The Breakup of the United States II: Political Alignments

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Mon, Jan 26 - 9:00 am EST | 4 years ago by
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Lines of Departure - The Breakup of the US

A couple of weeks ago, I gave you an idea of why a breakup of the United States is likely to look like 1980s Beirut, on steroids, and with an extra special helping of atrocity sauce. But even the mottled diagram I borrowed for the purpose hardly covers the thing in full measure, because it is only giving demographics by political party, and even that crudely. It’s much worse than that, though. If we split, it’s going to be along every line imaginable, political, yes, but also racial, cultural, religious, you name it. And people are going to be forced, as a matter of personal physical safety and safety for their loved ones, into alignments with which they are today most uncomfortable.

Contemplate, for example, Dr. Thomas Sowell or General Vincent Brooks1 being forced to shelter amongst the Black Panthers because the Panthers are their only defense from the Klan. Contemplate Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio co-chairing the steering committee for a new “Pan Latin Party for the Extermination of the Wicked Gringos.” Contemplate, Bill Ayers making better bombs for the American Nazi Party than ever he did for the Weathermen.

Politics not only makes for strange bedfellows, when life and death are on offer it can make for some outright perversions.

In any case, today, I want to talk about the political as more than a matter of mere party identification. Yes, I’ve been promising to get into this for a while, but it only fell within my portfolio, so to speak, once we got to the point of how it leads to a Beirutesque civil war.

A lot of bright folks – Jerry Pournelle,2 David Nolan,3 the (I think still) anonymous folks who developed “political compass,”4 as well as a number of others – have come up with two dimensional and even more-dimensional ways of trying to describe the real world of politics and political philosophy. There is probably some validity in most or all of those, and yet all of them seem to have flaws, and many share the same flaws. Many share similar delusions. All, I think, share one big flaw, which I’ll paraphrase as: “This is the way the world works, because it makes sense…to me.” And they believe this because…ummm… “I am logical. I am people. Hence people are logical.” No, that can’t be it. Umm…”Because they should be logical.” So what, if, in fact, they are not logical?

A number of the charts seem to assume their conclusions, usually in the form of, “I am an X. I matter. Therefore, any chart purporting to show reality must give considerable pride of place to me.” Libertarians – in terms of numbers and political clout never more than a self-important but trivial fringe group5 – frequently do this. When drawing two axes, the charts tend to exaggerate scale rather badly. They miss how often a stated political position is mere opportunism, completely devoid of principle. Or to what degree something purporting to objective reason (Ayn Rand, I am looking at you) is mere personal fantasy, unsustainable – because physically, militarily indefensible – in the real world. Or to what degree something purporting to be an objective, rational analysis of human economic history is cherry picked, fraudulent nonsense (Karl Marx, I am looking at you). I confess; it eludes me, the utility of charting something as “reason enthroned,” say, when the “reason” is mere fantasy, replete with rationalizations but devoid of reason. I am no more persuaded that a proper political chart should be pulled-based, and on the extremes, rather than push-based, emanating from the tendencies away from center.

One thing the creators and defenders of the various two dimensional charts share is a degree of contempt for the older and simpler Left-Right political spectrum.

I don’t share that contempt for three reasons. One is that I suspect the Left-Right chart better describes how people organize, politically, in the real world. The second is that the Left-Right chart is useful for placing oneself based on what one can and cannot see clearly. The third is that the Left-Right chart seems based on the core political argument that has been going on since before Plato, “What is the nature of man, malleable/perfectible by nurture, malleable/perfectible by nature, or affected by both, but not perfectible by anything?” One might call those, “the three Ns: Nature, Nurture, and Neither.”

Another way to ask that questions is, “Or is he already perfect or imperfect, good or wicked, based on nature or nurture, or would be but for the (take your pick) a) inequities of our rotten, unjust, society, or b) downbreeding from a previous level of human perfection, or c) Man is what he is and there’s nothing much we can do about it?”

Moreover, some of the X-Y charts are actually Left-Right charts.

Let me demonstrate, in words, how that works. Imagine a chart that has an X axis (that’s the one parallel to the ground) labeled, “Attitude to government,” with very negative attitudes on the left and very positive ones on the right. Imagine, further, a Y axis (up and down) labeled,” Attitude to planned social progress,” with very negative attitudes at the bottom and very positive ones at the top.6 The first thing that ought to hit you is that the upper left and lower right corners are uninhabitable by anyone who is both sane and not a moron. What? Yes, only the insane and the morons belong there, because there is no one who has a very positive attitude to planned social progress and a very negative attitude to government, which is the practical instrument for bringing planned social progress to fruition. Similarly, there is no one sane and bright who has a very positive attitude to government and also has a very negative attitude to planned social progress, because if you’re not trying to implement planned social progress, why do you have much use for government? (There is a reason, but one has to include as “progress” maintenance of the status quo, which such a chart would miss entirely and which may or may not be a worthy goal.)

