September 29, 2020

Realignment only after Trump's 2nd term, not during / after Biden: Disjunctive vs. rehabilitating phases of the regime cycle

The phrase "realignment" has gotten thrown around so much over the past several years, 99% of which has been nothing more than wish-casting from partisans. In that usage, "realignment" means "my cadre will finally become the governing elites, implementing our custom plans for all of society".

Shut up, moron, no it does not -- and no you will not.

This is not a pedantic squabble over the meaning of words. It's about descriptive analysis vs. prescriptive emoting ("takes," "reactions," etc.).

Realignment means that the current structure of political coalitions will be shaken up somehow, not necessarily in any specific way, and that as a result of this shifting balance of power, the government will pursue programs that are different from the status quo somehow, not in any particular way.

* * *

The current structure of coalitions has the military controlling the Republican party, which represented a dramatic shift during the most recent realignment under Reagan, since the military bases (the Greater South) used to be rock-solid Democrat territory. But during both periods -- the New Deal and the neoliberal -- the military was part of the dominant coalition that kicked off their period's realignment (the Democrats of the New Deal, and then the Republicans of the Reagan era).

That was the major defection that defined the realignment away from the New Deal coalitions, and into the Reaganite coalitions. The GOP was already controlled by the manufacturing and agriculture sectors during the New Deal, when they were the weaker opposition coalition. But by picking up the defectors from the military elites -- and along with them, the geographical turf of their client base, i.e. Southern voters -- the GOP suddenly became the dominant coalition of the neoliberal era. (They also picked up Texas oil and West Virginia coal, but these were not decisive, and Texas would've flipped on the basis of the military defection alone.)

As a result of that realignment, the finance sector was dethroned from membership in the dominant coalition. It controlled the Democrat party under both the New Deal and neoliberal eras, but their party lost dominant status when the military and the Greater South defected to the GOP.

This describes the basic shake-up of political coalitions between those two eras. What were the major changes in how the government ran society, based on the shift in the balance of power? Well, it has been consistently militaristic during both eras, since the military has belonged to the dominant coalition of each era. However, it has been financially unrestrained in the neoliberal era, since the finance sector no longer enjoys dominant status, and can therefore no longer wield as much power of the purse (and printing presses) as it used to during the New Deal.

The military of the New Deal era pursued WWII, the Korean War, the War in Vietnam (and Southeast Asia), not to mention lesser adventures. But, all that unprofitable militarism did not bankrupt the nation because the finance sector made sure that the debts were paid off. After the realignment of 1980, public debt has exploded because the unprofitable military is still in the driver's seat, but now the finance sector is the little kid in the backseat powerlessly pleading for his dad to stop driving like such a maniac.

(I use the term "unprofitable" despite the obvious pork-barrel patronage flowing to the military sector, to emphasize that this represents waste from the financiers' perspective of "return-on-investment". All those trillions spent on wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and how much richer is any sector of society outside of the military?)

Likewise, the manufacturing sector went from opposition to dominant status, and that too has contributed to the explosion of public debt, as the trade deficit has taken off like a rocket. Manufacturing elites benefit by cutting costs, mainly by off-shoring their factories to cheap-labor colonies. Now that much of the manufacturing-related wealth is being generated outside of the US -- and with profits only flowing to the private pockets of the manufacturing elites -- we've lost a major source of revenue to tax in order to pay for the government.

Those are the two defining trends of the Reagan realignment -- debt-bursting militarism and de-industrialization. Also, the explosion in immigration since Reagan, which is just the flipside of off-shoring factories -- bringing the cheap labor here, when the work-sites cannot be transplanted outside of the nation (food service, landscaping, chauffeuring, etc.).

Realignment away from the current arrangement does not mean we're going right back to the good ol' Wonder Years of the New Deal era, and its pattern of which sectors controlled which political parties. It just means that some elite sectors -- and their geographically defined client base -- will defect from one party to the other party, shifting the balance of power not merely away from the GOP, but away from the sectors that will make up the new opposition coalition, and toward the sectors that will belong to the new dominant coalition.

* * *

Back in 2018 when I wrote on these topics, I suspected that at least one big sector to switch will have to be industrial commodities, such as steel, who produce the raw ingredients that go into the manufucturing of final goods. As the manufacturing of final goods has been off-shored, the domestic demand for the ingredients into those processes has dried up. That leaves the elites of the industrial commodity sector bitter, and ripe for defection.

One of them, Wilbur Ross (steel), was a key supporter of the intended re-industrialization policies of the Trump 2016 campaign and his eventual administration. It was not just tariffs on foreign steel within the US, which can only affect how much of the tiny domestic demand for steel goes to American steel companies. The main problem is the tiny domestic demand for steel of any origin, due to our lack of industrial-scale manufacturing, now that the factories have been sent to cheap-labor colonies. Bringing the factories back would do exponentially more to boost demand for US steel than even 100% tariffs, under the current trend of off-shoring factories that require steel to make their final goods.

