It’s January 10, 2021, and welcome back to The Spencer Report. Baked Alaska once called us the N-word. Main topic: MAGA “Joker” Moment Friend of the show Brad Griffin joins…
It’s January 10, 2021, and welcome back to The Spencer Report. Baked Alaska once called us the N-word.
Main topic: MAGA “Joker” Moment
Friend of the show Brad Griffin joins me to discuss the ongoing fallout from the January 6th Goofball Insurrection. The main revelers have already been arrested, but Brad and I warn that major indictments are on their way—of the individuals and organizations which organized the whole embarrassing, though lucrative, affair.
MAGA diehards are claiming this is their “Joker” moment. They should remember how that film ends.
It’s January 6, 2021, and welcome back to The Spencer Report. The name has slightly changed; the commentary is still cringe. Main topic: The 18th Bro-maire If Donald Trump’s failures…
It’s January 6, 2021, and welcome back to The Spencer Report. The name has slightly changed; the commentary is still cringe.
Main topic: The 18th Bro-maire
If Donald Trump’s failures in office were once tragic. It’s all now become a farce.
Both genres were on display today in the nation’s capital, as Trump’s most hardcore fans were whipped up into a frenzy and stormed the Capitol building.
Maybe they were doing it for the fun; maybe they actually wanted to stop the election certification; or maybe they were just drunk. It doesn’t matter. They were engaged in an armed insurrection. And it would seem better to have actually attempted a coup d’état then to have embarrassed everyone with this half-ass bullshit.
Mark Brahmin joins me to discuss the coming fallout.
Mark Brahmin and Richard Spencer discuss the intellectual background of REM theory, Apolloism, and their interpretive methodology. A new independent video series discussing Brahmin’s REM theories has appeared recently.
Mark Brahmin and Richard Spencer discuss the intellectual background of REM theory, Apolloism, and their interpretive methodology.
A new independent video series discussing Brahmin’s REM theories has appeared recently.
Interracial marriage in the United States foretells, not so much a post-racial society, as the birth of new peoples. This essay is drawn from the new book Making Sense of…
Interracial marriage in the United States foretells, not so much a post-racial society, as the birth of new peoples.
This essay is drawn from the new book Making Sense of Race, which can be purchased here.
When we hear the word “ethnicity,” we tend to think of peoples, like the Irish or Han Chinese, that trace their ancestry and history back millennia. But, of course, race and ethnicity are dynamic and evolving. Ethnic groups that have a “timeless” conception of themselves have, in fact, experienced more genetic change and engaged in more interbreeding than they might want to admit. Furthermore, there is no reason why we wouldn’t expect new and different ethnicities to emerge in the future.
Race is best understood as a subspecies of mankind; and ethnicity, a kind of “sub-sub-species” or hybrid cline. In other words, sometimes an ethnicity is a subgroup of a race, which has been relatively isolated for some reason or another; other times, ethnicities emerge through the combination of two or more races. Over the past 50 years, the world, and particularly the Western world, has become increasingly multicultural and multiracial, due to immigration and the tremendous advancements in transportation and communication. This has led, unsurprisingly, to increased interbreeding between races and ethnicities—and interbreeding between groups that, before the age of globalization, would have scarce contact with one another. There comes a point at which a hybrid between two groups merits being understood as an ethnicity all of its own. This process of ethnogenesis—literally, the generation of a new ethnicity—takes centuries, but we can look at current trends in mating and dating and at least speculate about the ethnicities of the future.
The United States has emerged as a kind of laboratory in this regard. As of this writing, (non-Hispanic) Whites compose roughly 60 percent of a population of 330 million; African-Americans, 13 percent; Hispanics, 20; Asians 6; and American Indians, just over 1. According to current projections, America will become a “majority-minority” nation in the next 25 years; that is, no one race will hold sway demographically. Even in such an environment, marriages are still overwhelmingly intra-racial.1 If love were truly blind, that would not be the case. At the turn of the century, Americans were 75 percent less likely to know a person of another race “with whom they discuss important matters” than would happen by chance.2
It is important to point out, however, that the number of mixed- marriages has more than tripled since the overturning of anti- miscegenation laws in 1967. The Pew Research Center reports that, as of 2015, “intermarriage” occurred among around 17 percent of newlyweds (people married in the past year). The intermarriage rate is slightly higher in metropolitan areas, where Americans are more likely to encounter people of other races.3
Among 2015 newlyweds, White people chose a spouse of another race just over 10 percent of the time. Rates of intermarriage are significantly higher among other races: African-Americans, 18 percent; Hispanics, 27 percent; and Asians, 29 percent.4 While Asians are intermarrying slightly less often than 40 years ago (from 33 to 29 percent), the rate at which Blacks intermarry has tripled in the same period of time (from 5 to 18 percent).
Table 1: Percentage of U.S. Newlyweds Who Are Intermarried
There are significant racial and sexual differences in intermarriage. While White and Hispanic men and women intermarry at largely the same rate, Blacks and Asians do not. Twice as many Black men (24 percent) intermarry as Black women (12 percent). With Asians, something like the reverse is true: more than a third of Asian women intermarry, while 21 percent of Asian men do.
Table 2: Percentage of 2014-15 U.S. Newlyweds Who Are Intermarried, Broken Down By Sex
The most common form of intermarriage by far is between Whites and Hispanics, which makes up 42 percent of the total, followed by White and Asian partnering (15 percent) and White and Black marriages (11 percent).
Table 3: Percentage of 2014-15 Opposite-Sex Newlywed Couples
% all intermarried couples
Male and female Whites and Hispanics marry each other, more or less, at the same frequency. But from there, significant disparities emerge. As mentioned, Asians are the most likely race to “marry out,” and when they do, 75 percent of them marry Whites. The number of couples with a White husband and Asian wife is almost three times the size of a pairing of an Asian husband and White wife. Similarly, couples with a Black husband and White wife are more than twice as common as ones with a White husband and Black wife.
Table 4. Percentage of opposite-sex Newlywed Couples, Broken Down By Husband and Wife Pairing
Share of intermarried
White Husband/Hispanic Wife
Hispanic Husband/White Wife
White Husband/Asian Wife
Asian Husband/White Wife
White Husband/Black Wife
Black Husband/White Wife
Hispanic Husband/Black Wife
Black Husband/Hispanic Wife
In many ways, the Pew Research Center’s Report from a half- decade earlier provides more detail than the one which employs data from 2015.5 According to this data, in 2008, when Whites males who had married someone of a different ethnicity in the last 12 months were asked what ethnicity it was, 46.1 percent said “Hispanic” and 26.9 percent said “Asian,” the second highest category. Only 6.9 percent said “Black.” For White women, only 9.4 percent said “Asian,” whereas 51.4 percent said “Hispanic” and 20.1 percent said “Black.”
A White-Hispanic partnering, the most common intermarriage in America, does not foretell ethnogenesis. The term “Hispanic” has always been ambiguous, because it is a linguistic, not an ethnic, category. Genetically speaking, “Hispanic” connotes people of mixed European and Amerindian backgrounds—which is not being fundamentally affected through these intermarriages. Their offspring will simply be regarded as Hispanic or White, depending on the case. It’s worth pointing out, however, that this identity choice will have a small, though significant, effect on overall demographics as it is calculated by the U.S. Census.
More noteworthy is the next most common interracial pairing: Whites and Asians (again, usually East Asians), which accounts for 15 percent of the total. This is a new cline. Just as breeding between White males and Amerindian females produced Hispanics—who then went on to intermarry—there is an on-going process whereby White American males forming unions with East Asian American females might become an example of ethnogenesis.
This high rate of out-marriage among Asians likely reflects the relatively low number of Asians in the U.S.; indeed, as their population has grown, Asian “marrying out” has become slightly less common, falling by some 12 percent between 1980 and 2015. It may also reflect the way that females in particular would be predicted to wish to marry hypergamously and thus, potentially, to someone of another race, and especially to a White man, if being White is associated with status.
Consistent with this, according to 2008 data, 39.5 percent of Asian American women marry people of a different race—76 percent of these to Whites—compared to 19.5 percent of Asian American males who do so. Among African-Americans, this relationship is reversed: 22 percent of Black males marry someone of a different race (in 57 percent of cases to White women), compared to 8.9 percent of African-American women (58 percent of these cases to White men).
We see this “inequality of attraction” in dating as well. In 2009 and 2014, the popular dating site OkCupid released meta-data on race and gender generated by its tens of millions of users. It was analyzed by the site’s co-founder, Christian Rudder—who subsequently deleted his post. As New York magazine lamented, “the results did not quite suggest a colorblind utopia of post-racial love.
Most races preferred to date within their own race. Asian men and black men received fewer messages than white men, while black women received the fewest messages of all users.6
One of the most salient analyses was based on “QuickMatch” scores, in which the user is asked to rate a photo of a potential date between 1 and 5. The scores below are separated out by race and sex and show the percentage compared to the average; for example, Asian men rate Asian women 15 percent above the average woman, but rate Black women 20 percent below the average. We find that women strongly prefer men of the same race, somewhere between 18 to 24 percent above the average. The same, however, is not true for men. Both Black and White men seem to prefer Asian women slightly more than women of their own races. Black men are the least picky in terms of the race of the women they seek to date, as revealed by the small range of their responses. And overall, Black women and Asian men receive the lowest scores from other races.
Asian men rating…
Black men rating
Latino men rating…
White men rating…
Asian women rating…
Black women rating…
Latina women rating…
White women rating…
These differences would be explicable in terms of three strands of research. On the one hand, when White women are shown photos of male Black, White, and East Asian people, they tend to regard Blacks as the most attractive, probably because they are the most masculinized, and East Asian males as the least. This is reversed in White males, because East Asian females have typically ultra-feminine and neotenous features (rendering them “cute”), whereas Black females typically have the least feminine features, as researchers on race and attractiveness have pointed out.7 This would also help to explain why Black women are particularly unlikely to “marry out.” Males, as we have discussed, mainly select for youth and beauty and are less interested in status. Traditionally, being Black is regarded as low status; and, more importantly, Black females are low in neoteny.
In addition, with regard to the racial marriage patterns noted, Genetic Similarity Theory would predict that Whites and Hispanics would be attracted to each other, due to their relative genetic similarity. Finally, there is some evidence that U.S. inter-racial marriages involve a trade-off of desirable traits, especially in Black male/White female unions. In these unions, the Black male tends to be of relatively high educational status compared to the woman, meaning that the female marries hypergamously in terms of education. It is proposed that this compensates for the fact that the female is marrying hypogamously (that is, socially downwards) in terms of racial status. In other words, she has engaged in status exchange.8
Regardless, we can see that a process of ethnogenesis is occurring in the U.S., primarily based around unions between White males and East Asian females. This has long been occurring in Hawaii, due to the established Japanese minority there, and the products of these unions are known by the Hawaiian word “Hapa,” which refers to a person of mixed ethnicity. Young people throughout the U.S. who are part White and part East Asian have increasingly embraced Hapa as a marker of their identity, though some Hawaiian activists have criticized this as an example of “cultural appropriation.”9 It is worth noting that Black-White biracials in the U.S. likely have a White mother, whereas Asian-White biracials are likely to have a White father. It is possible that this may lead to some effects in terms of which traits are inherited, but with the current state of research, this can only be speculated upon. According to Pew’s research, contracting a mixed-race marriage is positively correlated with education level. This may be due to the relationship between educational attainment and intelligence, something which is in turn associated with Openness. It may also be because of “exposure”: as Blacks, in particular, become more educated, they are more likely to live in areas where there are many Whites.10 However, there remains only a very weak relationship with education level.
What is clear is that the American nation is changing dramatically. To understand this, one can look to Silicon Valley, California—America’s avant-garde region in terms of technology, culture, finance, and, increasingly, demographics. As of 2017, “Asians”—mostly from China and India—made up the largest majority (34 percent) in Silicon Valley, a collection of counties of 3.1 million. Among the share of highly skilled and educated workers, some 14 percent alone were from China, which rivaled the numbers from the state of California (17 percent) and the U.S. at large (16 percent). India outnumbered them all, making up 26 percent of high-skilled tech workers.11
A situation like this will not render race “irrelevant” so much as it will generate a new people—or, more likely, peoples. We shouldn’t expect Peoria, Illinois, to resemble Silicon Valley anytime soon; however, the dramatic transformation that America is currently undergoing will unquestionably transform its collective feeling of nationalism—and xenophobia—in the not-too-distant future.
Del Thiessen and Barbara Bregg, “Human Assortative Mating and Genetic Equilibrium: An Evolutionary Perspective,” Ethology and Sociobiology, 1 (1980): 111-140. ↩︎
Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and James M Cook, “Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks,” Annual Review of Sociology, 27 (2001): 415-444. ↩︎
Gretchen Livingston and Anna Brown, “Intermarriage in the U.S. 50 Years After Loving v. Virginia,” Pew Research, May 18, 2017, https://www. pewsocialtrends.org/2017/05/18/intermarriage-in-the-u-s-50-years-after-loving-v- virginia/ (accessed May 15, 2020). ↩︎
“Asian” in a U.S. context appears to refer mainly to East Asians, while in Britain it refers to South Asians. In the following discussion, I use “Asian” in the U.S. sense. ↩︎
Paul Taylor, Jeffrey Passell, Wendy Wang, et al., “Marrying Out: One-in- Seven New U.S. Marriages in Interracial or Interethnic,” Pew Research, June 4, 2010, https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2010/06/04/ marrying-out-oneinseven-new-us-marriages-is-interracial-or-interethnic (accessed May 15, 2020). ↩︎
Allison P. Davis, “New OkCupid Data on Race Is Pretty Depressing,” New York, September 11, 2014, https://www.thecut.com/2014/09/new-okcupid-data- on-race-is-pretty-depressing.html. ↩︎
Michael Lewis. “A Facial Attractiveness Account of Gender Asymmetries in Interracial Marriage,” PLoS ONE, 7 (2, 2012): e31703, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0031703 (accessed May 15, 2020). ↩︎
Ameki Johnson, “Who Gets to be ‘Hapa?’” National Public Radio, August 8, 2016, https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/08/08/487821049/who-gets-to-be-hapa?t=1596013424206 (accessed May 15, 2020). ↩︎
Gullickson, “Education and Black/White Interracial Marriage,” op cit.. ↩︎
Joint Venture Silicon Valley, “2019 Silicon Valley Index,” Institute for Regional Studies, https://jointventure.org/images/stories/pdf/index2019.pdf (accessed May 15, 2020). ↩︎
“Race” is a coherent biological category, as much as is “species,” and the cases against it simply don’t add up. This essay is drawn from the book Making Sense of…
“Race” is a coherent biological category, as much as is “species,” and the cases against it simply don’t add up.
This essay is drawn from the book Making Sense of Race, which can be purchased here.
Is “race” an outmoded, morally dubious idea that was deservedly cast into the dustbin of history, along with Stalinism, astrology, and blood-letting? Many say so. Indeed, there is a vociferous movement in anthropology, as well as in the mass media, opposed to the use of race as a biological category. Their opposition functions through a series of “memes” or “variations on themes,” which recur again and again. It is to these arguments that we now turn an informed and critical eye.
How Can You Draw a Line Between Different Races?
A chapter summary in Race and Intelligence includes the lines:
There are no biological races. Human physical appearance varies gradually around the planet, with the most geographically distant peoples generally appearing the most different from one another.1
In other words: there is no clear way to divide different races. They merge into each other, with great variation in-between. A version of this argument is that there is no specific gene that is found only in one specific race. It can be countered that races are, of course, not entirely discrete categories because, if they were, they would be more like species, or perhaps genera, families, or orders on up the taxonomic scale.