In any case, with any X-Y chart having those or similar or similarly opposed values on X and Y, if you were to plot out a large sampling of random people, you will find they almost entirely fall inside a narrowish oval, running lower left to upper right. There will be a few outliers, of course, some idiots, some lunatics, and some – despite what I wrote above – principled idealists. Those outliers will be fairly few.

Now rotate that X-Y chart forty-five degrees clockwise. What have we now? That’s right, we once again have a Left-Right chart, but with some minor up and down differences.

(At this point someone is going to toss in the standard objection, “Why are you stuck on using a political spectrum based on how delegates to the French Assembly seated themselves over two centuries ago?” Answer: “Why are you not considering why they seated themselves that way, and, if it is natural to do so, if they saw natural common interests and had natural common outlooks, why should we not continue to see it and seat ourselves in that natural way, if we also have natural common interests and outlooks?”)

So am I claiming the Left-Right spectrum is perfect? Hell, no; none of these are perfect, and the more they try to achieve perfection the less perfect and the far less useful they will become. Instead of perfection, Left-Right is merely usefully descriptive of how people in the main see the world, how they fail to see the world, and how they organize based on those perceptions and lack of perceptions. That last, in particular, is an important question when we continue to discuss, as we shall over the next several weeks, how they’ll organize for the collapse of the United States and Western civilization, if those come to pass.

Next week: The political optical illusions.


1 Hi, Vince. Oh, and for the neo-Confederates who look at where the population and industry have moved since 1861, you should not assume, even so, that all the military talent is on your side.




5 Trivial in the sense of being most unlikely to win any important election to national office. They are less trivial when you consider how effective they are in getting the left elected to office, which they do seem to have succeeded in more than once.

6 This is presupposing that we’re thinking positively, as in, “To bring about the good.” It can change if we understand it as, “to avoid the evil,” but the creators of the charts don’t usually seem to think that way, so we’ll go with the positive for now.

Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through

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  • Jon Camp

    Walter Jon Williams has a book out called “The Rift” that explores some of this idea. The MacGuffin is that the New Madrid fault lets go and there’s a massive earthquake in middle America. So much destruction that the government fails, so he then follows several characters around in and on the fringes of the disaster area, each with their own worldview and logic to their actions.

    Orson Scott Card did a “what if” book positing a Left/Right civil war also. I’ve not read it, but I think it’s called “Empire” and from what I’ve heard, the outcome is *not* pretty, just as you posit in these past couple of columns.

    • Tom Kratman

      Well, as mentioned, it’s not going to be just left-right, but ethnic, religious, sectional, neighborhood. For example – and Jonah Goldberg, notwithstanding (he’s wrong) – where do Nation of Islam and my fellow Boston Latin Alum, Calypso Louis, belong once things start falling apart? In with the Dems? Amongst MarxistRus? Or over on the right with – opposed to in practice but so similar as to be the same in principle to – the Klan and an ANSP?

    • Jon Camp

      WJW goes into both of those in The Rift, actually. His Farrakhan analog character starts working to turn the southeastern states into the Muslim States of America. Meanwhile in Louisiana, a Klan-affiliated sheriff starts rounding all the black folks up into concentration camps. . . . Then in Nebraska the religious fundamentalist survivalists start carving out their own empire. and of course there are also people closer in to the fault where it’s more destroyed. Some can cope, some can’t, but they all do things that seem logical… from their own viewpoint, anyway.

    • Firestorm


      Yeah, I know it doesn’t prove anything. Except perhaps that certain elements of one group could reconcile their differences with certain elements of the other if faced with something they found less pleasant than each other.

    • Tom Kratman

      I am, of course, quite unsurprised by this.

    • Firestorm

      “So I said to the members of the press, ‘Why won’t you go and look into
      what we are saying about the threats on Reverend Jackson’s life?’ Here the Jews don’t like Farrakhan and so they call me ‘Hitler’. Well
      that’s a good name. Hitler was a very great man. He wasn’t great for me
      as a Black man but he was a great German and he rose Germany up from the
      ashes of her defeat by the united force of all of Europe and America
      after the First World War. Yet Hitler took Germany from the ashes and
      rose her up and made her the greatest fighting machine of the twentieth
      century, brothers and sisters, and even though Europe and America had
      deciphered the code that Hitler was using to speak to his chiefs of
      staff, they still had trouble defeating Hitler even after knowing his
      plans in advance. Now I’m not proud of Hitler’s evil toward Jewish
      people, but that’s a matter of record. He rose Germany up from nothing.
      Well, in a sense you could say there is a similarity in that we are
      rising our people up from nothing, but don’t compare me with your wicked

      Jim Goad (of Redneck Manifesto fame) once wrote a dual book review on biographies of George Wallace and Elijah Muhammed. Fascinating similarities between those two.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    Left vs Right, just like Progressive vs Conservative is a little bit of a stereotype. I do think Mr. Wright and Dr.Pournelle have valid points about a multi-dimensional political alignment. But there is something useful in simplifying the differences, it makes it easier to talk about the.

