The Newtonian Nature of American Politics
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When the terrible moments in our country occur, there is an outpouring of emotion and a sense of anger. There is always a search to find out what the true meaning of these tragedies is. In this search, we often don't find what we're looking for. Instead, we forget that the point of politics and the state is to prevent our emotions from overriding our actions.
In the wake of the murder of innocent police officers in Dallas, it's difficult to see how all the divisive rhetoric can bring about greater understanding and unity. Each time a shooting occurs, the initial reasons and reports are often wrong. The search for these reasons and reports leads us to misplacing the common thread between all of these tragedies: disenfranchisement from the state.
The Police themselves are not racist. Of course, there racist police officers. What we are seeing is the over criminalization of life. All too often, we criminalize things we don't understand. Prostitution, marijuana use, gun owners, and sexuality are all fantastic examples of users being criminalized who are not actively doing harm to anyone, but in the eyes of the law, their potential danger necessitates consequences.
But the decades of enforcement of nonviolent drug use, prostitution, gun control, and driving non-heterosexuality underground have created an environment in this country of oppression by the state. These policies are all rooted in a progressive sense of puritanical prevention can "fix" the moral issues of our time. The relegation of sexuality as a form of indecency was gasoline for the spread of AIDS. The illicit nature of the drug trade incentivizes illegal gun ownership and increases gun violence. Prostitution is only a crime because of puritanical notions that sex should not be a commodity; only marriage is the appropriate exchange of sexuality and cohabitation for capital.
Over decades, this culture of over criminalization leads to over enforcement. Perverse incentives around "quotas" are instituted. Prisons become businesses because we don't have enough places to house our every increasing "criminal" population.
And every so often, moments like this happen. Here's where independent actions in the public space begin to lose the equal and opposite reaction law of Newtonian physics. Race does not conform within these crimes. These crimes are over enforced in the poorest of environments; and result in higher rates of incidents of abuse and confrontation. Combine this with the worshiping of the truth that is social media, and we are stuck in a cycle of hate and emotion not grounded in who we truly are as people. We begin to hate each other based on our identities instead of the content of our character.
Right now, we are defying the political application of Newton's laws, and not to our benefit. The fact that we have Trump has defied our political expectations. Brexit defied many's expectations. The more media we have exposing us to these moments, the louder our reactions are magnified. That's because history is written by the winners, and far less clouded with the noise that is social media.
The attacks in Dallas, regardless of motive, are a reaction to greater awareness of the increasing impact of the state on our daily lives. The result is the creation of populist movements on both the right and the left. Conformity works when movements based on identity are small. When these movements grow, it becomes impossible to keep each competing sense of identity on equal prominence. Once this moment happens, the fringe of a movement attacks. It's what we've seen in Omar Mateen, the Dallas Shooter, DC Sniper, Fort Hood, LA. The rest of the movement must then course correct in order to peacefully achieve these aims.
We're now 4 months away from determining the next primary resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. People are anxious about the future. Media has provided us with plenty of negative coverage. While this election has been fascinating, what will really inform our political equilibrium will be the 2018 midterms and the 2020 election. It's not that Trump has changed the precedent on how political campaigns function, it's that he's highlighted the perverse incentives that currently exist. Placating masses through hyperbole based on fear, a promise of a return to glory, patriotism, and a polemic view of the issues that is flexible with polling. He has appealed to the emotional half of the GOP, instead of focusing on a refined campaign that details policy. His opposite reaction is that he won the primary without a majority of the vote. Winning anything on emotion isn't as lasting as winning on reason. It's also the clearest expression of electoral disenfranchisement.
We can ponder what the reaction to Trump would be, but the real question is: what will the opposite reaction would be?