Even if it were true that no unambiguous line can be drawn between races, this does not undermine the utility of race. The line between Grizzly bears and Brown bears is blurry, too—but you still know one when you see one and making distinctions between these subspecies is meaningful. Moreover, even if we were to accept that a species varies in small ways due to slightly different environments, then those at the extremes would differ so much, and in consistent ways, that it would become useful to distinguish between them.
Ultimately, it seems like people who make this argument are flirting with a kind of “tactical nihilism.” After all, no concept about the real world is mathematically pure. If “race” is “problematic” because it has blurry borders, then the concept of “history” is equally “problematic”—indeed, the term “problematic” is “problematic.” We use categories to divide our world into manageable chunks and thus negotiate it successfully. If we could not do that, we’d die. So the “blurry borders” argument fails the philosophical test of pragmatism. There exist population clusters that differ profoundly due to varying degrees of evolutionary isolation. These allow correct predictions to be made. That is all that is being argued.
Race is a “Western” Concept
Some say that race is illegitimate or immoral because it is steeped in Western history (and thus things like slavery and oppression), as well as the supposedly myopic and suffocating outlook of “Western science.” But this same argument could be made about almost any concept—including the ones that supposedly undermine or overcome Western hegemony. At some point, we have to accept a basic framing.
And the central question is whether race is a predictive category or not. If race is “problematic” because it’s Western, then, presumably, we cannot use Western concepts at all to analyze anything non-Western. Following this logic, we shouldn’t even talk about anything that is non-Western using a Western tongue. Such argument may sound profound, but under inspection, they’re rather shallow. And for what it’s worth, non-Western cultures clearly have words and concepts that track with the Western notion of “race.”
Race Has Meant Different Things
It has been noted that the word “race” can mean different things. Historically, it has been used in ways that “culture,” “ethnic group,” “nation,” or even “family” are now employed. Lord Acton’s Cambridge Modern History, for instance, referred to the “Habsburg race” in reference to the dynastic line.2 While the history of words is interesting, the fact that the meaning of words change over time is simply irrelevant to our purposes here. We are clear that by “race” we mean breeding populations separated in prehistory and adapted to different environments. If anyone uses race to mean anything else, then our use of race and his are merely homonyms. For what it’s worth, the word “mean” has meant different things historically. In Middle English, it meant “to intend.” Only by 1834 was “mean” widely being used in the way in which it is above.3 Does that “mean” that we cannot use the concept of “meaning”?
Studying Race Leads to Bad Things
Another supposed problem with race is that developing the concept leads to bad consequences. It legitimizes “racist groups,” “inspires hatred,” and so forth. That it might do this is clearly of no relevance to whether or not it is a scientifically justifiable and predictive category. This argument commits the fallacy of an “appeal to consequences” and, depending on how the consequences are described, an “appeal to emotion.” Firstly, it’s obvious that concepts of all kinds can have bad effects. Ecology—as well as awareness about pollution and natural degradation—has, on some level, “inspired” eco-terrorism and murder. Does that mean that research into cleaning the oceans and preserving their ecosystems should cease because it has led, in some way, to violence? To ask the question is to answer it.
Beyond that, it can be convincingly argued that suppressing the concept of race leads to very bad consequences. If a South Asian person has a kidney transplant and is given the kidney of a White person, then his body will likely reject it, elevating the possibility that the patient will die of kidney failure. This scenario is the reason why Britain’s National Health Service regularly appeals for more Black and South Asian organ donors.4 During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, it was found that mortality was particularly high among Blacks and South Asians living in Northern Europe, something that was argued to be for genetic reasons. Specifically, Vitamin D deficiency rendered one more susceptible to serious complications from Covid-19, and non- Europeans were much more likely to be deficient due to their darker skin, leaving them less able to absorb Vitamin D from the sun.5
There are consistent genetic racial differences in the prevalence of many serious medical conditions. Sometimes these stay in populations because a single inherited allele had positive consequences in ancestral environments, overwhelming the negatives consequences for individual carriers of two alleles. An example is sickle cell anaemia, a condition associated with Sub-Saharan Africans. If you carry two copies of the mutant allele, then you develop this debilitating condition. If, however, you carry one copy, then you will likely be immune to malaria.6 Cystic Fibrosis, a congenital disease among Northern European, is similar.7 It only appears when two carriers of the faulty allele have a child, there being a 50 percent chance that such a child will have Cystic Fibrosis. Various hypotheses have been advanced to explain why Cystic Fibrosis has remained in European populations. One states that carrying a single copy of the faulty allele causes carriers to be better able to fight off tuberculosis.8
In some cases, something is adaptive under Darwinian conditions but is maladaptive under modern conditions. For example, South Asians are particularly good at storing fat, and this is useful in the context of food scarcity, for obvious reasons. But with food abundance brought on by the Industrial Revolution and the use of fossil fuels, South Asians become diabetic more easily than Europeans.9 Helping South Asians deal with these problems can only occur with a proper understanding of their nature.
There is evidence that Northeast Asians are less well-adapted to flu-like viruses than either Europeans or Sub-Saharan Africans. This may be because flu thrives in cold and wet or hot and wet ecologies, meaning that Europeans and Sub-Saharan Africans would be more strongly selected to be resistant to flu.10 Moreover, races that never developed complex agriculture—such as the Inuit, the Australian Aborigines, the Pacific Islanders, and many Native American groups—have low resistance to flu because animal husbandry often causes viruses to jump the species barrier, and races that evolved in such a context developed better adapted immune systems.11 This would imply that, during an influenza pandemic, East Asians in Western countries should get special protection from the flu. Denying that race exists would simply put people in danger. All of these are poignant illustrations of why race is definitely not a “social construct” and a proper understanding of it is literally a matter of life and death.
A more scientifically informed criticism of race can be found in the common criticism, “There are more differences within races than there are between them.” This is wheeled out with great profundity by biased scientists when interviewed in biased newspapers, without any references. It has come to be known as “Lewontin’s Fallacy,” named after biologist Richard Lewontin (b.1929), who argued that 85 percent of human genetic differences are due to individual variation, and only 15 percent due to differences between populations and ethnic groups; ergo, “there are more difference within races than between them.”
This fallacy can be easily dispatched. The sheer number of differences is less important than the direction of the differences. If a variety of small differences all push in the same direction—which they will in the case of subspecies evolved to different ecologies— then this can add up to significant overall differences between average members of different races.12
British biologist A.W.F. Edwards presented a systematic critique of Lewontin’s argument (along the way, coining the phrase “Lewontin’s Fallacy”).13 He noted that Lewontin simply looked at a small number of genetic loci and found that, indeed, 85 percent of human variation was due to individual differences. However, argues Edwards, if you look at lots of loci, then you will find these loci correlate differently in different groups, due to gene frequency differences, leading to very different results. Indeed, this leads to races being very different in numerous predictable ways, rendering “race” a scientific category. Edwards pointed out that, using Lewontin’s logic, we wouldn’t be able to distinguish between different tree structures, because these differences are hidden in the correlational data, just as race differences are. But using only genetic data, scientists were able to correctly highlight 15 forms of tree structure. As Edwards notes, Lewontin’s argument could only work if each of the genetic loci highlighted were randomly distributed between races, but it is in the very nature of races—being adaptations to different ecologies—that genes are not randomly distributed. Thus, Lewontin presents us—albeit wrapped up in abstruse scientific language—with nothing more than a circular argument.
To make matters worse, the loci which Lewontin used do not vary substantially between races. He used markers such as blood-type, and, as anthropologist Peter Frost has noted, these are “not particularly selectively important. . . . [W]hen genes vary within a population, despite similar selection pressures, it’s usually because they have little or no selective value.”14 When methods were used with markers that do vary between races, such as craniometric variation and skin color, it was found that 81 percent of the variation is between races.15 Lewontin, therefore, only uncovered the findings he did by using genetic loci that aren’t especially relevant to regional evolution—despite evolution to different regions being the essence of race. So, Lewontin’s argument is a kind of sleight of hand.16 What he is actually proclaiming is this: When you use genetic loci that are distributed very similarly in all races, and in which there is much variation within races due to these loci not being very important to selection to different ecologies, then there are, indeed, more differences within races than between them. He hardly disproved the reality of race.
We’re All 99% The Same
In recent years, an argument against race has arisen that is much like the Lewontin fallacy: “Science has proven that every individual is more than 99 percent identical to every other.” This meme of “99%” was introduced at the turn of the century by none other than the Human Genome Project.17
On the individual level, tiny genetic differences (humans only differ by 0.0012 percent on average) have important consequences, and it is highly misleading to downplay them. The genetic differences in heritable musical ability between a professional musician and Mozart are probably rather small, but they are obviously profound. Moreover, on the level of species, humans share a remarkable amount of genetic similarity (upwards of 98 percent) with our closest evolutionary relative, the chimpanzee. We even share much in common with other animals, like pigs and dogs. Clearly, small differences can have dramatic physical, psychological, and behavioral effects. And no one is willing to assert that since humans and chimpanzees are “98% the same,” we should not make distinctions between the two.
The Concept of Race Makes Me Uncomfortable
Another argument—and there are many versions of it—amounts to an appeal to emotion, in which a person essentially argues that “race” makes him feel unhappy. All that can be said is that this is manifestly fallacious and thus should be dismissed out of hand. How you feel is irrelevant to whether or not something is true. If being told that you have a rare blood disorder makes you feel unhappy, does that mean that it is not true or that you shouldn’t be told about it?
On a deeper level, we should understand that science is fundamentally amoral. It is about the relentless search for the objective truth. New scientific discoveries almost always offended some vested interest or other. This is why the kind of scientists who tend to make really important discoveries—so-called “geniuses”— seem to combine outlier high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness (altruism and empathy) and moderately low Conscientiousness (impulse control, rule following). This means that they can “think outside the box,” not bound by conventional rules—maybe they even take pleasure in slaughtering sacred cows. It also means that they either don’t care about offending people or they are sufficiently high on the “autism spectrum” that they wouldn’t be able to anticipate offending people even if they did care.18
If You Are Interested in “Race,” Then You Are Probably “Racist”
This criticism—that discussing race is “racist”—amounts to a so-called “fact-value conflation.” That a person presents something as being a “fact” has no bearing at all on his “values.” Facts are value-neutral. If a doctor tells you that you only have a week to live, does that mean he wants you to die? Furthermore, we should probably be, at the very least, suspicious of those who regularly employ the word “racist.” The first recorded use of the word “racist” was in 1932, with “racism” first observed in 1928. These terms gradually came to replace “racialist,” which was first recorded in 1910, and “racialism,” first noted in 1882.19 In 1928, “racism” meant the belief that each “race” (meaning “ethnic group”) should have their own state and that civic society was optimal if states were racially based.20 “Racialism” referred to prejudices against other races and the belief that one’s own race was superior.
In the wake of World War II, “racist” gradually came to mean what “racialist” had once meant.21 However, the term “racist” has been extended far beyond this, to refer to anybody who is seen to deviate from ideological orthodoxy with regard to the issue of race. Terming such a person the “racist” associates him with that which is accepted as somehow evil and immoral. As this association is damaging, the term “racist” is an emotionally manipulative means of keeping people on the “correct” ideological path. In other words, it is an ad hominem criticism. The essence of the accusation is that the subject has strayed sufficiently far from orthodoxy that he is immoral; he is a heretic. There are many terms of this kind. As English historian Alexandra Walsham summarizes, in her analysis of Early Modern religious non-conformity in England, the accusation of “atheist” was “available for the expression and repression of disquiet about ‘aberrant’ mental and behavioral tendencies—for the reinforcement and restatement of theoretical norms.” Both “atheist” and “papist” were “categories of deviance to which individuals who were even marginally departed from the prescribed ideals might be assimilated and thereby reproved.”22
There is simply no logical reason to reject the concept of race, and there are very persuasive reasons to accept it as what it is—a scientific category. On this basis, one should be rather guarded about the motives of those who refuse to accept it, who resort to name-calling and obfuscation, or who are mired in the contradictions and incoherence.
Jefferson M. Fish, ed., Race and Intelligence (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2011) ↩︎
Lord Acton, Stanley Mordaunt Leathes, Sir Adolphus William Ward, and G. W. Prothero, eds., Cambridge Modern History, vol. 2 (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1902). ↩︎
Sandish Shoker, “The Health System’s Struggle to Get More Black and Asian Donors,” BBC News, July 4, 2015, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england- nottinghamshire-33101610 (accessed May 15, 2020) ↩︎
Susanne Bejerot and Mats Humble, “Inhabitants of Swedish-Somali Origin Are at Great Risk for Covid-19,” British Medical Journal, 368 (2020): m1101. ↩︎
Lucio Luzatto, “Sickle Cell Anaemia and Malaria,” Mediterranean Journal of Hematology and Infectious Diseases, 4(1) (2012): e2012065. ↩︎
Brian P. O’Sullivan and Steven D. Freedman, “Cystic Fibrosis,” Lancet, 373 (2009): 1891–1904. ↩︎
Joanne K. Tobacman, “Does Deficiency of Arylsulfatase B Have a Role in Cystic Fibrosis?” Chest, 123 (2003): 2130–2139. ↩︎
Emma Pomeroy, Veena Mushrif-Tripathy, Tim J. Cole, et al., “Ancient Origins of Low Lean Mass Among South Asians and Implications for Modern Type 2 Diabetes Susceptibility,” Scientific Reports, 9 (2019): 10515. ↩︎
Office of the Ministry of Health, Monthly Bulletin of the Ministry of Health (1954), 173. ↩︎
C. L. Chen, Li Xiao, Y-P. Zhou, et al., “Ethnic Differences in Susceptibilities to A(H1N1) Flu: An Epidemic Parameter Indicating a Weak Viral Virulence,” African Journal of Biotechnology, 8 (2009): 25. ↩︎
Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (New York: Basic Books, 2009). ↩︎
Christmas is certainly being de-Christianized, the result not only of snooty liberals but the gradual waning of faith across the population as a whole. What remains, through, are the Germanic, Latin, and Slavic customs and rituals of Yuletide. These might seem vulgar, hallow shells of themselves (Christmas *kitsch*), but they are distinctly European and distinctly ours. And they are a starting point for becoming who we are.
There is a pair of clichés about the Christmas season that carries more significance than we might think: “Christmas is for children,” we say, and “Christmas makes me feel like a kid again.”
The first saying refers to a certain innocence we envy in the children around us, who seem to really believe in Santa, magic, and the world of fairies, and who instinctively love Christmas. For us, Christmas has become both expensive and cheap: the over-planned parties and schedules . . . the chore of buying gifts that will be quickly forgotten, disposed of, or re-gifted . . . the trudging through horrible, muzak-filled malls . . .
“Becoming a kid again,” at least for a time, is our redemption.
And it’s a very real feeling. Entering the world of adults is entering a world that is incessantly moving forward. Our lives are defined by projects, goals, accomplishments, deadlines, etc. Christmas, on the other hand, is an Eternal Return, a natural cycle that gives us a respite from linear thinking and planning.
We experience this Return not only through the season itself (when the nights become long and cold) but also through ritual. Ritual is something modern people, even devout Christians, are too quick to dismiss. Ritual is, we think, a dispensable, even embarrassing remnant of something irrational from long ago. But ritual is, among other things, a way we can physically experience being-in-the-world and our own past. We remember through our bodies and senses, which are intertwined with mental processes. When we visit our old high school, for instance, and whiff a certain smell to the grass—the entire experience is immediately recalled. The highs and lows, triumphs and failures, the friendships and fears. Every Christmas, we do the same things over and over: drink the same drinks, hang the same decorations, hear the same music. In reenactment, we are transported back to a series of moments earlier in our lives. We become “kids again.”
