By Charlie Johnston
The iron rule of economics and of human behavior: What you reward you get more of and what you punish you get less of
Conventional wisdom says that the election was a split decision – with Democrats picking up the House and Republicans adding to their majority in the Senate. Conventional wisdom also says that the next two years will be nothing but gridlock. I doubt it. I think some unprecedented things happened election night that are deeply consequential.
I was more wrong than I have ever been about the results of an election. Oh, I have looked more wrong at times…but, again, something very deep and fundamental happened here, something that last happened 90 years ago.
I was working with hard data that showed the past partisan history of the individuals who voted early – and was further modeled based on the past partisan performance of individual precincts for those voters whose partisan history was unknown. That showed a big lead for Republicans in the suburbs of Dallas – and in most spots across the country. Yet when the returns started coming in, the early votes were almost the inverse of what I had expected. It made me wonder if some voting machines had been programmed to “flip” votes. But I was watching four suburban counties – and that would have required a truly massive, coordinated conspiracy. Absurd. I just did not understand, at all, what had happened.
On Wednesday I saw preliminary numbers from around the country that showed suburban women had voted at a 64% level for Democrats. Suburban women have been majority soft Republican for decades. This would have to be a massive shift. As I looked around the country, the results fit that data point. In the Houston and Dallas suburbs, the Republican Party was decimated. I looked at the Chicago area. Thirty years ago, Chicago was blue, while suburban Cook and the five counties which surround Chicago (Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Kane and Will – called the “collar counties”) were all solidly red. Twenty years ago, suburban Cook had gone purple, but the collar counties were safely red. This year Cook and all the collars went blue, In Denver, the sole suburban Republican Congressional District went Democrat. Republicans took losses in Orange County – the previously conservative bastion of the Los Angeles area. Suburban women had, indeed, shifted their allegiance suddenly and decisively from red to blue.
The last time a significant demographic cohort had done such a thing was in the early 1930’s. Until then, blacks had voted overwhelmingly Republican. It was partly the legacy of Lincoln, but also because the Republican Party was the firewall against the Ku Klux Klan, then the paramilitary wing of the Democratic Party. Under Franklin Roosevelt, blacks started voting Democrat. It was astonishing, less than a decade after the “Klanbake,” – the 1924 Democratic convention where nearly half the delegates were Klansmen. Republicans were slow to pick up on the sudden demographic shift. Once they did, they considered it a fluke brought on by the Depression and figured that, once the crisis was past, blacks would come back home to the Republican Party. Didn’t happen.
On election night, completely baffled, I spoke with a successful, young executive in the equities market I knew. He is about 30 and I had been impressed by him earlier in the cycle. He told me we were just caught up in a cultural wave that couldn’t be stopped. He said that people of his generation do not vote on rational grounds, but just go by feelings. I objected that surely all the violence, suppression of speech and intimidation could not be justified by them. He smiled and said, “Oh, but my generation DOES think it is justified.” I looked at him in astonishment and said that if that is true, we will not be able to preserve liberty. In the most chilling comment of the cycle, he calmly told me that of course we won’t be able to…that he has long known that his generation would be the one that would finally forfeit liberty in this country. I was utterly speechless.
On Wednesday, I was disbelieving as I dived into data that confirmed the sudden, dramatic shift of suburban women from soft R to moderate D. Perhaps they were turned off by Donald Trump talking mean…but how could that trump the constant rioting, violence, intimidation, censorship and mob action of the left? Is identity politics really more important to them than the prosperity and safety of their own families? I am still baffled.
Actions, though, have consequences. Perhaps suburban women thought they were sending a corrective message to Trump. If so, they sent a more powerful message to Democrats and the media. They rewarded leftist rioting, violence, intimidation, censorship, and mob action with their votes. The Democrats have learned they will pay no serious price for mob violence. The establishment media has learned that there will be no serious price for a constant barrage of false narratives. Social media companies have learned they will pay no serious price for routinely censoring Christian and conservative speech. If unelected bureaucrats want to oppress Christians for trying to live their faith, the electorate just told them to have at it. We may tut-tut, but there will be no serious price to be paid. The left may be civil for a time, but even if they are, they have learned they can go to violent mob action with impunity any time they want or need to. What you reward you get more of and what you punish you get less of.
