike around -- well, now. Not difficult to see food riots, unemployment riots, anti-stir-crazy riots, etc., breaking out when summer weather raises everyone's testosterone levels.

    It won't be due to recession / depression per se, since we've had plenty of those where no mass violence resulted. But these mass violence outbreaks happen every 50 years, and we're due for another one.

    How could people *not* get angry when the economy is crashing, and the elites are using the occasion to loot the treasury to make themselves whole after yet another round of disastrous greed and competitive consumption, while everyone else goes hungry and has no income -- and is forced to stay indoors all day long, day in and day out?


You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."