These memory-experiences are mostly postcard flashes. Every Christmas Eve, for instance, as I glance at lights on the tree and the too-dark sky, I re-live waiting, greedily, for Santa. Another flash, which is still quite vivid, comes from age seven or eight, as I lay in bed feeling real guilt and inner turmoil over wanting to believe in Santa Claus but no longer being able. Smelling hot-spiced wine, “Glühwein,” I’m reminded of wandering alone the streets of Vienna in December as a young man in my early 20s, hearing the sounds of the Christmas market in the distance . . . observing it, while not being a part of it . . . and not having a clue what to do with my life.
“Bob’s eggnog recipe” or your favorite “Christmas sweater” might seem like recurring jokes. But in their ways, they fulfill the function of grand ritual. And this aspect of Christmas holds not only for our personal lives but for our people and civilization as well. We have become so accustomed to Christmas rituals—and so accustomed to them in the form of kitsch—that we forget how deep they take us into our race’s history . . . far deeper than what the holiday is said to celebrate. For the rituals through which we understand ourselves are fundamentally Pagan in both essence and form.
In his famous book The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity, James Russell wrote of a “double conversion” that occurred when the early Church began spreading beyond the Mediterranean and Near East and sought to bring “the Germans” (i.e., the northern European tribes) into the Christian fold. At the time, these Europeans practiced what is now referred to as Germanic Paganism, a constellation of myths, gods, and symbols that was, at once, centered on the tribe and family and also shared by White men across the continent. Europeans did, eventually, profess Christianity, but the real “conversion” was that of Christianity itself, which both accommodated Europeans folkways and began to be articulated by them.
This process occurred on various cultural levels, from the Europeanized image and conception of Christ to notions of Right and sovereignty. The mix of Germanic, Scandinavian, and Roman customs that define Christmas as we know it is a metaphor of this history. For Christmas remains the most radically Pagan of all holidays, if we have the eyes to see it.
This begins with the day itself. Nowhere in the Bible does December 25 appear as the birth date of Jesus Christ. (If the shepherds were attending their flocks by night (Luke 2:8), then Jesus would have been born in Spring.) December 25 was, however, well known as the birthday of Sol Invictus, the sun god who was patronized by later Roman emperors, including Constantine. The 25th was Dies Natalis Solis Invicti—“Birthday of the Unconquered Sun,” when, after the Winter Solstice, the arc of the Sun across the sky begins to rise again. The famous literary pun of “Son” and “Sun,” which works across Germanic languages, was a real experience of our ancestors. For after passing through the darkness of the Solstice, the Son also rises.
Thinking in the way, the meanings of things we take for granted unlock themselves before our eyes: the evergreen (the endless life cycle) . . . the Yule log (festival of fire) . . . kissing under the Mistletoe (the sacred plant of Frigg, goddess of love, fertility, and the household) . . . and, of course, Santa. “St. Nick” is only remotely related to Saint Nicholas, a Church father at the Council of Nicaea, whose feast day falls on December 6th. The character of Santa is much more a conflation of various Germanic gods and personages. One of these, as evidenced by Santa’s descent into the fiery chimney, is the smithy god Hephaistos or Vulcan. (In other words, “The Church Lady,” and many puritans before her, was right to fear that Santa has an etymological connection to S-a-t-a-n.) Most important of all is the chief god, Odin or Wotan, who stares out at us from behind Santa’s many historical masks—from Father Frost (Ded Moroz), the Slavic god accepted by Russian Communists, to the jolly fat man promoted by Coca Cola. Odin is the Wanderer from the North, a god of war, but one who delivers gifts to children during Yuletide. Odin commands Sleipnir, the horse with eight legs, who, in his translation to contemporary myth, became the eight reindeer: Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
The War on What?
A few years back, Megyn Kelly, then a FOX News host, was roundly ridiculed and condemned after she declared on national television that “Santa just is White” (along with Jesus). She affirmed this in response to an African-American blogger, who argued for more multiracial depictions of Santa, or for him to be racially neutralized as a friendly Penguin. Santa, as we can know, is White, but in ways that Kelly is unable to understand.
The amusing “White Santa” controversy of 2013 was a variation on a theme. Between Thanksgiving and New Years, FOX’s programming is packed with tales of the “War on Christmas,” with reports of “Gingerbread Persons,” insufficiently festive Starbucks travel cups, and cold-hearted atheists. These are denounced by conservative Republicans and nationalists, who seem to define their identity against an ever-growing list of PC atrocities.
Like so many other “conservative” causes, the so-called “War on Christmas” masks much more than it reveals. To begin with, focusing on “secularization,” exemplified by the dreaded “Happy Holidays” greetings, is convenient for Americans who want to ignore the ways Christmas rituals are being hallowed by consumerism. Apparently, maxing out your credit card on useless junk is fine, so long as the checkout girl says “Merry Christmas” and the indoor mall features a nativity scene.
Those who lament the “War on Christmas” rarely pinpoint what exactly is being warred upon. Undoubtedly, there is an elite in the United States and Europe that has contempt for Christian belief. But this effort has not led to any decline in public festivals and holiday merrymaking. The Bolshevik or Puritanical dream of literally “banning Christmas” in favor of grey-on-grey efficiency or “pure” (that is, de-Paganized) Christianity failed miserably, and has very few advocates. In my lifetime, the Christmas season has grown noticeably longer and public and private festivals, more elaborate and intense. To be sure, much of this has to do with the fact that America’s post-industrial, consumer-driven economy depends on end-of-the-year gorging. But I also sense that something bigger is taking place—that in a multicultural, fragmenting society, Christmas, alongside football and super-hero movies, is one of the precious few collective rituals shared by all of us.
Glimpsing The Gods
Christmas is being de-Christianized, the result not only of snooty liberals but of the gradual waning of faith across the population as a whole. What remains, though, are the Germanic, Latin, and Slavic customs and rituals of Yuletide. These might seem vulgar, hallow shells of themselves—Christmas kitsch—but they are distinctly European and distinctly ours. And they are a starting point for becoming, again, who we are.
In the small ski town in which I spend the holiday, every Christmas Eve, everyone goes to the base of the mountain and watches skiers descend the slopes holding flaming torches; the procession creates a magnificent display of lights. At the end comes Santa, illuminated like a god.
As I mentioned, one of my stranger Christmas memories is of struggling with my failing faith in Santa, as if in disbelieving in him, I would betray my parents and family and the whole joyous season. But what is belief, really? When we honor Santa by speaking of his coming, when we leave him offerings of cookies and milk, when we adore his icons, we effectively believe again in the gods. When we celebrate Christmas in its fullness, we become—in our limited and maybe goofy ways—Pagans again.
For the time being, though, we know not what we do.
QAnon is a religious revival for the age of political polarization, and one which will likely outlast Donald Trump. Introduction A religious revival is sweeping the United States. It’s already…
QAnon is a religious revival for the age of political polarization, and one which will likely outlast Donald Trump.
A religious revival is sweeping the United States. It’s already expanded as far afield as Europe, and its devotees number in the millions.1 With an esoteric, and eccentric, though uniquely American creed; it is perhaps best understood as a new stage of Christianity. It revolves around nothing less than a metaphysical battle between Good and Evil, which plays out at the highest levels of government, media, and finance. The future of the country—and safety of the world’s children—is at stake. Wickedness abounds, but devotees have faith that a messiah is rising, one who will “make America great again.” This new religion is regarded as so inflammatory—and perhaps threatening to public order—that major social media companies have purged all content related to its doctrines.2
It’s called “QAnon.”
The rise of QAnon has startled and flummoxed most mainstream media commentators. They dismiss, ridicule, and denounce this online “conspiracy theory” as it continues to grow ever more popular, powerful, and influential. According to polling in October 2020, some 15 percent of President Donald Trump’s supporters are committed followers of “Q.” An additional 22 percent are “fellow travelers”: they believe some of Q’s claims but worry that the movement might “go too far.”3 A full half of Trump supporters believe that the Democrats are engaged in child-trafficking and that Trump is trying to put an end to it—an opinion clearly derived from the Q cult, as we will see. Even if we take surveys like this with a grain of salt, they reveal the intense popularity—and likely staying power—of the Q narrative within the American Right, and beyond.
This Trump-era Internet phenomenon makes a great deal of sense if we conceive of it as a religious revival, and not simply as a popular conspiracy theory (like those surrounding the JFK assassination or the moon landing). Many of the key components of a religion are obvious: Q has its “angels,” “demons,” “saviors,” and promises of “redemption.” And for its adherents, QAnon serves many other vital functions of religions of the past. Furthermore, this re-conception of Q raises some bigger questions. Why do religious revivals—periodic outbursts of intense devotion—occur in the first place? And if we accept that QAnon is a creed for our time, why has it taken this superficially bizarre guise, and shed the trappings of traditional religion?
To answer these questions, we will turn to modern history and specifically the impact it had on human evolution. The Industrial Revolution weakened Darwinian selection pressures on Western societies, leading to, among other things, a collapse in child mortality and a collapse in selection pressures for intelligence, traditional religiousness, and highly ethnocentric groups, all of which it is clear were being selected for until that point. Due to an inter-related sequence of consequences, this has resulted in an increasingly genetically diverse—and thus culturally and politically polarized—society. The bundle of inclinations that constitute “religion” have broken apart. As a result, where once a global plague might have led to a Christian revival, in 2020 it led to, or brought to prominence, two distinct quasi-religious movements: Black Lives Matter4 and QAnon. Furthermore, I will proffer that, despite QAnon’s ostensible wackiness, it is far more group-fitness promoting than BLM, not least due to its traditionally religious dimensions. And perhaps most shocking of all, there may be some kernels of truth within its most outlandish claims.
1. The Rise of Q
The exact origins of Q—as well as those behind the cult and profiting from it—are murky and disputed, and beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say, in the autumn of 2017, someone supposedly working for the National Security Administration—boasting “Q-level” clearance and calling himself “Q”—began posting on the anonymous message and image board “4chan.”5 His first missive, on October 28, 2017, announced the imminent arrest of Hillary Clinton:
HRC extradition already in motion effective yesterday with several countries in case of cross border run. Passport approved to be flagged effective 10/30 @ 12:01am. Expect massive riots organized in defiance and others fleeing the US to occur.6
Years have passed, and Clinton has not been locked up, but inaccurate predictions never affected the growth of Q’s prestige. In his second post, later that day, he began to outline his broader message:
HRC detained, not arrested (yet). […]
POTUS knew removing criminal rogue elements as a first step was essential to free and pass legislation.
Who has access to everything classified?
Do you believe HRC, Soros, Obama etc. have more power than Trump? Fantasy.
Whoever controls the office of the Presidency controls this great land.
They never believed for a moment they (Democrats and Republicans) would lose control.
This is not a R v D battle.
Why did Soros donate all his money recently?
Why would he place all his funds in a RC?
God bless fellow Patriots.7
Even at this early stage, Q’s style is established. Missives are released as a series of aphorisms and provocations, and Q asks more questions than Socrates. The cryptic, oracular suggestions nudge followers into perceiving politics in new ways. Indeed, Q’s message is highly counter-intuitive and revisionary, especially for conservatives. The NSA is not a shadow government engaged in surveillance and invasions of privacy—it’s the headquarters of the “good guys.” Donald Trump is not a buffoonish womanizer and jet-setter—he’s the enemy of the globalist class. And Robert Mueller was not investigating Trump for possible impeachment proceedings—he was working alongside him to “drain the swamp.” Nothing is as it seems. And in this topsy-turvy world, traditional political reporting must be distrusted and dismissed (“fake news”). The evocative call sign “Mockingbird,” in fact, seems to reference an alleged CIA program during the Cold War aimed at manipulating the media. Interestingly, Q’s unique brand of contrarianism can be translated for audiences outside the U.S. One German Q supporter exclaimed, regarding the American forces occupying his country, “these are troops that will free the German people from Merkel.”8
Each day, Q’s followers are tasked with exegesis and elaboration of his latest “Q drops” (anonymous posting on 4chan, certified by his handle “BQ7V3bcW”). Much like Jesus, the religion of Q was formed, not by the man himself—who always speaks elliptically and poetically—but by his devotees, who wrote the Gospels and formed the movement. Q’s crypsis re-enforces his central message: Trust the Plan. You can’t know, and maybe wouldn’t believe, what is happening behind the scenes. But you must hold fast and have faith that “good” will triumph in the end.
The Q drops birthed a Reddit community of 70,000 members at its height, and the movement gained serious attention when it was discussed by Sean Hannity, Roseanne Barr, and Alex Jones—the latter claiming to have direct contact with the man himself. Q memes were re-tweeted by Republican Party activists.9 And over the course of 2018-20, there arose what could be called “Q-adjacent” politicians, pundits, and celebrities, who might not address Q directly, and might not have any direct connection with the movement, but who speak in a language that resonated with the scene.
We’ll probably never know Q’s identity, or whether he—or she or they—desired to launch a crusade when it all first began. He might have merely been “shit posting” on 4chan, a website notorious for conspiracy theories, pornography, and outrageous right-wing opinions. But at least by 2018, Q was aware that he was part of something much bigger than himself and was consciously cultivating his movement, with heavy doses of moralizing. This impulse is apparent in his posting leading up to the 2020 election:
One party discusses God.
One party discusses Darkness.
One party promotes God.
One party eliminates God.
Symbolism will be their downfall.
The Great Deceiver(s). […]
Have Faith in Humanity.
Have Faith in Yourself.
UNITED WE STAND.
2. A Conspiracy So Immense . . .
Throughout the 20th century, sociologists studied the development, in America and most Western countries, of “public opinion.” This is a mostly unified understanding of important events (“the news”), as well as communally shared values, habits, and actions: “watch the news at 5,” “vote on Tuesday,” “church on Sunday,” and so on.11 “Public opinion” must be fostered and managed; it was a critical component of administering a technological, “democratic” society. Over the course of the past 25 years, such unity has been fragmenting: we don’t listen to the same music or watch the same movies and shows, nor do we consider ourselves part of a collective political community. The birth of the Web may have accelerated this trend; social networking and alternative media shifted it into overdrive.
Republicans, and especially Q followers, consider themselves “real Americans,” but in contradistinction to the “liberal elites,” who are, at best, hypocritical and selfish and, at worst, downright evil. The liberals, in turn, mirror this view: conservative Trump voters are deluded or racist reactionaries, out of touch with their country’s true national purpose. Political polarization derives from this “culture of suspicion.” Q supporters don’t merely distrust the mainstream media; they reject it because it’s the mainstream media. Authenticity and truth are to be found elsewhere. For some time, right-wing outlets such as Fox News and talk radio served this purpose, but these are quickly being replaced by websites like Breitbart, Facebook groups, “citizen journalists,” and, yes, QAnon. 4Chan itself acts as a kind of chaotic “Id” brain of the online Right. The anonymous poster possessing esoteric knowledge is the most anti-mainstream—and thus the most credible—source there is.
Q integrates a number of inter-related sets of conspiratorial beliefs. According to its gospel, throughout the 20th century, the world was gradually taken over by “wicked” people, who were prepared to do anything they could to enrich themselves and become ever-more powerful. Those who are not part of this criminal organization are, generally, “good” people, though many are turned “evil” by their evil masters. This vicious elite constitutes a shadowy “Deep State,” which runs the world behind the scenes. A criminal ruling class—which includes the Clintons, every president after Reagan, Bill Gates, and the leaders of every dimension of Western societies that have any influence—can be blamed for everything: financial collapses, pandemics, and even child-abuse rings. To turn us into cooperative drones to be exploited, they undermine the cornerstones of Western civilization, such as family and national solidarity, and direct external invasions and drug epidemics. Even childhood vaccinations are part of their dastardly scheme.