If the industrial commodity sector defected to the Democrats, and brought along with them the current and new legions of steelworkers, that would be a realignment. The populous state of Pennsylvania would become a Democrat stronghold, instead of a state that voted for Reagan twice, Bush Sr., Trump once, and likely Trump again, while never being a deep-blue state even under Clinton and Obama.

More importantly for realignment, though, would be the currently deep-red state of Indiana -- which, if all your knowledge comes from the propaganda complex, you probably didn't know was the #1 steel producing state, since Pennsylvania got gutted during de-industrialization. Granted, most of that is in the Chicago metro area that extends just over the border, but that includes a lot of people. Being part of the Rust Belt -- not the Great Plains breadbasket -- means that its population has been and continues to be huge, since industrialization supports a much higher population size than agriculture. It's in the top 15-20 states by population, along with Massachusetts, and way bigger than all those dinky little blue states along the East Coast and out West (aside from New York and California). Media junkies and lib-arts majors don't know any of this -- but now you do.

At the intersection of these trends is the shuttering of military bases all over the country, while expanding the military's presence outside of the nation, especially in the Middle East and Afghanistan. That is the primary reason that several states and regions flipped from red or toss-up to reliably blue under the neoliberal era. California values are no less libertarian and libertine than they were back in the '70s, but their material economic base used to rely heavily on military bases and defense manufacturing, whereas that's almost entirely gone now, outside of San Diego's naval base. When the military patrons removed Californians from their client base, that was the end of the Republican party's appeal in the Golden State.

Demographics are not destiny -- patronage networks are. If the GOP wanted to realign California back into their coalition, their Pentagon puppetmasters could open up 10 new gigantic military bases there, with assorted defense factories feeding into them. But 75 years after our peak of territorial expansion during WWII, the military has descended even further into the "impotent grasp at further territory on the periphery" stage of imperial decline, and sneers at the "defense of the core nation" function. So they won't be giving money to employ ordinary Americans anytime soon, whether in California or elsewhere domestically.

The shuttering of domestic military bases is another source of the dried-up domestic demand for industrial commodities. This is yet another reason why the steelmakers are bitter over the GOP becoming dominant since 1980 -- not just the truly private sector, but now also the quasi-public sector of manufacturing for the military has little need for domestic steel. And all the more reason for them to defect away from the GOP.

* * *

That brings us to the final topic, the most boring and hated election of all time, Trump vs. Biden 2020. Is realignment happening already? If not, is it possible with either of these two choices? If not, how will it happen next time (or after that)?

Plainly, realignment has not happened under Trump. None of the Democrat sectors -- finance, info tech, media / entertainment, education -- have defected to the GOP. Neither have any of their client bases, nor therefore the safe blue states. Some of the Rust Belt states took a gamble on Trump, but they are not only not re-industrializing, the trade deficit has exploded far worse under Trump than under Obama. So they are not like the Southern states voting for Reagan, which heralded a long-term lock. They're desperately taking a risk at the end of a moribund regime cycle, for a seemingly anti-establishment candidate from the dominant party who promised to blow up Reaganism from the inside.

With no realignment among elites or commoners, there has been no realignment of outcomes. The military is more expansionist and pathetically losing than ever, adding more Eastern European nations to NATO (Montenegro), bombing and occupying a new Middle Eastern country (Syria), and sending tens of thousands of Americans back into Afghanistan. De-industrialization has accelerated, and so has immigration, legal and illegal.

What about Trump or Biden in 2020? Neither of them is campaigning on realignment either. Trump has abandoned his 2016 campaign, and has been captured by Reaganism. No more appeal to the white working class, in the Rust Belt or elsewhere, on the themes of 2016. At most, try to whip them up into a backlash against the Democrat riots that have burned down cities in their states over the summer. No more promises of a manufacturing renaissance, though. The GOP are trying to make up for this depression in white working-class votes by appealing to professional-class non-whites. None of that is a departure from the trends of the Reagan era, hence not realignment.

But then, neither is Biden campaigning on shaking up the party coalitions, base membership, or policy outcomes. "Suburban yuppie moderates" are squishy swing voters, not a key member of the Reaganite GOP -- so if they end up voting for Biden, that's not a defection from one party to the other. It would all just be warmed-over Obama crap, and like it or hate it, it would still be Reaganism, not realignment. Faced with two non-realignment choices, voters will likely favor Trump over Biden, since Trump has at least some track record of promises and a few minor deliveries on the realignment theme (some tariffs, diplomacy with North Korea).