Right now, Democrats are actively trying to steal the governor’s and US Senate race in Florida. Why not? They may fail, but they will pay no price for trying. A few nights ago, a left-wing Antifa mob surrounded Fox News Host Tucker Carlson’s home, terrifying his poor wife who hid in a pantry and called 911. They vandalized his house and his car. Why not? Authorities seemed pleased they had dispersed the mob – but I have heard of no one being thrown in jail for it.
This is deadly serious. In the 12 years between 1905 and 1917, Lenin’s relatively small group of revolutionaries had their ups and downs, always pushing the envelope with violence. Russian authorities came to think they could live with them and that the sporadic, intense violence didn’t mean much of anything…until the Revolution succeeded. Within a year, it was an absolute dictatorship and all semblance of individual autonomy for Russian citizens was gone. In the 12 years between 1921 and 1933, Hitler’s Nazi Party had its up and downs – with the future Fuehrer even spending time in jail. Always, it pushed the envelope with violent mob action to achieve its aims. Eventually, otherwise responsible German officials and businessmen convinced themselves they could live with it – and even ultimately control Hitler. In 1933 he became Chancellor – and within a year the states that formed the German federation were stripped of all autonomy and made into mere administrative districts of the federal government. All individual freedom was stripped from the people and Hitler made himself absolute dictator. Ironically, when the terror came to their respective countries, many of the most enthusiastic advocates of both Hitler and Lenin were jailed or executed. These thought they were guaranteeing their own dominance by subjugating the people of the nation, but they were only sealing their own doom.
Authoritarian movements have an odd and arrogant certainty of their own moral superiority. They never say they want supreme power because they are power mad. They make up a good cause – a cause so good they can use it to justify their violent mob tactics – it is for a greater good. For Lenin, it was all for the good of the workers. The bourgeoisie was the enemy, relentlessly vilified and oppressed. Ultimately, ownership of a cow and a goat was sufficient to get you imprisoned. By the time Stalin took power, picking up unauthorized fallen wood from the forest for your stove was sufficient to get you summarily executed. With Hitler, it was all for the German people, who had been betrayed and stabbed in the back by “perfidious Jews,” foreigners, and politicians who had a different opinion than Hitler.
After he took power, Hitler was relentless in vilifying Jews, blaming them for everything that went wrong. Last Friday was the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the hideous night in 1938 when the Nazi’s relentless attacks on the Jews burst forth in horrifying nationwide violence and murder, It was prelude to the Holocaust – and all done on behalf of the “gentle, peace-loving German people.” And if any of those gentle, peace-loving Germans disagreed, they were obviously fellow travelers of the “perfidious Jews” – and could join them in the camps.
For a good decade before the Hutus in Rwanda murdered Tutsis en masse, the Hutus had vilified and scapegoated the Tutsis for all their own governmental failures – just as the Nazis did with the Jews for over a decade before the persecution erupted into murderous violence. The details vary, but the larger sweep is always the same. When the restraining power of the law corrodes, a society without God is just a raw scrabble for power. The scrabblers never say it, but that is all it is. The quest for power without reference to God justifies any means for attaining it. The reality is that the atheist left has become the idiot spiritual heir to the Communists, the National Socialists, and the Hutus. They lack the intellectual heft of some of their forebears, but have all the imperial certitude in their own moral pre-eminence. If you are a believing Christian or Jew; if you value family; if you value liberty for all, then you are the new bourgeoisie, the new Jew, the new Tutsi – fit only to kneel before the social justice warriors or be exterminated.