Some “good” people still hold positions of power, and they are able to use the digital footprint (emails and other communications) left by “The Cabal” to start to challenge it. These “good guys” are working for the NSA and some other branches of government. Not too long ago, they devised a plan to take the world back and eventually arrest The Cabal’s leaders and henchmen. These patriots asked Trump to run for president so that they could enact their, as it were, “counter-conspiracy.” The Cabal struck back and did all it could to overthrow Trump—but he just kept on winning.
Part of the success of QAnon is the way in which it, parsimoniously, brings together and provides an overarching rationale for so many “alternative histories” that have been popular in America for decades. For example, The Cabal killed JFK because he threatened to undermine it, and they shot Ronald Regan to dissuade him from challenging it. The 9/11 attacks were an “inside job,” at the hands of The Cabal, in order to grab power and further erode the freedoms enjoyed by good citizens. Similarly, Covid-19 is a hoax deployed by this Deep State to control the populace and render them despondent.
Relatively recent revelations about high-level sexual abusers and pedophiles, such as Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein (1953-2019)—who supposed killed himself on suicide watch before he could face trial—are drawn into the web.12 Q followers have theorized that John F. Kennedy Jr. faked his death in 1999 in order to avoid being assassinated by The Cabal. He lives on as a Trump supporter in Pennsylvania; some think he might be Q himself.13 Some QAnon supporters accept the 2016 “Pizzagate” conspiracy, where a Washington, DC pizzeria was the headquarters of this diabolical child-abuse ring, with Bill Clinton’s chief of staff John Podesta, convicted sex offender and former Democrat congressman Anthony Weiner, and Hillary Clinton all being involved.
Yet another strand of QAnon thought focuses on the significance of Jewish financial interests in controlling The Cabal. According to this theory, the Satanic, child-stealing, baby-murdering Khazar Empire from Babylon was defeated by Russian Tzars and driven underground. They gradually infiltrated the world banking sector and even the British monarchy; the Rothschilds are actually Khazars, who control some of the world’s most powerful Satanists. As Q “dropped”: “Realize Soros, Clintons, Obama, Putin, etc. are all controlled by 3 families.”14 Q lists these three families in some posts: The House of Saud, George Soros himself, and the Rothschilds. In another post, Q asks: “What happened to Diana? What did she find out? Why was she running?” and invoked the idea of a secret British government, propped up by MI6.15 The rabbit hold runs deep . . .
3. That New Time Religion
What can we make of all this? America is notorious for its love of conspiracy theories, and these often seem to act much like “replacement religions.” Groups battle with each other and the victors pass on more of their genes. This is known as “group-selection.” Groups are more likely to win if they regard themselves as superior and the other group as evil. Religions tend to promote this adaptive way of thinking: We are the people of God; they worship the Devil. As a frontier and settler society at its inception, the American population has been subject to strong group-selection to be an intensely religious people, and a central aspect of religion is “over-detecting agency”—perceiving agents behind the world itself. It should thus be little surprise that in our “secular age,” America has become a land of believers in the supernatural, alien abductions, Satanic cabals, and bizarre creeds of all sorts.16 This has become particularly prominent from the 1960s onwards, as traditional religions have lost social power and prestige.17
Some Q followers have fully integrated his conspiracy theory into their religious practice; they, in fact, call themselves “Qvangelicals.”18 In this way, their daily news feed takes on religious significance. Q himself states: “We are living in Biblical times. Children of light vs children of darkness. United against the Invisible Enemy of all humanity.”19 Trump, in his way, is imagined as a fallen Messiah.
According to this strand of Q theology, the world is controlled by a Satan-worshipping pedophile ring that sexually abuses and kills children—and even drinks their blood—in order to achieve immortality. In many ways, Q followers might be compared to the Gnostics in the Early Church. This was a highly diverse movement, theologically speaking, united by core ideas. In particular, Gnostics believed that the universe was dualistic, reflecting an eternal battle between a higher god and the evil god of this world. This evil god was responsible for all of the world’s woes, and one could be “saved” by attaining direct knowledge of the higher god, knowledge which the evil god attempted to hide from you, via mystical practices.20
QAnon possesses not just a fledgling theology but an eschatology as well, a vision of the imminent End Times, both apocalyptic and triumphant. We are living through “The Awakening,” the point when the good people in government have begun communicating with and enlightening the broader public. Trump’s assumed re-election in November was said to herald “The Storm,” in which The Cabal was to be overthrown and America, restored. This November’s election has been tempestuous, indeed: both sides claimed victory; the Republicans cried “voter fraud”; and the Democrats suspected a potential coup. Q himself has gone mostly silent. On November 13—more than a week after Biden was deemed President Elect—Q announced: “Nothing can stop what is coming. Nothing!”21 But overall, Q has not given his millions of followers much guidance for how they should process what is unfolding.
Nevertheless, liberals will be disappointed if they expect that Biden’s inauguration will put a swift end to the QAnon phenomenon. The movement has deeper causes than Trump’s mercurial political career, and either outcome (a new Biden administration or Trump’s unlikely return to power) can be rationalized as The Cabal’s counter-strike or else as all part of The Plan. Put simply, QAnon and movements like it are here to stay. Remove Trump from office and watch the cult become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.
4. The Times They Are A Changin’
Historically, religious revivals tend to take place during periods of dramatic change, especially during those that involve an elevated awareness of death: war, famine, plague, political instability, and the seeming end of the world.22 This makes sense because experimental research has found that individuals become more religious—more prone to strongly believing in God—in precisely these dire contexts.23 In the wake of World War I and the Spanish Flu Pandemic, there were notable religious revivals in eastern England and in northeast Scotland.24 After World War II and the end of post-War restrictions, there was a huge religious revival in the U.S. and in the UK led by pastor Billy Graham (1918-2018), based around emotional rallies each attended by many thousands.25
By 2020, Covid-19 burst on the scene and led to hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world, creating a period of deep anxiety, in which it seemed very possible that the death toll could be enormous. In turn, the “lockdowns,” which governments instituted as a means of containing the plague, marked unprecedented disruptions to normal life. We have also had the sudden and heightened trauma of the Black Lives Matter Movement, resurrected in a newer, more intense form after the death of George Floyd. As I have argued, BLM can be considered a religious revival of its own.26 Regardless, the protests of this past summer eventuated in a collapse of public order in parts of the U.S. and UK: an orgy of inter-racial strife, violence, and self-righteous displays, which the political and legal Establishment was unable or unwilling to suppress. This was accompanied by the sapping of White morale through the removal of historical statues and other links with the “certainties” of the past.
With this background, we would expect there to be a religious revival in Western countries—and specifically one that might counter BLM. For various reasons, however, it could not be as overtly religious, as was Billy Graham’s movement, which developed in a context in which traditional Christianity was still dominant. Since then, we have witnessed the collapse of traditional society,27 a significant fall in the influence of Christianity, and deviations from traditional religious norms in many directions, with many people creating their own ersatz religion from various sources.28 Put simply, we’re lived through the fallout of the “death of God.”
For at least the past 100 years, a secularization thesis has informed, sometimes unconsciously, the minds of scholars, public intellectuals, and policy-makers. Briefly, people and institutions are becoming less religious; those religions that do persist are largely relegated to the private sphere: they are “tolerant” and more like lifestyles than ways of life. In reality, the situation is far more complicated. Society is increasingly divided between “Individualists” and those who are high in “Binding Values” (putting the group ahead of the individual). “Individualist” ideas have gradually become dominant across time. And extreme Individualists have ascended to the heights of the social ladder and pushed the broader society in their direction. While this has been happening, however, those who are highest in Binding Values—and especially those prone to intense religiosity—have been having the most children. The result is that America—and, in fact, nations around the world29—are undergoing radical polarization. Social trust has collapsed, as each side is increasingly alienated from the other, culturally and morally. Moreover, in “meritocratic” societies, education, IQ, and being “politically correct” are all inter-related, as we will see in more detail below. This has led to even greater social and economic distance between the two polarized groups.
It is against this background that QAnon’s rise must be understood, as the religion provides a means of making sense of a world that its adherents increasingly don’t understand. If Americans’ moral foundations veer more towards those of a traditional kind, they will be profoundly concerned with a structured and ordered society, with rescuing and promoting their group, and with destroying that which fills them with disgust—sexual disgust, in particular. QAnon is attractive to such people because it provides order out of chaos; it offers a rescue plan for the group as a whole; and it is partly focused on destroying sexual deviants and those disloyal to the group—those that want to create chaos.
There are certainly ways that the Q cult can encourage unhealthy obsessions and anti-social behavior among its believers. It’s worth remember that on December 4, 2016, a North Carolina man, brandishing a rifle, entered the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Northern Virginia and threatened employees before being arrested. He claimed to be “investigating” the Pizzagate affair, discussed above.30 It might be only a matter of time before something similar, or worse, takes place involving a deranged Q advocate.
That said, we would be remiss if we ignored the ways that the Q cult can be “adaptive,” in an evolutionary sense, and bring along many of the benefits of older religions. First, Q offers the promise that, once the evil-doers are dispatched, America will experience a revival of traditional values, which used to be central to American life (including ethnocentrism and pro-natalism). Additionally, in that Q presents itself as a moral crusade, it can also inspire self-sacrificing, group-selected, and ultimately pro-social behavior. And, as we will see as we turn to the scientific theories of religion, it is the more tightly bonded groups that tend to triumph in the end.
5. The Evolution of Religion in the 21st Century
“Religion,” in the widely accepted sense of the word, involves all of the key components of an evolutionary adaptation. It is around 0.4 genetic; traditional religiousness (specifically the collective worship of a moral god) is associated with physical and mental health, partly at the genetic level;31 it correlates with fertility; and specific parts of the brain are associated with it.32 Accordingly, religiousness was selected for under the conditions of harsh Darwinian selection that were prevalent until the breakthroughs of the Industrial Revolution.
There are likely a number of non-exclusive reasons why religiousness evolved. One is that it promoted pro-social behavior. Those who believed in a god who told them to behave in a pro-social way were less likely to be cast out or killed by the pre-historic band and were, therefore, more likely to pass on their genes. A related possibility is that it reduced stress when we, as advanced rational beings, recognized our own mortality. Those who felt that their lives had eternal meaning and that a god was constantly looking after them would be less likely to become depressed and anxious and more likely to pass on their genes.33 Consistent with this, not only do people tend to become more religious at times of stress, they are more likely to have dramatic religious experiences in which they do not merely vaguely feel that God is present but, as far as they are concerned, see Him and hear His reassuring voice.34 In general, it seems reasonable to argue that religiousness would have been selected for because it promoted mental health, with the result that mental health and religiosity have become genetically related, due to both being simultaneously selected over a lengthy period of time.35
Religion also would have been kin-selected for, too. You can pass on your genes indirectly by aiding your kin: your children share 50 percent of your genes and more distant kin, such as nephews, share 25 percent. If a person were highly religious, it would make their kin more attractive, because of the associations between religiousness, pro-social behavior, and mental stability. This would help to explain why some Islamic fundamentalists kill daughters who have dishonored the family. It is a way of signaling the family’s commitment to Islam, and thus elevating kin selection.36 An ethnic group is an extended genetic kinship group and is thus a means by which you indirectly pass on your genes.37 It has been found, using computer-modeling, that groups that are highest in positive ethnocentrism (internal cooperation) and negative ethnocentrism (external hostility) tend to dominate others in the battle of group selection.38 There is evidence implying that religiousness is genetically associated with both kinds of ethnocentrism, because a part of the brain associated with ethnocentrism is also associated with religiousness.39 And the correlation between positive ethnocentrism and religiousness would make sense because a group would be more internally cooperative if it were high in pro-social traits and low in mental instability.
This is why religion is such a prominent part of the human experience. In essence, the group that promoted the most adaptive behaviors as “God’s will” was more likely to pass on its genes, while those who did not were more likely to die off. To be religious became associated with other adaptive traits, but it also elevated group-fitness by elevating being group-selected as “divinely ordained.”
There has, however, long been variation within societies in the nature of religiousness. One reason for this is that religion is itself composed of a series of adaptive traits, which, because they were adaptive, became bundled together and selected for as a single trait—religiosity. These are, among others:
Agency Over-Detection. We have a cognitive bias towards detecting the presence of an agent behind events. This is because, following the “Smoke Detector Principle,” it is adaptive to assume the worst and get it wrong—such as to assume that that rustling noise behind the bush was a wolf rather than the wind. This helps to explain why we might see evidence of god’s agency in the world.
Pattern Over-Detection. Much as with agency, we are evolved to over-detect causation. This is adaptive because those who under-detected it would have been wiped out. Partly for this reason, we are evolved to want a world that is highly structured and that makes sense to us.
Follow the Leader. We are evolved to form strongly-bonded groups and to obey authority; as such, groups are more likely to survive in the battle of group selection.40
Religions will vary in the extent of the prominence of each of these factors. This means that, though religiousness is generally adaptive, it is quite possible for maladaptive forms of religiousness—which do not “get the balance right”—to manifest, as has been the case throughout history. Those that espoused these forms of religiousness have tended not to survive.
One of the key balances that has to be maintained in any group is that between “individualism” and “binding values,” which we briefly looked at above. Jonathan Haidt has proposed that there are “Five Moral Foundations” on which humans vary. These divide into two higher order clusters: Individualizers (who are broadly left-wing) and those who are high on Binding (we’ll call them Binders, and they tend to be right-wing). Individualizers are strongly focused on “Care” (harm avoidance) and “Fairness” (a desire for equality). Although these values may superficially appear “selfless,” they are individualist, because they are concerned with the good of the individual (harm avoidance) or how he feels (equality) about the good of the group. Individualizers have relatively little interest in “Authority,” “Loyalty,” and “Sanctity” (that some things are “pure” and others “revolting” and “reprehensible”).
Binders are roughly equally concerned about “Loyalty,” “Authority,” “Sanctity,” “Care,” and “Fairness,” though there are some “extreme Binders” who do not much care about the latter two foundations; these people tend to be “far right.” Different forms of religion are thus differentially attractive to those who are stronger or weaker in the different moral foundations. For example, early Protestantism can be regarded as, in many ways, a revolutionary left-wing movement that was very high in “Fairness” and very low in traditional “Authority.”41 Of course, there will be all kinds of individual variance in the degree of strength within these moral foundations, but, overall, this was the clustering that was found.42 The groups that were successful in the battle of group selection were the groups that attained the optimum adaptive balance between these sets of foundations.
By 1800, we would expect White Americans to be particularly religious, because the cultural core of the country was founded by Puritans, who would have passed on their intense religiosity as a genetic legacy. The heritability of extreme religiosity is around 0.7,43 and White Americans were subject to intense group selection, especially in fighting Native Americans and the demands of establishing themselves in a hostile environment to which they were not adapted. Then again, evolution never stops. So we need to look closer at what happened to that original American stock.
6. The Industrial Revolution’s Revolution
Some 200 years ago, a basic level of religiosity had been established across the White race. Indeed, it has been shown that Western Europeans became more religious, seemingly for genetic reasons, throughout the Middle Ages, often due to executing and ostracizing “heretics” (that is, those prone to religious deviation and atheism).44 At that time, in Europe, the child mortality rate was 50 percent. A further 40 percent of people either witnessed all of their offspring die young or did not marry. Thus, only 10 percent of people born actually passed on their genes, and it has been shown in other species that this is necessary for a population to remain healthy. The Industrial Revolution heralded huge improvements in medicine, inoculations, and general living standards. And currently, around 80 percent of people pass on their genes and child mortality is 1 percent.45 In other words, the Industrial Revolution sparked a genetic revolution, as well—a dramatic change in who survived and reproduced.