I'm not interested in who's going to win the election, though, just charting the course of the regime cycle. That is the other big piece that all of the realignment "takes" willfully obscure. Political events are structured into enduring eras, not moment-to-moment coin flips and random walks. They have phases that repeat in a cycle. To see where things are going next, we have to at least know what phase we're in now.

Stephen Skowronek is the main source for describing the dynamics of the regime cycle, although he focuses more on the traits of the leaders (presidents) than on the ecology of the government as a whole. If you've heard the term "disjunctive" in the past 4 years, that's where it came from. And that's where we are now -- not with a realigner president who is ushering in a new era, but the last of the line of the status quo, who promises something bold and new in a last-ditch attempt to keep the status quo relevant and popular, but who is ultimately unable to deliver on that vision due to the sclerosis that has built up within the dominant coalition after so much success, resting-on-laurels, and internal contradictions becoming irreconcilable.

That means the realignment phase is coming in the short-term, but not right now. And more to the point for 2020, it means a Biden victory would delay realignment even further away than a Trump victory would. All a Biden term would deliver is another disjunctive GOP Reaganite term after it, similar to Trump's. Aside from the purely chronological delay -- another 4 years without a disjunctive dominant-party president -- there would be bi-partisan re-legitimization of the status quo. That would release some of the internal pressures that are nearly bursting within the dominant party (GOP today), and allow them to re-group and hang on for another moribund term.

The next realigner will not simply be a Democrat -- or a non-Republican, if some new party replaces the Dems -- he will be a Democrat after a Republican, namely the disjunctive Republican who is the end of the line of Reaganism. There will be no realigner Democrat who follows an old-guard Democrat, as in the imaginations of those leftists who see a Bernie-style leader triumphing after a Biden administration.

There would have been no FDR in 1932 if the old-guard Democrat Al Smith had won in 1928. The realigner Democrat had to take over from an internally unraveled GOP presided over by the disjunctive Republican Hoover. An old-guard Democrat victory in '28 would have only prolonged the Progressive GOP era until another Republican of that mold won in '32, and only in '36 or later would the New Deal Democrats realign the system. And that would have been true with or without the Great Depression hitting during the '29-'33 term, which is more of an exogenous shock than a matter of internal dynamics. Merely re-legitimating the old guard from the oppositition coalition would have delayed realignment, even if their party had escaped a depression under an imaginary president Al Smith.

Not that you can will things into being simply by understanding the dynamics of complex systems, but assuming you had divine intervention powers, and wanted realignment out of Reagnism, you would weigh in for Trump rather than Biden in 2020. And more than that -- for any future Reaganite Republicans, when an old-guard Democrat (not a realigner Democrat) is their rival. That is the way to hasten the demise of the dominant coalition of our era, the Reaganite GOP.

* * *

As far as the more distant question of which leader could be that eventual realigner Democrat, Bernie removed himself from that role over the past 4 years. He won groups in the 2016 Democrat primary who, if they had stuck to him in the general and ever after, would have been defections from GOP loyalists (in presidential election), like West Virginia coal miners. But he gave into the libtard takeover of his campaign in the meantime, and by now he's just another Reaganite-era Dem, and his most ardent supporters right before voting began in February were fellow Reaganite Dems.

That only leaves Tulsi Gabbard from the existing Democrats with any national recognition. You can tell she would be a true realigner because most Democrats, both centrists and leftists, can't stand her, while she enjoys warm support from both cultural moderates and conservatives within the GOP base. Bernie will not shake up the membership of political coalitions, but Tulsi would. The extent to which someone loathes her -- or passive-aggressively / ironically dismisses her -- reveals how wedded they are to the partisan status quo. Their deepest fear, disgust, or anxiety is for the Democrat party base to take in, long-term, a critical mass of MAGA chuds, Joe Rogan fans, and other assorted Deplorables.

The last realignment, under Reagan, did not happen by the old opposition splintering itself down into the narrowest and most impotent of cadres -- which was the desire of the cultural right during the New Deal. If the GOP had allowed that to continue, they would never have gained dominant status since 1980. Rather, they have systematically marginalized the Moral Majority types over the past 40 years, and welcomed in legions of defectors from the New Deal Democrat coalition (critically, the military network in the South).

That means the next realigner president will be the Democrat (or non-Republican) who can most successfully compete for the votes of the Deplorables, not some dead-end dedicated to out-progging the other progs, or the equally pathetic meme candidate for the Never-Trumpers, who could only swing back Virginia into the GOP column.

The Democrat party elites will therefore have to discipline their base away from their "ewww, yucky, cooties" view of Trump voters, and center those Democrat bodies that are hot and ready for hate-fucking the "MAGA defectors for Tulsi".


  1. You saw the same unrealistic thinking on the other side of the aisle - remember Trump-as-God-Emperor. This kind of magic pill thinking probably has something to do with one of the zeitgeists - either cocooning or the defractory phase.