    Personally, I go with the Heinlein spectrum (and I’m paraphrasing) where there are really only two types of people: The ones who want to tell you what to do and the ones who don’t. I think that explains some odd alliances, like the Religious Left (yes, they exist, I’m related to several).

    Anyway, looking forward to reading more of your thoughts on these lines, sir. Thanks again.

    • Tom Kratman

      Some, yes, if you’re looking for where things ought to be, maybe. If, however, you’re trying to predict where and how people are going to organize against a perceived threat, left-right – for reasons I hope to make clearer next week – works more accurately, for more people. I think.

    • Firestorm

      Any thoughts on the r/K selection theory as applied to humans?

      I don’t buy it. It works well for the minority of leftists who are well and truly broken (the majority of the ones you’ll meet online), but I’d argue that overall it’s of little use where it isn’t observably wrong. However, something much like this could be useful for determining who’s likely to do what when the UFOs land or Skynet awakens or rebel troops start shelling the capital (none of these scenarios are things are things that I would classify as “unlikely”).

    • Tom Kratman

      That’s on my list to read and think about, but it hasn’t happened yet.

  • Firestorm

    “Contemplate, Bill Ayers making better bombs for the American Nazi Party than ever he did for the Weathermen.”

    Pretty sure that won’t happen… his wife being a Jewish and all.

    (She was a high-ranking Virginia commissar in my variant of Civil War II. Stationed in Blacksburg.)

    “Trivial in the sense of being most unlikely to win any important
    election to national office. They are less trivial when you consider how
    effective they are in getting the left elected to office, which they do
    seem to have succeeded in more than once.”

    Could be using Nikolay Chernyshevsky’s logic of making electoral politics impossible and thereby forcing arguments to be resolved by other means (which will work to their advantage, so they think, for some reason). The Greens have pretty-much admitted to trying to do this to the Dems, though for some reason I don’t think the libertarians haven’t thought it through that well.

    • Tom Kratman

      Might be a case of “we anarchists have _got_ to get organized.”

    • Firestorm

      That, or “watch the world burn.”

    • Rick Randall

      There are sufficient cases of the original Nazis ignoring or covering up Jewish connections when it was inconvenient to admit them for members of the leadership to think the current crop would likely do the same. A nice certificates designating someone an “Honorary Aryan” “for the good of the Volk and Party” doesn’t cost much to print.

    • Ori Pomerantz

      “Pretty sure that won’t happen… his wife being a Jewish and all.”

      If the Nazis can ally with Bill Ayers for mutual defense, they can ally with Jews.

  • Frank

    To put it in sci-fi terms, since Mr. Kratman is a sci-fi writer; The West is definitely approaching a crossroads in its history. Whether or not it will look like the saving of what can be saved as in the “Lord of the Rings” tales, or whether a massive re-alignment of the way things are done that may (or may not) retain the trapping of what has come before as in the “Dune” series, remains to be seen.

    But he’s right about one thing, America will not survive a political breakup. There are too many out there looking to take pieces of what is currently the US if that happens. Factions in the SouthWest are already looking to Mexico and Central America for culture and tradittions, China eyes the West Coast for economic reasons, and if any serious violence broke out in the US, the UN and EU are sure to make noise about sending in ‘peacekeepers.’ And the sub-units America is devolving into would be hard pressed to stop it.

    As an aside, Mr. Kratman’s writing reminds one of two of the characters from those books. Either the clan of were-bears from the Lord of the Rings that keeps the fords and bridges over the big river open, and nails the hides of trespassing goblins to the pole their head is stuck on; or the Sardaukar officers that work for the Emperor in the Dune stuff, who are forced to work with Harkonnen forces that they hold in such contempt, for reasons of political alliance.

  • Neil

    If I may be so bold, Col. Kratman, I think you missed a trick.

    I get around the continental U.S. pretty good, and my travel is only occasionally to the fashionable bits. I’ve observed what I privately call the “Great Sorting”. It’s not happening quickly, it’s not going to be thorough, and I certainly don’t claim to understand its ramifications to their full extent. But it’s happening.

    People are moving to where they believe they’ll fit in.

    People are moving, regardless of race, to places where they feel accepted. This isn’t a generational effect, either–snowbirds to to Florida and Arizona, but I’ve observed this across generations. The hipsters and the hippies go to Portland or Williamsburg or Boulder “where young people go to retire” and the old people go to feel hip again. The people with grease under their fingers move to Texas and North Dakota, and the seriously religious move to the Southeast. There’s even a reverse Great Migration happening, with black families moving back south to the old Crescent Route (an arc from Richmond southwest through Atlanta to New Orleans). Some of the older, wealthier districts like upstate New York, Chicago, and Detroit retain population based on family ties and regional sentiment, but an awful lot of people are just leaving.

    If things really fall apart, there’s likely to be a racial component to it, no doubt. But based on my observations, I suspect that it will once again be more geographically concentrated than you have so far implied

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