In 1800, White America was a small gene pool in which people were all relatively genetically similar and strongly genetically fit, because those who deviated from the optimum—due to mutant genes—were purged from the population every generation. Being strongly genetically similar, the population would tend to trust each other, cooperate, and think in the same direction. We bond with people who are more genetically similar to ourselves because this is a means of indirectly passing on more of our genes. This trend is found even when looking at relationships between siblings, whose genetic similarity level can be subtly differ. This is why husbands and wives—and even best friends—are more genetically similar than could ever come about by chance.46 With the Industrial Revolution, this happy homogeneity began to break down, because selection pressure was heavily weakened. The result is a many-fold, inter-related sequence of factors, which change the nature, cohesiveness, and worldview of the population.
The Eleven Consequence of the Industrial Revolution
1. Genetic Physical Sickness
Populations are increasingly genetically sick, as mutations are no longer purged from the population. This has been demonstrated by growing evidence of highly genetic physical disorders.
2. Genetic Mental Sickness
Populations are increasingly mentally unfit, as witnessed by a rise in mental conditions associated with low fertility, such as depression and schizophrenia.
3. Genetic Diversity and Low Trust
Even controlling for immigration, societies are increasingly genetically diverse, leading, purely for genetic reasons, to lots of differences in how people view the world and a gradual collapse in social trust.
4. Diverse and Maladaptive Worldviews
We see worldviews that were extraordinarily rare in 1800 becoming more and more commonplace. This makes sense if we understand the relatively close relationship between physical and mental traits. The brain is 84 percent of the genome. This means it is a massive target for mutation, such that the higher your general mutational load, the more likely you are to have mutations of the mind, which would have been strongly maladaptive under Darwinian conditions and which correlate with other physical and mental mutations. Under harsh conditions, we were evolved to collectively worship a moral god in order to be highly ethnocentric. We should see increasing deviation from group religiosity, and worldviews that are highly maladaptive; these should be associated with evidence of mutation.47 In line with this prediction, views associated with the Left can be regarded as clearly maladaptive or deviations from the Darwinian optimum. These include atheism (which undermines group selection), believing that life is pointless and has no eternal significance, anti-natalism, redistribution (putting other families above your own), multiculturalism (putting other ethnic groups above your own), individualism (having no concern for your group), and animal rights (putting other species above your own). These viewpoints are themselves associated with other maladaptive traits, in particular low fertility and high levels of mental illness, one strong example being depression.48 These deviations from the collective worship of a moral god are, unsurprisingly, also associated with physical evidence of mutation. In other words, you can learn a lot about someone’s psychology by assessing what they look like.
Having a symmetrical face is attractive because it implies that you have low levels of mutations. It indicates that you have been able to maintain a symmetrical phenotype in the face of disease, meaning that you have an optimal immune system, good genetic health, and thus a low mutational load. A person with high mutational load, and thus poor genetic health, need to employ proportionately more of their bio-energetic resources fighting off disease, resulting in less symmetry.49 On this basis, we would predict that people who were traditionally religious or right-wing—the two measures robustly correlate50—to be judged as better looking than left-wing people and to have faces that were more symmetrical. There is evidence indicating that this is, indeed, the case.51 Left-handedness is also a sign of high mutational load, as a symmetrical brain is associated with right-handedness. Accordingly, we would predict that non-right-handedness would be correlated with atheism, and this is so.52
5. The Spread of these Maladaptive Views to the Relatively Healthy
As humans are a highly pro-social species, we evolved to be in networks of mentally healthy people, and are impacted by the nature of the people with whom we interact. For example, though depression is highly genetic, there is a significant environmental component, with people who regularly associate with depressed people being more likely to become depressed themselves.53 In the same way, those who hold maladaptive views would become an increasing presence in the population and would influence those around them to adopt these views. These influencers, who hold these views to a pronounced degree, can be termed “spiteful mutants,” as they induce those who are lower in mutational load to adopt maladaptive views.54 Traditional society has established structures—such as religiosity and child-rearing practices—which optimally elevate its group fitness. The spiteful mutant will attack and undermine these, subverting them such that they undermine the fitness of society. Only those who are, for genetic reasons, extremely fitness-oriented, such as the traditionally religious, will instinctively reject the spiteful mutants, just as, centuries ago, ideas that undermined group fitness were dismissed as “witchcraft” and “devil worship.”
Once around 20 percent of the population holds maladaptive views, studies have shown that it can be expected to turn, very quickly, towards the new “system,” as the old system will appear moribund in comparison and adaptive people seek to join the winning team.55 This change seems to have happened around the 1960s. The means by which you would gain status in the new system would be to signal how pro-equality you were, meaning that society, taken over by the new way of thinking, would overtly become ever more left-wing and, thus, ever more different from the remnant group-selected component of the population, which maintained traditional values and was relatively resistant to changes. It would also mean that regulations on issues such as sexual mortality would collapse.
6. Declining Religiousness and Rising Individualism
Due to very low mortality salience, and all else controlled for, people would be very low in religiousness and thus low in the group-fitness promoting ideas associated with religiousness, such as ethnocentrism. It has been found that religiousness promotes social trust among non-relatives, as it is an insurance policy that a stranger—believing that god will punish him for his misdeeds—can be trusted. As religion collapses, therefore, social trust collapses, as well.56 The collapse of religiously-induced ethnocentrism, combined with a drift towards individualist values, also leads to mass immigration. It has been found that multiculturalism—specifically a local neighborhood becoming ethnically diverse—reduces social trust. The natives are not only disinclined to trust foreign immigrants but other natives, as well. This happens because the natives blame their co-ethnics for allowing the multicultural situation to occur, and also because they now fear that disloyal co-ethnics might collaborate against them with the immigrants.57
7. High Fertility on the “Far Right”
The portion of the society that is utterly resistant to the new fitness-damaging system of individualist values will be predicted to have been growing due to the association between traditional religiosity and fertility. In this line, it has been found that, using Western samples, being “far right” predicts having the highest fertility while being “far left” predicts having the lowest.58
8. A Genetic Caste System
Our relatively meritocratic and mobile society has created increasing cognitive stratification, whereby intelligent people, who happen to be born into working-class families, for example, are very easily able to leave this environment, become educated, and move to other areas dominated by educated and intelligent people.59 This was not possible when society was less meritocratic, in part because it was less interested in values such as “Fairness.” The result is that people of different intelligence levels, and even of different social classes (socioeconomic status being robustly predicted by intelligence60), increasingly inhabit different worlds. And, due to the high genetic component of intelligence of around 0.8, as well as the high genetic component of the personality traits associated with high IQ,61 they will be increasingly different from each other genetically, as well. So, we would expect those at the bottom of society to decreasingly trust and admire the elite. Furthermore, intelligence is associated with realizing what the dominant set of values is, and with forcing yourself to adopt them so that you can get on better in life. This is why professional people, currently, tend to espouse leftist values.62 Those of lower socioeconomic status will be less able to do this so, in a society of cognitive stratification, and will be increasingly alienated from the elite.
9. Declining IQ and so Declining Trust
One of the correlates of intelligence is trust. People with high IQ are more trusting, possibly because if you have low IQ you are more likely to be taken advantage of, meaning that it is adaptive to trust nobody. Another result of the Industrial Revolution has been declining intelligence. Various factors have contributed to this, but the most salient is contraception—the promotion of wide scale, reliable contraception being a major innovation of the Industrial Revolution. Intelligence predicts the impulse control to use contraception and the cognitive ability to use it correctly. As a result, large families now happen by accident and are associated with low intelligence, there being a correlation of about -0.2 between IQ and how many children you have. We know this is happening for genetic reasons because the population prevalence of alleles associated with high intelligence in a Western sample has decreased across three generations, and numerous other correlates of intelligence all show the same pattern.63 This results in a society that is less trusting overall, and particularly less trusting of its elite. A lower intelligence, all else being equal, would also predict a population becoming more conservative, more religious, and more dogmatic.
10. The Mutation of Religion
The genetic diversity, and increased mutation, wrought by the Industrial Revolution means that we would expect the traditional “religious bundle” to break up in a growing number of people. Thus, you would have, in many supporters of Black Lives Matter, for example, high levels of dogmatism, intense hatred of the out-group, fervent belief in certain ideas, belief in the morality of the in-group, even collective worship of sorts, but no belief that life has eternal significance or belief in gods. This ideology is underpinned by individualistic foundations which, in some respects, it renders sacred: unquestionable dogmas, like “equality” and “social justice.”
We might also expect a similar deviation among those who have Binding values: they will semi-sanctify Binding values, meaning they will have some aspects of religiousness, but they might lack the belief in a moral god, or their belief in god will be so extreme as to be obsessive and damaging to their ability to get along with people. We can see QAnon supporters who worship Donald Trump as Messianic figure.
Such people would be high in evidence of mutation. Consistent with this prediction, it has been found that people who are high in the personality trait Neuroticism (which is associated with depression and anxiety) are generally low in religious belief. However, they go through phases of extremely intense religious belief. Suffering from manic depression or bipolar disorder, and Schizophrenia, as well, is also strongly associated with hyper-religiosity. In sum, mental illness is a marker of genetic mutation, and it seems to make one prone to an unhealthy righteousness.64
This makes sense because an aspect of schizophrenia is hyper-mentalizing, whereby schizophrenics are intensely interested in the feelings of others and external cues from them. Accordingly, they perceive evidence of “mind” everywhere, including in the world itself, making them paranoid.65 A study from Switzerland found that one third of schizophrenics are very strongly involved with their local mainstream church and that a further 10 percent are involved in New Religious Movements: small sects that tend to be fervently religious.66 All people sit on a schizotypy scale, with full schizophrenia at one extreme; the higher they are on this scale, the more attracted they are to conspiracy theories67 and unconventional and paranoid beliefs.68 So, this implies that some people on the “Right” are also manifestations of high mutational load. The “Right,” however, would be less influenced by mutational load than the Left, because the Right would be closer to the ideas that were prominent under harsh Darwinian conditions and, in line with this, being right wing lineally correlates with fertility and mental health, as noted earlier. It might also be noted that extreme Left activists have been shown to score very high in Narcissism (entitlement and desire for adulation) and Machiavellianism (desire for power), which makes sense as, in the current climate, being left wing is a means of achieving these aims. Those who are “White Identitarian” score high in psychopathology (low empathy), which makes sense because, currently, they are profound non-conformists.69 If combined with a period of high mental instability, then this could predict attraction to the “far Right,” at least when that is highly counter-cultural. These traits are expressions of developmental instability and thus, in some cases, mutational load.70
11. The Internet Echo Chamber
Finally, a clearly important factor, which indirectly emanates from the Industrial Revolution, is the technological revolution and the rise of the Internet. This has aided polarization by permitting like-minded people to easily find each other and establish online communities, which can spill over into real life. We have progressively moved from being a “mass society,” in which public opinion is managed by an elite, to a “network society” of ever fragmenting, often hermetic groups, each with its own inner-directed propaganda.71 This has permitted the proliferation of “non-mainstream” opinions, and the managing elite has, to a large extent, lost control of people’s minds. This happened previously in history, with the birth of printing, but not to this pronounced degree. Elites have attempted to deal with this reality by increasingly censoring social-media platforms, as noted above, but, in many ways, the train has left the station. The rise of the Internet—and social-media echo chambers like Q—are simply amplifying a polarizing tendency that was already under way.
The year 2020, which many saw as the end of the world, catalyzed two distinct religious revivals for our divided age: BLM and QAnon. They are godless faiths; however, they contain many of the core elements of the Christian revivals of yesteryear. Both are birthed from the evolutionary dynamics of post-Industrial society. And both, in their ways, are hysterical, schizophrenic expressions of how religiosity manifests itself in our “secular age.”
Coda: Is Q Getting At Something?
The mainstream media dismisses QAnon’s beliefs as fraudulent—ridiculous at best, dangerous at worst. We should remember that a cult like Q is unlikely to be persuasive if did not tap into some aspects of reality or contain a few kernels of truth.
Take, for instance, the belief that causes the most controversy—that Satanic pedophiles are in positions of power around the world. If we break this down, it could be argued that, in the minds of evangelicals, what “Satan” essentially preaches is individualism: wealth, power, and pleasure in the here and now, rather than sacrificing power in this world for glory in the next.72 There is a substantial body of evidence that people who tend to reach the very top of their professions, especially in business and politics, seem to combine outlier high intelligence with moderately psychopathic traits, such as moderately low altruism and moderately low impulse control. This means, for example, that not being bound by rules and conventions, they have the intelligence and traits to conceive of original ideas, and they don’t care that their original ideas may offend against vested interests.73 In the world of business, such people will come up with brilliant ideas, as they will in the arts. In the world of politics, such men will be superb at presenting themselves and persuading and manipulating their peers.
In an increasingly individualistic society, in which religious condemnation of individualistic behavior such as adultery has collapsed, such people would be more easily able to attain positions of political leadership. Sexual promiscuity is one of a number of accepted markers of psychopathic personality, alongside grandiosity and superficial charm.74 A few generations ago, revelations that a politician had had an affair, let alone fathered an illegitimate child, would be the end of his career. No longer. A key correlate of originality is testosterone, because it makes one driven, ambitious, competitive, low in impulse control, and low in altruism. It also gives you a high sex drive.75 Indeed, an analysis of a sample of extremely eminent people found them to have been high both in sexual deviance and sexual promiscuity, as well as being high in sub-clinical psychopathology. This analysis, by psychologist Felix Post (1913-2001), found that six percent of the male population in Western countries can be regarded as archetypal psychopaths, something true of none of a sample of “eminent men” whom he biographically analyzed. However, Post estimated that 10 percent of the male population were “subclinical psychopaths,” meaning psychopathic tendencies sufficiently strong to adversely impact relationships or careers. This he estimated to be true of 14 percent of eminent men, meaning subclinical psychopaths were overrepresented. Among eminent writers, subclinical psychopathology was 20 percent, while among eminent artists it was 25 percent. Among politicians it was just 11 percent, only slightly above the general male population. However, using the less severe measure of having “potentially handicapping traits” of antisocial personality disorder, Post found that this was true of 52 percent of politicians, 50 percent of artists, and 70 percent of writers. Post cautiously estimates that this level of psychopathology applies to 16 percent of the male population. Accordingly, it can be averred that moderate antisocial behavior disorder is elevated among the highly eminent.76 So, we should not be surprised that, to a greater extent than was once the case, people who are high in individualism, intelligence, and psychopathic traits should rise to the top.
Such people’s rise would be aided if they adopted the group-fitness damaging, spiteful mutant-inspired leftist ideas that are currently in vogue, so we would expect them to do that. And, with their high sex drives, and low empathy, we might even expect them to engage in sexual abuse to an elevated degree, including abuse of children because, as they are such easy prey. Approximately half of those who sexually abuse children are not exclusively attracted to children. Pedophiles, so defined, have strongly elevated levels of poor mental health (something Post also found was high among the very eminent), including mood disorders (66 percent), obsessive compulsive disorder (25 percent), and personality disorders of various kinds (61 percent), such as Psychopathic Personality.77 For this reason, evidence of the abuse, especially of young girls, by such males starts to make more sense. Pedophilia and psychopathic personality may be comorbid, because they are both manifestations of developmental instability, resulting from elevated mutational load.78 In addition, only pedophiles who are high in psychopathic personality would be likely to act on their proclivities. Those who are high in psychopathic personality are, in evolutionary terms, adapted to a chaotic, unstable environment in which cooperating with people is futile, because such acts might never be reciprocated; you must, therefore, “live fast, die young” and opt to pass on your genes as quickly as possible. This militates in favor of having as much sex as you can with as many fertile (and thus young) females as possible. This is known as a fast Life History Strategy.79 Having sex with underage, though fertile, girls—“ephebophilia”—would simply be an extreme manifestation of this sexual strategy. There is also evidence that, in such contexts of instability, males who engaged in rape were more likely to pass on their genes, and that gang rape was especially common in pre-history. As a consequence, males, even now, produce more semen during rape, as rape traditionally involved sperm competition. Men also become more aroused by, and produce more semen, when watching violent porn than “vanilla” porn. In other words, men have been selected to be aroused by violence, especially sexual violence.80 Thus, for some men who abuse underage children, it may not be that they find them attractive; they are turned on by power and dominance. This would be more likely if they were fast Life History Strategists.