  2. What if the military just defects back to the Democratic coalition instead? That might seal the deal on Texas and usher in the new era of Democrat electoral dominance. What fresh Hell does that create, since the wars will continue and the woketards will still be running the show?

  3. Too big of a "what if". What if Texas oil and WV coal go Democrat -- and the Great Plains ag cartel, and the police, and the Natl Assoc of Manufacturers?

    Defection happens when that sector has been screwed by its coalition and thinks it could do better in the other coalition. How has the military been screwed by the Reagan-era GOP, including under Trump? They've gotten everything they have ever asked for, and then some.

    And even the little stuff they did not get, would the Dems have given them that extra bit that the GOP-ers did not?

    The industrial commodities sector has clear, strong incentives to defect -- manufacturers off-shoring factories that use steel etc. in the making of final goods. Mfg controls the GOP and isn't going to defect, since they've gotten everything they've ever wanted -- more off-shoring than they could shake a stick at.

    So either steel stays with the GOP and continues to slide into oblivion, or they defect to the Dems and use the new balance of power on that side to force some degree of on-shoring, boosting domestic demand for steel.

  4. In general it's unusual for finance and the military to be in the same coalition, since the military is the most expensive and unprofitable function that the state does, and that will most heavily strain the resources of those who create and allocate money.

    "Left vs. right" typically reduces to the coalition controlled by finance vs. the other controlled by the military.

    When they're both in the same coalition, it's a period of national cohesion and unity, low polarization, egalitarianism, etc. Like under the New Deal, but also under the Jeffersonian era. The dominant coalitions of both eras included the Southern military bases, as well as the finance center in New York and Pennsylvania (i.e. NYC and Philadelphia).

    We're in a highly polarized and inegalitarian period, so the military and finance sectors will not be joining the same coalition. That would represent burying the hatchet on one of the major differences among elite factions -- who's going to pay for the unprofitable, labor-intensive military? And they only do that when the elites are united and under-produced, not over-produced and at war with each other like now and like the Jacksonian and Lincoln periods.

  5. That’s reassuring to hear. The Dems have been courting the national security complex and the soft elements (IC, neocon think tanks) have already defected, but in the end the gaps between the Pentagon and the GOP come down to the matter of Trump as a personality, not to the GOP as a policy bloc.

    Are there are any worst case scenarios you would see as being more likely? Like you said, we all pin our hopes on a realignment, but it might not necessarily turn out to be what we were hoping for.

  6. The military is woke though. Doesn’t that count for something? And it’s the Democrat Coalition that is much more war-mongering these days, demanding war in Syria etc. Trump capitulating on some adventurism notwithstanding.

    I feel you’re being far too optimistic about military and finance not both being solidly democratic.

  7. GOP and the Right are woke, too. Being woke is a separate matter from GOP or Democrat membership. How many Dems will flock to the GOP just because the Pentagon is diverse? How many in the military sector will flock to the Dems because they're looking for a patron that is even more woke than their Pentagon patrons?

    It's neither here nor there.

    And it's the GOP that is more war-mongering, as usual. They were the Syria hawks, and they finally got their bombing, invasion, and occupation when Trump took office.

    Under Obama, who was not entirely beholden to the Pentagon, the hawks were restricted to the CIA enabling the local jihadists in Syria. Once the Pentagon-controlled Trump admin took over, it went to full-out occupation, with thousands of Americans on the ground.

    Not to mention tearing up the Iran deal, assassinating Soleimani, etc. And sending tens of thousands of Americans back into Afghanistan, when Trump said to pull them out.

    Trump in 2016 was rhetorically against saber-rattling, but his coalition is headed by the Pentagon, so like bloody hell he's going to oversee the drawdown of military occupation anywhere.

    1. This is well-put. Thanks! Shared the post with my group.

  8. Marina again being an MPDG (Minoan Palatial Dress-up Girl). Screenwriters had better be paying attention to this one.

    Long-time readers will recall my Julian Jaynes posting about way back when women used to wear clothing like that because the breasts were not sexually fetishized -- and were therefore not taboo.

    The shift happened as part of the rest of the "dawn of consciousness" stuff, sometime between 1000 and 500 BC. The outfit Marina is modeling is much earlier, from the 2nd millennium BC.

    No different from extant hunter-gatherer groups today. Breasts are for providing babies with milk -- nothing sexual or desirous. But most people are unaware that this facet of h-g life continued well after the adoption of agriculture and pastoralism.

    Fetishizing breasts and treating them as taboo is not a disease of civilization, but of Jaynesian consciousness (monitoring one's own internal mental states, perhaps to manipulate them, e.g. using sexual fetishes to feed horniness or desire).

    I'll probably write this up in more detail, with a "from the archives" look at pre-Axial Age sexuality.


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