The spirit of anti-Christ is deceptively simple: it is the belief that good can be done without reference to God. It is as futile as the belief that thirst can be quenched without reference to water. Oh, it is persistent, though, for its adherents actually delude themselves that they are doing good, that their intentions are noble. Throughout history, leftist movements have arisen which insist that sand or sawdust are the only proper ways to quench thirst. (The fundamental feature of modern leftism is its belief in absolutist centralized power that tolerates no dissent. Under those terms, all the evil totalitarians of history can properly be described as leftist in the modern sense.) As they fail and things turn quickly and starkly desperate, they blame dissenters for the failures rather than even consider that they may be wrong. They persecute, imprison, and then execute their dissenters…and then many scapegoats from their own movement, until they finally choke on all the sand and sawdust and it all collapses under the weight of its own folly. Sometimes a society can rebuild from such folly; more often it just trades persecutors. The spirit of anti-Christ is ascendant in the world these days.
Many expect the next two years to be a complete stalemate. More likely, it will be the intense and violent skirmishes that precede outright war. Incoming Democrat committee chairmen promise to wage war against Trump, issuing subpoenas and endless investigations. Trump is not a docile little lamb, though. He can launch criminal investigations into Democratic corruption by some of its top leaders. He has something the Democrats don’t have; actual evidence. But the Democrats now have something he doesn’t have; suburban women and millennials. Millennials are almost uniformly overly credentialed and shockingly uneducated, thinking (like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz) that their diploma makes up for their lack of brains. In the last century, the variants of socialism have murdered over 100 million innocent civilians. Just in the last decade, socialism turned prosperous Venezuela into a desperate hellhole where pre-teens turn to prostitution to help their families survive. So what ideology do millennials prefer as the most just? Socialism. They have become invincibly ignorant, unable to ask the critical questions necessary for independent thought, only able to parrot the indoctrination they received at the leftist mills that were once universities. It is both tragi-comic and heartbreaking to listen to some ignorant college kid who has embraced fascist ideology and fascist tactics accuse others of being fascist for arguing with her. They are proud of and even insistent upon their malicious ignorance, thinking it enlightenment.
I had deeply hoped for a solid conservative victory. It was our best hope to get out of this battle with the least amount of violent strife. If the larger populace is committed to equal justice under law for all, arrests and jail for all rioters and activist thugs could have tamped this thing back down. But once the bulk of the populace no longer believes in objective standards of law, equally applied, the political system must inevitably fall. The political levees are under assault. I don’t think they are going to hold. Meantime, the hierarchy of the Church and the churches are as weak as they have ever been. The worst are predators or busy themselves making war on the faith established by Christ and passed on by the Apostles. Even the best are ineffective at defending the levees of the institutional churches – or holding predators to account. And yet, “…the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong…” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).
On their pilgrim way to the promised land, the Israelites were attacked by the powerful Amalekites (Exodus 17). Moses went up to the top of the hill overlooking the battle with Aaron and Hur. As long as Moses kept his hands up in prayer, the Israelites had the best of it, but when he wearied and his hands dropped, the Amalekites would prevail. Seeing this, Aaron and Hur lifted up Moses’ hands for him when he tired – and the Israelites won the battle. The battle is to those who call and rely on the one, true God. Neglect neither the duty of Moses nor the duty of those soldiers of Israel. Lift each other up when weariness overtakes you. The battle is the Lord’s, no matter what the odds seem.
It is written that the time would come when scoffers will arise, following their own ungodly passions and setting up divisions; worldly people, devoid of the spirit. (Jude 1:18-20) A man recently observed to me that liberty and the Constitution are not the point; faith and family are. I acknowledged the truth of that while noting that liberty and the Constitution are the terrarium in which faith and family can safely thrive. Scoffers have now mounted a full-scale assault on both the faith and its terrarium. Neglect neither, resting assured in the knowledge that Christ is with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
Last year began the process of everything being revealed. All have chosen their sides. Now begins a year of judgment, in which each shall reap what he has sown; destruction for the scoffers, mercy for those who have persevered and endured in faith. It will be far more unpredictable, volatile and incendiary than any can now imagine. With full knowledge, each of us has given witness before God to who we are. Don’t go wobbly as the winds and waves rise.
Mordor approaches. Keep your arms to the battle as you raise your hearts in prayer, lifting each other up when weariness encroaches. We have entered the terrible times, but those who endure in faith will see the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart and the renewal of the world.