In the UK, elite pedophile fascination was sparked in the wake of the death of the extremely popular and influential entertainer Sir Jimmy Savile (1926-2011). Evidencing his “Establishment” status, Savile had been given a knighthood in 1990. After Savile died, large numbers of allegations came to light that he had raped and otherwise sexually abused under-age girls throughout his long career and had even been subject to a police investigation about this shortly before his death.81 A subsequent police inquiry into historic sexual abuse, “Operation Yew Tree,” as well as concomitant investigations and publicity, led to the downfall or reassessment of many other celebrities and politicians who had received assorted honors such as CBE (Companion of the British Empire), OBE (Order of the British Empire), and knighthoods. The investigation led to the jailing of a household name, entertainer Rolf Harris, CBE (b. 1930), for sexually abusing under-age girls; the imprisonment of TV personality Stuart Hall, OBE (b. 1929), on 13 counts of indecent assault against girls aged 9 to 17 between 1967 and 1986; and two posthumous allegations of underage rape, and one of rape of a 17-year-old woman, against deceased TV personality Sir Clement Freud (1924-2009), grandson of the psychiatrist.82
So, looked at in this way, the idea that the world is run—or at least heavily influenced—by selfish, child-abusers Satanists becomes less than entirely ludicrous. And, as was noted when Jimmy Savile’s proclivities came to light, there must have been so many high-status people who, at best, turned a blind eye to what they knew he was doing and, at worst, enabled him.83 We can see how people might suspect the same to be true of Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Michael Jackson, and many others. In general, we exaggerate the extent to which members of an out-group are morally deficient, and we can see how this would become particularly pronounced at a time of extreme polarization and existential stress.84
Katrin Bennhold, “QAnon Is Thriving in Germany. The Extreme Right Is Delighted,” New York Times, October 11, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/11/world/europe/qanon-is-thriving-in-germany-the-extreme-right-is-delighted.html (accessed November 15, 2020). ↩︎
Barabara Ortutay, “YouTube Follows Twitter and Facebook with QAnon Crackdown,” AP News, October 15, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/youtube-qanon-conspiracy-theories-ef03a889e68239de6692ce42666d97d8 (accessed November 15, 2020). ↩︎
Graeme Bruce, “Half of Trump’s Supporters Think Top Democrats are Involved in Child Sex-trafficking,” YouGov, https://today.yougov.com/topics/politics/articles-reports/2020/10/20/half-trump-supporters-believe-qanon-theory-child-s (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
Edward Dutton, “The Next Great Awakening,” Radix Journal, https://radixjournal.com/2020/06/the-next-great-awakening/ (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
For an early look at “Q”, see Paris Martineau, “The Storm Is the New Pizzagate — Only Worse,” New York, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/12/qanon-4chan-the-storm-conspiracy-explained.html (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
Anonymous, BQ7V3bcW, 4chan.org/pol, https://archive.4plebs.org/pol/thread/146981635/#147012719 (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
Anonymous, BQ7V3bcW, 4chan.org/pol, https://archive.4plebs.org/pol/thread/146981635/#147012719 (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
Bennhold, “QAnon Is Thriving in Germany,” New York Times, op cit.↩︎
William March, “Conspiracy Theorist QAnon Promoted, Then Deleted, by Hillsborough County GOP, Tampa Bay Times, July 16, 2018, https://www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2018/07/16/conspiracy-theorist-qanon-promoted-then-deleted-by-hillsborough-county-gop/ (accessed November 15, 2020). ↩︎
Anonymous, BQ7V3bcW, 4chan.org/pol, https://archive.4plebs.org/pol/thread/146981635/#147012719 (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
See Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1922); Jacques Ellul, Propaganda (Alfred A. Knopf, 1967). ↩︎
See Jasun Horsley, The Vice of Kings: How Socialism, Occultism, and the Sexual Revolution Engineered a Culture of Abuse (London, Aeon Books, 2019). ↩︎
E.J. Dickson, “QAnon Followers Think JFK Jr. Is Coming Back on the 4th of July,” Rolling Stone, https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/qanon-jfk-jr-conspiracy-theory-854938/ (accessed December 10, 2020). ↩︎
Anonymous, BQ7V3bcW, 4chan.org/pol, https://archive.4plebs.org/pol/thread/147433975/#147434025 (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
Ling, “QAnon’s Creator Made the Ultimate Conspiracy Theory,” op cit.↩︎
Michael Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America (Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2003). ↩︎
Peter Knight, Conspiracy Culture: From Kennedy to The X Files (London, Routledge, 2013). ↩︎
Justin Ling, “QAnon’s Creator Made the Ultimate Conspiracy Theory,” Foreign Affairs October 6, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/10/06/qanon-creator-ultimate-conspiracy-theory-q/ (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
Anonymous, BQ7V3bcW, 4chan.org/pol, https://qalerts.app/?q=Biblical+times (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
Gerard van Grongingen. First Century Gnosticism: Its Origin and Motifs (Leiden: BRILL, 1967). ↩︎
Anonymous, BQ7V3bcW, 4chan.org/pol, https://qalerts.app/?n=4950 (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
See Steve Bruce, God Is Dead: Secularization in the West (Oxford, Blackwell, 2002). ↩︎
Ara Norenzayan and Azim Shariff, “The Origin and Evolution of Religious Pro-sociality,” Science, 322 (2008): 58-62. ↩︎
Stanley C. Griffin, A Forgotten Revival: East Anglia and Northeast Scotland, 1921 (Bromley: Day One Publications, 1992). ↩︎
Callum Brown, The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularisation, 1800-2000 (London: Routledge, 2009). ↩︎
See Brown. The Death of Christian Britain, op cit.↩︎
See Edward Bailey. Implicit Religion: An Introduction (Hendon, Middlesex University Press, 1998). ↩︎
Eric Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century (London: Profile Book, 2010). ↩︎
Faiz Siddiqui and Susan Svrluga, “N.C. Man Told Police He Went to D.C. Pizzeria With Gun to Investigate Conspiracy Theory,” Washington Post, December 5, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2016/12/04/d-c-police-respond-to-report-of-a-man-with-a-gun-at-comet-ping-pong-restaurant/ (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
Edward Dutton, Guy Madison, and Curtis Dunkel, “The Mutant Says in His Heart, ‘There Is No God’: The Rejection of Collective Religiosity Centered Around the Worship of Moral Gods is Associated with High Mutational Load,” Evolutionary Psychological Science, 4 (2018): 233-244. ↩︎
Rüdiger Vaas, “God, Gains and Genes,” in The Biological Evolution of Religious Mind and Behavior, eds. Eckart Voland and Wulf Schiefenhövel (New York: Springer, 2009). ↩︎
Norenzayan and Shariff, “The Origin and Evolution of Religious Pro-sociality,” op cit.↩︎
Lewis Rambo. Understanding Religious Conversion (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993). ↩︎
See Dutton, Madison and Dunkel, “The Mutant Says in His Heart, ‘There Is No God,’” op cit.↩︎
Yael Sela, Todd K. Shackelford, and James R. Liddle, “When Religion Makes It Worse: Religiously Motivated Violence As a Sexual Selection Weapon,” in The Attraction of Religion: A New Evolutionary Psychology of Religion, eds. D. Jason Sloane and James A. Slyke (London: Bloomsbury, 2015). ↩︎
Frank Salter, On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethnicity and Humanity in an Age of Mass Migration (New Brunswick, NJ: Transactions, 2006). ↩︎
Robert Axelrod and Ross A. Hammond, “The Evolution of Ethnocentric Behavior,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, 50 (2006): 1-11. ↩︎
Colin Holbrook, Keise Izuma, Choi Deblieck, Daniel M. Fessler, and Marco Iacoboni, “Neuromodulation of Group Prejudice and Religious Belief,” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11 (2016): 387-394. ↩︎
Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained: The Human Instincts that Fashion Gods, Spirits and Ancestors (London: Heinemann, 2001). ↩︎
G.J.R. Parry, A Protestant Vision: William Harrison and the Reformation of Elizabethan England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). ↩︎
Jesse Graham, Jonathan Haidt, and Brian A. Nosek, “Liberals and Conservatives Rely on Different Sets of Moral Foundations,” Personality Processes and Individual Differences, 96 (2009): 1029-1046. ↩︎
Matt Bradshaw and Christopher G. Ellison, “Do Genetic Factors Influence Religious Life? Findings from a Behavior Genetic Analysis of Twin Siblings,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 47 (2008): 529-544. ↩︎
Edward Dutton and Guy Madison, “Execution, Violent Punishment and Selection for Religiousness in Medieval England,” Evolutionary Psychological Science, 4 (2018): 83-89. ↩︎
Anthony Volk, and Jeremy Atkinson, “Is Child Death the Crucible of Human Evolution?” Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2 (2008): 103-116. ↩︎
J. Philippe Rushton, “Ethic Nationalism: Evolutionary Psychology and Genetic Similarity Theory,” Nations and Nationalism, 11 (2005): 489-507. ↩︎
Michael A. Woodley of Menie, Matthew A. Sarraf, Radomir N. Pestow, and Heitor B. F. Fernandes, “Social Epistasis Amplifies the Fitness Costs of Deleterious Mutations, Engendering Rapid Fitness Decline Among Modernized Populations,” Evolutionary Psychological Science, 3 (2017): 181-191. ↩︎
Emil Kirkegaard, “Mental Illness and the Left,” Mankind Quarterly, 60 (2020): 487-510. ↩︎
Michael Woodley of Menie, Heitor Fernandes, Satoshi Kanazawa, and Edward Dutton, “Sinistrality is Associated With (Slightly) Lower General Intelligence: A Data Synthesis and Consideration of Secular Trend Data in Handedness,” HOMO: Journal of Comparative Human Biology, 69 (2018): 118-126. ↩︎
Corwin Smidt and James Penning, “Religious Commitment, Political Conservatism, and Political and Social Tolerance in the United States: A Longitudinal Analysis,” Sociological Analysis, 43 (1982): 231-245. ↩︎
Niclas Berggren, Henrik Jordahl, Panu Poutvaara, “The Right Look: Conservative Politicians Look Better and Voters Reward It,” Journal of Public Economics, 146 (2017): 79-86. ↩︎
Dutton, Madison and Dunkel, “The Mutant Says in His Heart, ‘There Is No God’”, op cit.↩︎
T.E. Joiner, “Contagious Depression: Existence, Specificity to Depressed Symptoms, and the Role of Reassurance Seeking,” Journal of Personal and Social Psychology, 67 (1994): 287-296. ↩︎
Michael A. Woodley of Menie, Matthew A. Sarraf, Rodomir N. Pestow, and Heitor B. F. Fernandes, “Social Epistasis Amplifies the Fitness Costs of Deleterious Mutations, Engendering Rapid Fitness Decline Among Modernized Populations,” Evolutionary Psychological Science, 3 (2017): 181-191. ↩︎
Damon Centola, Joshua Becker, Devon Brackbill, and Andrea Baronchelli, “Experimental Evidence for Tipping Points in Social Convention,” Science, 360 (2018): 1116-1119. ↩︎
See Ara Norenzayan, Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013). ↩︎
Robert Putnam, “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century: The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize lecture,” Scandinavian Political Studies, 30 (2007): 137–174. ↩︎
Martin Fieder and S.usanne Huber, “Political Attitude and Fertility: Is There a Selection for the Political Extreme?” Frontiers in Psychology (2018), https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02343. ↩︎
See Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (New York: Free Press, 1994). ↩︎
See Arthur Jensen. The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998). ↩︎
Richard Lynn. Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations (London: Ulster Institute for Social Research, 1996). ↩︎
Michael Woodley of Menie and Curtis Dunkel, “Beyond the Cultural Mediation Hypothesis: A Reply to Dutton (2013),” Intelligence, 49 (2015): 186-191. ↩︎
See Edward Dutton and Michael Woodley of Menie. At Our Wits’ End: Why We’re Becoming Less Intelligent and What It Means for the Future (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2018). ↩︎
Harold G. Koenig, “Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications,” ISRN Psychiatry (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.5402/2012/278730 (accessed December 5, 2020). ↩︎
Christopher Badcock, “Mentalism and Mechanism: Twin Modes of Human Cognition,” in Evolutionary Psychology, Public Policy and Personal Decisions, eds. Charles Crawford and Catherine Salman (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2003). ↩︎
Philippe Huguelet, Sylvia Mohr, Laurence Borras, et al., “Spirituality and Religious Practices Among Outpatients With Schizophrenia and Their Clinicians,” Psychiatric Services, 57 (2006): 366–372. ↩︎
D. Barron, A. Furnham, L. Weiss, K. Morgan, T. Towell and V. Swami. “The Association Between Schizotypal Components and Conspiricist Beliefs Through Cognitive Mediators,” Schizophrenia Bulletin, 44 (2018): s368-369. ↩︎
Jo Hodgekins, “Schizotypy and Psychopathology,” in Schizoptypy: New Dimensions, eds. Oliver Mason and Gordan Claridge (London: Routledge, 2015). ↩︎
Jordan Moss and Peter O’Connor. “The Dark Triad traits Predict Authoritarian Political Correctness and Alt-Right Attitudes,” Heliyon, 6 (2020): e04453. ↩︎
Martin Lalumiere, Grant T. Harris, and Marnie Rice, “Psychopathy and Developmental Instability,” Evolution and Human Behavior, 22 (2001): 75-92. ↩︎
See Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts, Network Propaganda: Manipulations, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018). ↩︎
See J.A. Peterson, “Carnal, Chthonic, and Complicated: The Matter of Modern Satanism,” in Controversial New Religions. eds. James Lewis and Jesper Peterson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). ↩︎
See, Edward Dutton and Bruce G. Charlton, The Genius Famine (Buckingham, University of Buckingham Press, 2015). ↩︎
See Edward Dutton and Richard Lynn, “Cheating in Sport and Race Differences in Psychopathic Personality,” Mankind Quarterly, 55 (2015): 325-334. ↩︎
Dimitri Van der Linden, Edward Dutton, and Guy Madison, “National-Level Indicators of Androgens are Related to the global distribution of number of scientific publications and science Nobel prizes.” Journal of Creative Behavior, 54 (2020): 134-149. ↩︎
Felix Post, “Creativity and Psychopathology,” British Journal of Psychiatry, 165 (1994): 22-34. ↩︎
Gilian Tenbergen, Matthias Wittfoth, Helge Frieling, et al., “The Neurobiology and Psychology of Pedophilia: Recent Advances and Challenges,” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, (2015): 344. ↩︎
J. Philippe Rushton, Race, Evolution, and Behavior: A Life History Perspective (New Brusnwick, NJ, Transaction Publishing). ↩︎
Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001); Lee Ellis, Theories of Rape: Inquiries Into the Causes of Sexual Aggression (New York: Hemisphere Publishing, 1989). ↩︎
Dan Davies, In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile (London: Quercus Books, 2014). ↩︎
Martin Evans, “Clement Freud Accused of Raping Another Teenage Girl as Evidence Mounts That He Was a Predatory Paedophile,” Daily Telegraph (15th June 2016), https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/15/clement-freud-accused-of-raping-another-teenage-girl-as-evidence/ (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
Jesse Graham, Jonathan Haidt, and Brian Nosek, “The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives: Exaggeration of Differences across the Political Spectrum,” PLOS One (2012), https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0050092 (accessed December 1, 2020). ↩︎
The Democrats will soon achieve political hegemony in an age of radical polarization. It probably won’t end well. Introduction On November 3, Joe Biden should comfortably win the Presidency of…
The Democrats will soon achieve political hegemony in an age of radical polarization. It probably won’t end well.
On November 3, Joe Biden should comfortably win the Presidency of the United States, earning between 325 and 375 Electoral College votes, matching Barack Obama’s results in 2008 and 2012. In an age of polarization—and in light of Trump’s tremendous popularity among Republicans—Biden’s victory will be viewed as a “landslide” and national denunciation of Trumpism. Demoralization and confusion among the Republican faithful will follow.
In addition, Democrats should take control of the Senate, with a tight majority of 51 to 49. More than one Republican stalwart and Trump ally will be sent packing. In the House, Democrats will maintain dominance. The “wave” election already occurred in 2018, and, to a lesser extent, in 2016. This year will be about consolidation, not conquest.
Inertia is the most powerful force in politics. Some 75 percent of all House races are uncompetitive “slam dunks,” and we can expect incumbent Congressmen, especially members of the House, to be re-elected at a rate around 90 percent. But after multiple cycles of consistent gains, on January 20, 2021, the Democrats will stand in the same position the Republicans did four years earlier: they’ll have the presidency; they’ll enjoy a House majority in the realm of 235-250 members, and a narrow margin in the Senate. A 25-year era of mostly Republican leadership in Congress will be supplanted by a new “Blue Period.” This is the result of seismic demographic, geographic, and attitudinal and psychological shifts. But ultimately, the 2020 victory will paper over deep problems for the Democrats, which will likely lead to an unhappy presidency for Mr. Biden.
This essay will explain my forecast, but, more important, it will assess the structural basis for the coming Democratic dominance, and expose fault lines that make doing politics, even for a hegemonic party, exceedingly difficult.
In 2016, Trump was not just the candidate of right-wing populism but “chaos” as well, to borrow an insult from Jeb Bush. Trump ran against his own party, its leadership, and quite a bit of what it held dear. Biden, on the other hand, has run a bi-partisan campaign on the promise of a “return to normalcy.”
“Normalcy” means ending the Trump experiment: the outrages, scandals, wild talk, and nationalism. But it also means keeping at bay left-wing energies—“wokeness,” BLM, and democratic socialism—that are now motivating a great deal of Biden’s voters. Biden’s experience in the Democratic primaries was about survival, not triumph, and it was only possible through the intervention of party luminaries at the 11th hour. Biden has a long history of being extremely “un-woke,” and his Clintonian policy proposals are simply out of step with the majority of Democratic activists and operatives, if not high-level leadership and donors. Thus, Biden is caught in a pincer, and there is a strong chance that he will be undermined early on by forces within—perhaps even given a rude comeuppance.
Moreover, it is becoming questionable whether America is governable at all. We will soon be in a remarkable situation in which the once-and-future party of political hegemony, the Democrats, will be governing a population that has undergone radical polarization and division. In the new Blue era, the Democrats will struggle for legitimacy, not power. That can’t end well.
1. We Just Hate Each Other
Biden’s coming victory must be put into perspective. The era of monumental landslides—when one candidate captured a unified national mood—is past. The last time a candidate won more than 500 electoral votes was 1984, when Ronald Reagan came close to matching Richard Nixon’s 49-state domination in 1972. Barack Obama’s comfortable victories in 2008 and 2016—or George W. Bush’s 2004 win as a “stay the course,” wartime president—never approached the famous wipeout elections of the 20th century.
Our era is one of fragmentation, which has led to stasis and rigidity. Voters are “polarized,” in the sense of being frozen in place. You simply are Red or Blue. And they’re ain’t no doubt about it.
One some level, Red/Blue politics has eclipsed race, ethnicity, and religion as the source and marker of identity. When polled, Americans who strongly identify with “conservative” or “liberal” are skittish about the prospect of family members marrying someone of another political affiliation. A hardcore conservative worries more about his daughter marrying a Democrats than a man of a different race. “Look who’s coming to dinner,” indeed.
There are, I should point out, some key issues of remarkable national consensus. At least in 2018, a majority of Republicans supported a national healthcare system or “Medicare for All,” a program touted by Bernie Sanders. That said, on a host of meta-political topics—like inequality, racial discrimination, and the environment—gaps between Red and Blue are only widening. The parties themselves have become hostile nations with closed borders. This is demonstrated in a longitudinal study by the Pew Research Center covering the past 25 years. In 1994, 64 percent of Republican voters were “to the right” of the average Democrat on a host of basic issues, with considerable overlap. Put another way, the average Democratic was “to the Right” of one-third of Republicans. By 2017, the “center” had vanished. Effectively all (95-97 percent) Republicans are “to the right” of Democrats and Democrats, “to the left” of Republicans.
Some old-timers still wax nostalgic about a bi-partisan era long ago, when both parties would roll up their sleeves and get things done for the American people. The reality is, compromise and collaboration are simply impossible when there is no common ground.
Polarization tracks with religious divides. Mormons and evangelical Protestants are overwhelmingly Republican. And to no one’s surprise, self-identified atheists are liberal to roughly the same degree as fundamentalists are conservative. Polarization is also strongly regional—a phenomenon known as the “Big Sort.” Blue states are clustered on the eastern and western seaboards, and states containing large metropolises tend to be Democratic. Texas and Georgia are notable Southern exceptions. Polarization also marks the intersection of race and class, as Republicans have gradually become the home of the White working class—those without college degrees. (I’ll explore this in more detail in the next essay in this series.)
In 2004, George W. Bush defeated John Kerry by a close score in the popular vote, 51-48. But mapping the election county-by-county tells a very different story. The entire Heartland and South was deep Red, with some Blue outliers in predominately African-American districts and urban centers. Someone in, say, Casper, Wyoming might not know another soul who voted for John Kerry, to paraphrase the infamous quip by Pauline Kael.
2004 Presidential Election, County-by-County
Polarization is even more radical than elections would lead you believe. Terms like “secession” and “Civil War 2” are in the air. A Reuters-Ipsos poll conducted from November 2016 through January 2017 found 22 percent of respondents supporting the state they live in “withdrawing from the USA and the federal government.” Support among non-Whites was even higher, at 29 percent, with less than an outright majority opposed and the remaining quarter of the population, unsure. Some 40 percent of both Democrats and Republicans openly tell pollsters that political violence is justified “a little” if the other guys win.
Both the QAnon conspiracy and “Russian Collusion” narrative (which led to Trump’s impeachment) are factually dubious but true to the prevailing Zeitgeist. For QAnon, the Democrats aren’t just wrong, they are, literally, Satanic, blood-sucking pedophiles. The mass media (“fake news”) is only there to distract the public from Trump’s noble crusade against evil. On the other side, “Resistance” liberals say that Trump is in Vladimir Putin’s pocket, effectively reviving a Cold War-era ghost story about a “Manchurian candidate,” once the bugbear of right-wing fanatics in the John Birch Society. Trump doesn’t just want better diplomatic relations with Russia; he is, in fact, a tool of a Slavic autocrat bent on world domination.
Marianne Williamson captured the mood, as only she can.
Don’t tell a black person they’re never in danger of being arrested for no reason; don’t tell a Jew they’ll never have to worry about being rounded up; and don’t tell a woman she’s never being underestimated because of her gender. We know better. Ancestors don’t lie.
What is key here is that both Reds and Blues view “the other,” not as an adversary, but as a demon or tyrant. Why debate or find common ground with someone who wants you thrown in a dungeon. It’s kill or be killed!
2. Projecting the Presidency
Radical polarization is disturbing—and it might foretell an eventual breakdown of the United State, as unthinkable as that might sound. But for our limited purposes here, polarization means electoral stability, and that means that four out of every five states in any presidential election can be forecast years in advance.
For yet another cycle, a dozen or so states will determine the outcome of the presidential election: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. The other 38 are not likely to produce surprises. Texas and Georgia are two remarkable additions to this list, as both have been reliably Republican since 1996 and are thought of as bastions of conservatism. Among the 12 states in play, three—Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania—will prove most important, since they are populous and polling has been both close and volatile. Mainstream forecasters (The Cooke Political Report, The Economist, FiveThirtyEight, and the New York Times) are consistent on this assessment.
Joe Biden’s advantage immediately jumps to the fore. Taking the 38 non-swing states as “givens,” Biden will begin election night carrying some 215-225 electoral votes; Trump, only around 125. Of the dozen decisive states, half of them are leaning towards Biden: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Arizona. Only Texas and Georgia are significantly leaning Republican. This leaves Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Iowa as the “tossups among tossups.” The problem for Trump is that Biden does not need to win all of the Democratic-leaning tossups to reach 270 electoral votes, and thus an Electoral College majority. In other words, for Trump to eke out a victory, he must hold Southern stalwarts like Georgia, Florida, and Texas and win at least a couple of the Midwestern states (Iowa and Ohio, for example), which formed his unlikely “Rustbelt strategy” of 2016.
This is simply too tall an order. A victory for Trump—based on, say, winning Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida—would already be reflected by polls suggesting a Republican wave. We don’t see this. Biden has maintained a comfortable lead in national polling in the area of seven-to-ten points for months. This is significantly higher than Clinton’s lead over Trump throughout the summer and fall of 2016, which hovered between one and six points and was trending towards deadlock. Numbers on early voting foresee a dramatic, multi-fold increase of turnout among young people (18-29)—a group that skews heavily towards Biden.
As they say in the NFL, any team can win on “any given Sunday”—and that rule holds for Tuesdays, as well. If, say, Trump secures Florida (with its 29 electoral votes), then his chances of pulling off an upset increase dramatically. But we need to remember how astounding Trump’s win in 2016 really was. In the Electoral College, Trump beat Clinton handedly: 304 to 207. On a state-by-state basis, however, his margins were razor thin: Trump won Florida (a state of 22 million) by 100,000 votes; he won Michigan by a mere 10,000. Treading such a precarious, narrow path to victory one more time is too much to ask of any candidate. And demographics in those states are clearly moving in the wrong direction.
Change in voting-age population, 2016-2020
3. Letting A Good Crisis Go To Waste
America might never again see a truly “national” statesman, that is, a man who transcends party and policies, and is widely viewed as the right guy to take charge in a crisis. After 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt seemingly couldn’t lose, consistently boosted by his resolve in the Great Depression and Second World War. Since then, wartime can make a president invincible . . . before sinking him. Lyndon Baines Johnson won by a landslide at the height of the Vietnam War, then bowed out of the 1968 election early, having lost control of his own party. George H.W. Bush’s approval ratings were just shy of 90 percent after launching the first Iraq War; they then dipped as low as 29 in 1992 when the fight was over. His son, George W., experienced a similar ordeal: he broke 90 percent after the September-11 attacks, just before his approval cascaded downward and he became a national punch-line in his second term. And “Dubya” might be the last president to achieve unanimous adulation, however fleeting.
After years of relative peace for the American empire, Trump was challenged in the final year of his term with a crisis of Biblical proportions—a plague from the Far East that brought the world to its knees. Politically speaking, this was a gift, if he were only willing to unwrap it. Trump achieved his highest approval ratings in the first half of May 2020—49 percent—weeks after he had officially declared the Coronavirus a national emergency. Great stress brings out “animal instincts”; people desperately want to “follow the leader.” At that moment, Trump was, at least potentially, poised to transcend polarization.
For all of the shrill talk about Trump being a “fascist,” the reality is that Benito Mussolini would have relished the chance to mobilize the nation under “pandemic socialism.” And if Trump governed more like a fascist—perhaps donning a knightly hazmat suit during press briefings—he would have a much better chance of being re-elected.
No leader on Earth has paid a political price for “overreacting” to Coronavirus—even if some have, indeed, overreacted. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has consistently urged lockdowns, has had an approval rating in the mid-to-upper 60s on his handling of the pandemic—double that of Trump. The nation was clearly begging to be given marching orders by a strongman.
Trump, for his part, chose the “power of positive thinking,” a uniquely American form of Christianity articulated by Norman Vincent Peale, a minister who presided over Trump’s first wedding. Trump’s response to Coronavirus will forever be remembered by his claims that it was a “Democrat hoax,” that it will go away in the spring “like a miracle,” various goofy proposals for instant cures, and his fretting over the health of the Dow Jones Industrial Index. By October, Trump was losing seniors—those most vulnerable to Covid-19—by 10 points in the all-important state of Pennsylvania. Voters over the age of 65 would seem to be the natural constituency of any conservative; 65 percent of them voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. Yet in 2020, “the olds” have a voting profile much like their self-centered, left-wing grandchildren.
Trump is one of the only presidents in recent memory to declare himself a “nationalist,” and he has evoked the prewar slogan of “America First!” But in the end, his “nationalism”—whatever it might mean in practice—is a minority political position. It is undoubtedly popular with GOP diehards—Trump’s approval among Republicans is rising to 95 percent—but it is simply not a governing ideology. The country is headed in a very different direction.
4. Projecting the House
The 2018 Midterms amounted to a “wave” election for the Democrats, though one obscured by the final result: a split government with the Republicans increasing their lead in the Senate. That year, the Democrats achieved a net gain of 41 seats in the House, which put the victory on par with two iconic Republican “waves” of recent history: the 1994 “Revolution” (net gain of 54) and the 2010 “Tea Party” (net gain of 63). Remarkably, the 2018 “Blue Wave” was greater than those two, at least as measured by the popular vote margin. Yes, all politics is local—especially in the House—but if the 2018 Midterms were treated like a national referendum, then the Democrats had a nine-point advantage over the Republicans, matching Biden’s 2020 advantage over Trump.
The ’94 and 2010 Midterms birthed new heroes in the persons of Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan, two pompous and nerdy libertarians. The impeachment of President Bill Clinton, the consolidation of the Religious Right as a reliable bloc, endless prattle about budgets, and various government shutdowns marked the terms of both speakers in this “Red Era” of Congress. It’s difficult to think of any legislative achievements. No examples come to mind.
Recent Democratic gains in the House, on the other hand, brought us Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the so-called “Squad”—all of whom immediately became stars and generated friction with the centrist leaders of the House and Senate, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Biden, too, is running as a centrist, the man who, as he brags, “beat the socialists” and will revive a globally oriented foreign policy. Whereas Republican presidents were generally aligned with popular energies in the parties, Biden is already at odds with them. He may be the last Democratic standard-bearer to promise, “Nothing will fundamentally change.” Regardless of Biden’s expectations, creative and paradigm-shifting policy (“The Green New Deal,” being a perfect example) will begin flowing out of the Democratic House.
5. Projecting the Senate
In 2018, Fortuna looked fondly upon Republicans. That year, only eight of their 51 seats in the Senate were in play, whereas the Democrats had 23 of 49. Republicans seized the opportunity—and the recent confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett would not have been possible were it not for the lucky hand they were dealt.
In 2020, Republicans face the inverse of the happy situation last cycle. They have 23 seats up for election, while the Democrats have only 12. And it gets worse. Among the Democrats’ 12 seats in jeopardy, only one is likely to be lost—Doug Jones’s perch in Alabama, which was acquired in a bizarre special election against Christian fundamentalist Roy Moore. In 2020, Alabama will likely send Republican Tommy Tuberville, the old Auburn football coach, to the U.S. Senate.
Of the Republicans’ 23 seats that are up for election, eight are considered “tossups,” and, in the cases of Martha McSally in Arizona and Cory Gardner in Colorado, likely losses. Seats that should be solid are now in play, such as Joni Ernst in Iowa and Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, both of whom seem to be dragged down by their close association with Trump. Graham’s unlikely challenger, Jamie Harrison, has raised more money than any other Senate candidate in U.S. history (upwards of 85 million). For Republicans, there are simply too many signs that too many things are going wrong.
A base-line expectation for the Democrats would be to lose Alabama and keep 46 of their current 47 seats; this would roughly maintain the status quo. The Republicans should reasonably hope to maintain their 15 “safe” seats; however, they should expect to lose between four and five, that is, half of the toss-ups. In that scenario, they would lose control. Normally, the re-election of a party’s incumbent president means a rising tide. But this is not a normal year. The Republicans should lose five seats, and on November 4, 2020, the Democrats will gain control of the Senate, 51/49.
6. “Ignore The Polls, Bro”
But wait—weren’t all polls wrong in 2016? It’s a common refrain you hear from Trump fans. It also harkens back to 2012, when Republicans were similarly confident that polls weren’t capturing Mitt Romney’s support—a contrarianism that led Karl Rove to engage in embarrassing displays of delusion and denial when the results came in.
The short answer to the question “Weren’t the polls wrong?” is “no.” The full story is more complicated.
Trump’s entrance onto the political scene in 2015 was a watershed in that traditional metrics and punditry, which had worked so well in previous elections, failed spectacularly to understand his popularity over the course of the next 18 months. Much like Ron Paul in 2008, Trump was “the candidate from the Internet”: he activated a base that was increasingly getting news from social media, and not from network or cable television. That included Fox News, which, we shouldn’t forget, opposed Trump’s ascendancy throughout 2015.
Trump simultaneously developed a cult following among younger and more activist men and women, who liked him precisely for his combative personality and because he waged war against the Republican establishment. This was the “Alt-Right,” in its broader and more nebulous form. From the outset, it was demeaned by the mainstream media as a gaggle “Internet trolls” and even “bots.” But Trump’s digital engagement was very real.
Social Media Engagement
In late 2015, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight infamously wrote “Dear Media, Stop Freaking Out About Donald Trump’s Polls”:
For my money, that adds up to Trump’s chances being higher than 0 but (considerably) less than 20 percent. Your mileage may vary. But you probably shouldn’t rely solely on the polls to make your case
A strange statement coming from a man whose career is based on aggregating polls. Over the course of the nominating process, Silver and other psephologists assured the public that Trump was a sideshow. Plugging historical precinct figures, campaign finance data, and political endorsements into their algorithms to “weight the polls,” they put Trump at the bottom of the pack. Jeb Bush was the likely nominee, with Marco Rubio, the possible upset candidate.
2016 Republican Fundraising
Absent from these prediction formulas were rally attendance numbers, social media engagement, and organic—rather than media-manufactured—public interest.
Trump dominated Internet search queries throughout that early, decisive period in his political career.
A Trump supporter might, on two days’ notice, take time off work to drive three hours for a chance to get inside a sports stadium for a Trump rally—and face a very real chance of being kept outside on account of the venue reaching maximum capacity. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, had difficulty filling up an elementary school classroom, not to mention getting people to clap. Yet this patent disparity in intensity was thought by the experts to be electorally insignificant.
Usually, when a state politician endorsed a candidate ahead of a caucus or primary, tens of thousands of people might hear about it—most often, days afterwards through secondhand media reports. But during Trump’s rise, tens of millions of people would hear directly and instantaneously from Trump via social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It was not uncommon for people to be made aware of the endorsements of Trump’s opponents from Trump himself. The conventional blessing of the political establishment had become the curse of “the swamp.”
The big “miss” of the mainstream media came in 2015, when pundits dismissed Trump, despite his strong polling and measurable online engagement. 2016 was a different story; the polls weren’t all that wrong. Nate Silver, for one, gave Trump a much better chance of winning the 2016 election than his contemporaries. The national popular vote total was actually well within the range of major polling predictions. The Real Clear Politics’s average across 11 different polling companies showed Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by 3.3 points; her actual margin of victory was 2.1. Most of the national polls were within the margin of error.
The breakdown in polling reliability (at least relative to the “boring” election night of 2012) occurred at the state level. Trump strongly outperformed his state-wide polls in Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Pennsylvania, which were key. But we should also remember that Hillary outdid exceptions in Nevada—despite most late-October polls suggesting a Trump surge.
Overall, Red states went redder than the polls predicted and, to a lesser extent, Blue states went bluer. The correlation between Trump’s margin of victory and his over-performance relative to RCP polling at the state level was a staggering .63 (p-value = 0.0000002). Pollsters have learned lessons from their shortcomings in 2016. More importantly, even if all the 2020 polls were as “wrong” as those in 2016, Biden would still comfortably win the presidency. Mainstream polling is simply not fraudulent. And the move towards Democratic hegemony is seismic, not a result of the latest news cycle. Trump pulled off an amazing upset in 2016, but demographics and attitudinal changes forecast a new Blue Period in American politics, a process that began well before the nomination of Joe Biden.
7. New Blue
Trump’s victory and inauguration was a winter of discontent for the American Left: scenes of crying, shock, hysteria, wailing, and gnashing of teeth filled the news outlets and social media feeds across the country.
But perhaps they shouldn’t have been so bent out of shape. In 2016, Hillary Clinton received almost three million more votes than Trump (roughly 65.8 million to 63), and many overlooked that the Democrats actually gained seats in the House and Senate. Since 1992, Democrats have won the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections. Both Trump and George W. Bush relied on the idiosyncrasies of the Electoral College—and, with Bush, the Supreme Court—to secure their first terms. On the whole, America is a left-wing country by any reasonable measure.
In the 20th century, the Democrats were the party of hegemony. For six decades after Franklin Roosevelt’s election in 1932, Congress was effectively a one-party body. Between the 73rd Congress of 1933 and the “Republican Revolution” class of 1995, Democrats controlled 28 of the 31 Congresses, losing to the Republicans only briefly in 1947-49 and 1952-3 and enduring a split in 1985-86.
Party Control of Congress, 1933-2019
For better and for worse, the Democratic Party is responsible for every lasting policy paradigm, from the New Deal to the Great Society to Civil Rights to Immigration Reform. The last notable policy initiative of either party was The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) of 2009, which, again, was achieved when the Democrats had control of both Houses.
Party Share of the House of Representatives
Party Share of the Senate
The quarter century since Republicans took the House in the 1994 can be thought of as the “Red Era.” The Republicans’ share of Congress has increased from some 25 percent in the early 1930s to over 55 percent in the past few classes. Republicans have held both Chambers seven out of twelve election cycles, and held onto to one chamber ten out of twelve. Democrats, as mentioned, were only in full command for two years during Barack Obama’s first term.
Republican Share of the House of Representatives
Republican Share of the Senate
Since realignment in the 1960s, Republicans progressed, slowly but surely, from being an “also ran” and regional party to a majority one . . . yet it’s questionable whether they were ever a governing one. Outside of tax cuts, cantankerous complaining, and vague calls for “limited government,” Republicans seem to have no clue of what to do with power once they capture it, much like a dog chasing after the mail man. The GOP has certainly been popular, but it has clearly lacked the intellectual resources to be a truly national party.
As the Red Era took shape, the margins of dominance in Congress (by either party) have progressively shrunk, approaching an even split. The “Red Era” has been one of deadlock, obstruction, back-and-forth, and scarcity of visionary leadership.
Margins of Dominance in House and Senate
You could argue that as margins in Congress are tightening—and polarization becomes more intense—we should prepare ourselves for exchanges of power between the two parties every cycle. But I expect something quite different to emerge—long-range domination of Congress and the presidency by the Left moving forward. The Democrats might never achieve the supremacy of the FDR coalition, but they will set the agenda for the next quarter century: Medicare For All, Universal Basic Income, and “woke” policies beyond our imagination will become possible.
8. Is Diversity Destiny?
Pronouncements about America’s “changing demographics”—or about how “diversity is destiny”—are now so commonplace as to be clichés. The built-in assumption is that demographic realities doom the GOP—the mono-racial “White Party” within the American rainbow. But it’s important to put that into perspective. In Texas, Whites reached minority status 20 years ago, and the state remained a keystone of the Red Era throughout that time. So, theoretically, Republicans could continue to win elections as the “White Party”: the home of “legacy Americans” and those who aspire to be like them.
What is decisive is that the Democrats, and not the Republicans, have constituted themselves as a hegemonic entity for the 21st century. The largest demographic group now entering the Democratic Party is not Hispanic immigrants but White suburban professionals. The Left is thus home, not only to urban African-Americans, but the “New Class” of corporate and financial managers. While the conservatives are downright proud of the absence of cultured snobs and intellectuals in their ranks, the Democrats have long been the party of thinkers, artists, and dreamers. This new Blue grouping that is emerging might seem “contradictory”—but you could say the same about FDR’s New Deal coalition, which brought together the urban poor, small farmers, eggheads, and Southern segregationists.
The Democrats are positioned to capture the forces of America’s transformation, and govern the declining empire competently. The Republicans are still talking about their half-remembered dream of “American Greatness,” and even that is fading into oblivion.
The major obstacle for Democrats is not demographics, surely, nor is it the lack of policy creativity, which will explode in the coming years. It is the fact that millions of White people who identify as “conservatives” and “real Americans” will view their hegemony as entirely illegitimate, and maybe evil. That is a nut the Left might not be able to crack.
Epilogue: Could Trump Actually Win?
Then again, my assessment could be wrong, at least in the short-term. And regardless, it’s worth discussing how Trump could actually pull this off.
We can start with Joe Biden’s personal limitations. The most common criticism of Biden heard from Republicans is encapsulated by Trump’s nickname for him, “Sleepy Joe.” Biden is “senile,” they say, “incoherent,” “stuck in his basement,” “afraid even to step outside.” Much of this is grounded in reality. Biden’s bumbling, absent-minded speech patterns, and malapropisms are striking—though many of them are more charming than politically damaging. And American voters are likely to see Biden’s personal quirks as a “feature, not a bug.” As mentioned, Biden is quite popular among seniors, who can empathize with his “moments,” since they have many of their own. Hillary Clinton was widely reviled, precisely because she comes off as Machiavellian, calculating, codified, and, in a funny way, over-prepared to be president. Uncle Joe, on the other hand, captures the sweet spot of benign goofiness. He’s simply too guileless and folksy to be evil—unlike Hillary.
The second level of the “Sleepy Joe” argument is that, they say, his running mate, Kamala Harris, will be in charge—a suggestion she herself seemed to embrace. Though Harris is clearly more of a “woke feminist” than Joe could ever be, she was selected because, on policy, she is in the same centrist ballpark as Biden. In August, the Wall Street Journalreported, “As Kamala Harris Joins Biden Ticket, Wall Street Sighs in Relief.” Harris opposes Medicare for All (after once supporting it), supports fracking (ditto), and, in a lecture to young people in Chicago instructed them to give up on their dreams and build more jails, not schools. Harris’s initial campaign for the Democratic nomination was derailed when she was scolded by Tulsi Gabbard for being a draconian District Attorney. Harris hasn’t helped the Biden ticket, but she has not seriously hurt it either. And if she does emerge as the éminence grise of the administration, it will be to pursue most of the same policies that Biden would.
The stronger argument in favor Trump is that all of the same forces of 2015, which we discussed above, are still in effect. Echoes of the Trump-Jeb rivalry have returned in 2020, as Trump continues to generate large crowds and religious-like devotion, while Biden hold “rallies” to audiences of a few dozen journalists. This has a lot to do with the pandemic; however, the “enthusiasm gap” is quite real. And it’s not wrong to sum up the dynamic of 2020 as such: Trump supporters love Trump; Biden supports hate Trump. Can Biden pull off a victory on exasperated negativity alone—on his voters “settling” for him, as a relief from the other guy? We’ll find out.
As mentioned, Trump is approaching an astounding 95 percent approval among Republicans, and, in a Pew Research poll in August, 66 percent of his supporters were strongly enthusiastic about voting for him. These are the types that attend rallies, post on Facebook, and talk about Trump tirelessly to their friends and co-workers. At the time, Biden’s strong support was only at 46 percent. But over the past three months, enthusiasm for him has begun to rival conservatives’ adoration of the president—perhaps as the Left’s hatred of Trump reached levels previously thought impossible.
Intra-party support for each candidate
On social media, Trump remains miles ahead of Biden on active engagement, as we would expect. According to the New York Times:
In the past 30 days, Mr. Trump’s official Facebook page has gotten 130 million reactions, shares and comments, compared with 18 million for Mr. Biden’s page. . . . That is significantly larger than the engagement gap for the preceding 30-day period, when Mr. Trump got 86 million interactions to Mr. Biden’s 10 million.
The same story goes for Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and, especially, the new “alt” tech platforms like Bitchute and Parler.
Moreover, while polls are one thing, actual voting is another, and Trump has looked particularly stout on this front. No major Republican dared challenge him in the GOP primaries. And in New Hampshire, for example, he received 85 percent of the vote in the primary, building on his total from four years ago by 30 percent (from 100,000 to 129,000), despite the fact that these elections didn’t seem to matter much. In other words, MAGA enthusiasts—and not necessarily Trump haters—are committed to trudging through a snowstorm to cast a ballot for their hero. That shouldn’t be discounted.
There is also the potential for the activation of anxious—though “shy”—Trump voters. They aren’t willing to announce themselves to pollsters, and they might cast ballots on the basis of angst over the Black Lives Matter protests, which flared up over the summer and have resulted in looting, violence, and demonization of the police.
Princeton academic Omar Wasow has studied the major protest movements of the 1960s and their impact on presidential elections.
In 1964, Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater promised “law and order” against “crime in the streets” but lost in a blowout to President Johnson, a champion of civil rights . . . . By 1968, though, the tide had turned and Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon successfully marshaled a “tough on crime” campaign to help win the White House.
What happened in the four years between Goldwater and Nixon? For one thing, the protests became more violent, particularly in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Wasow marshals county-by-county data and concludes that in 1968, localities that were proximate to non-violent protests tended to vote more liberally (that is, for Hubert Humphrey) than they might otherwise have. When Wasow looked at counties that were exposed to violent protests, Nixon tended to gain some two percent points. In various counter-factual scenarios, Wasow suggests that Humphrey would have likely won the election of 1968 were it not for the reaction to the violent protests. Such social-science modeling re-enforces gut instincts: when people see crime, chaos, and racial hatred, they turn to symbols of authority, whether that be incumbents or the candidate viewed as the most right-wing.
In the summer of 2020, violent protests occurred throughout the swing states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas. And though these have cooled down of late, “Antifa,” “Defund the Policy,” and “BLM” have become household terms—and violent images of mayhem and destruction have been broadcast across the globe. Might we see a similar “Nixon effect” in 2020—one that is even more pronounced this time due to the virtual “proximity” created through social media? This prospect, too, should not be discounted.
That said, Trump’s path to victory remains the same: an Electoral College squeaker, which would drive liberals into conniption fits. And we shouldn’t forget how close it was four yeas ago. A Donald Trump victory in 2020 remains just as possible/impossible as it was in 2016. I would be remiss to count Trump out, though I don’t expect to be proven wrong.
It seemed like only yesterday that all those online atheists were dominating YouTube—owning the fundies with facts and logic. *The dinosaurs are real—take that, Christians!* Chief Atheist Richard Dawkins just…
It seemed like only yesterday that all those online atheists were dominating YouTube—owning the fundies with facts and logic. *The dinosaurs are real—take that, Christians!*
Chief Atheist Richard Dawkins just released a new book, *Outgrowing God*. If anything, it expresses the intellectual exhaustion and growing irrelevancy of the movement he launched some 15 years ago.
Ed, Keith, and I look back at so-called “New Atheism,” revealing how those liberal edge-lords never asked any serious questions and how the battle between science and religion is not what it’s cracked up to be.