Democracy is at Stake in Upcoming Elections, and Democratic Lawmakers Need to Act Like it.

“Vote blue no matter who” isn’t enough.
by Lauren Elizabeth

As I have discussed before, perhaps what bothers me most about Democratic lawmakers is the fact that they do not challenge the Republican party enough. Virtually the entirety of the Biden presidency thus far has been spent asking permission from Republicans or corrupt conservative lawmakers like Sinema and Manchin within their own party. The gridlock has lasted since the covid-19 relief bill was passed, and infuriatingly shows no sign of letting up despite the fact that the party currently has control of the White House, the House, and the Senate. At this point, part of me can’t help wondering if Manchin and Sinema are being as obstructionist as they are because they don’t want the pressure for them to abolish the filibuster to intensify. Why let that happen, when they can spend their time reminding the American people that even if Democrats were to abolish the filibuster, Democrats would still have lawmakers within their own party to deal with.

All that said, as they continue to play games and come up with excuses, the right wing is spending their time getting ready. Among leaders on the right who is fired up and rearing to go is none other than Steve Bannon, the infamous operative and white supremacist who played a large role in getting Donald Trump to power. Recently, Bannon made some incredibly disturbing comments that should remind Democratic lawmakers of what’s actually at stake.

During a recent episode of his podcast, he said he would have 20,000 “shock troops” at the ready to help “reconfigure the government” once a Republican is in the White House again.
As Mary Papenfuss with Yahoo writes:

“…“Shock troops” is a military term for an advance team of trained soldiers who carry out lightning-fast assaults. Many found Bannon’s use of the term extremely disturbing, particularly in the wake of the violence of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Critics said Bannon’s reference to shock troops “deconstructing” the “state” appeared to be a call for an anti-democracy coup.”

Bannon can deny it or attempt to sugarcoat what he said all he wants, but we know exactly what he meant.

I grow incredibly tired of Democrats fear-mongering and telling their voters that democracy is on the ballot, and that they better vote for them purely for the sake of keeping Republicans out of office. For one, we become incredibly desensitized to the message. There are no words to describe how irritating it is to see some corporate Democrat use that message to get in to office, only to do absolutely nothing with the position they’ve been given other than to raise some money for future campaign runs and network for a lobbyist position down the line.

The thing is, I believe 2022 and 2024 are actually going to be the consequential elections with so much at stake that Democrats have been talking about for years. Sure, 2020 was pretty important. But here we are, facing an upcoming election where operatives like Steve Bannon and other Republican lawmakers at the state and local level have now learned their lessons. They know what to do to effectively steal the election. They know this is likely one of if not their absolute last shot at securing power, and Bannon has made it clear they don’t seem to have any intention of giving it back.

Democrats can treat it like a cute little campaign message all they want while continuing to treat Republicans like honest actors the second the election season is over, but the fact is the GOP has reached the point where democracy is becoming more of an inconvenience. Not only that, but they’re preparing their base for that message as well. Why else was Tucker Carlson going to Budapest, Hungary to talk with their right wing, authoritarian leader about his own slow dismantling of his nation’s democracy?

Democracy really is at stake,

and Democratic lawmakers need to start acting like it.

It’s not enough to just say “vote blue no matter who” and expect the grassroots to do the work for you. It’s not enough to simply expect them to knock on doors for you when you deliver absolutely nothing for them or the voters they’re expected to win over. We simply do not have time for their lazy politics as usual, and it’s difficult not to feel discouraged at times wondering what exactly it’s going to take for them to realize it before it’s too late.

If right wing authoritarianism and fascism take hold in the next few years, and there is an excellent chance that it will, then historians will have no choice but to acknowledge the fact that Democrats handed it right over.


Keeping secrets makes people act weird in extremely predictable ways.
by Zulie Rane

I was sixteen the first time I caught a boy two-timing me.

“You’re not like other girls. I just don’t want labels — what we have is so good and uncomplicated,” David told me sweetly during a lunch date-that-wasn’t-a-date. That same night, he bragged to his friends about how he was simultaneously going out with me and a friend of mine at the same time — secretly.

When I found out, I felt like such a fool to have been tricked. But looking back, I kind of suspected all along. There were small signs he knew he was doing something crappy. I only wished I had listened to my gut sooner.

Most guilty people are fully aware they messed up, and they show in pretty predictable ways. These four tells are common signs of guilt.

They’re Literally Hunched Over
Brains are wild. When you feel burdened with guilt, it turns out you actually feel heavier physically. Scientists found that participants who were asked to think about times they’d acted badly, they self-reported their own weight as greater than innocent participants.

In my case, David slouched. When I questioned him about his feelings for me, he hunched over more and more — even while telling me he really liked me.

A guilty conscience is a heavy thing. From teenage boys to seasoned criminals, it’s hard to escape our own brains feeling weighed down with a guilty conscience.

They’re Acting Suspiciously Good to You
Most people try to balance good and bad. When you’ve done something to feel guilty about, it’s natural that you try to right it. If you know to look out for it, it’s a dead giveaway of guilty feelings.

When I accidentally put my hand through my sister’s favorite painting, I didn’t immediately tell her. I hid it in my closet and laid the sisterly love on extremely thick. I got us tickets to the museum, picked up lattes, and brought her home some pastries out of the blue.

“Zulie, what the hell is going on?” she finally asked after this bizarre behavior had been going on for a week. “What are you trying to compensate for?”
Caught in the act, I confessed I’d broken her painting.

Luckily, she wasn’t too mad. But I’d given myself up with my guilty behavior. “If you hadn’t been so weird about it, I never would have known,” she told me.

They Constantly Over-Justify Their Actions
Likewise, when someone knows they f-ed up, there’s a lot of mental calculus that goes on as they try to justify their behavior, even if only to themselves. They try to justify everything they do — not just whatever they lied to you about, but any action they take.
“If [they] are constantly sharing all the reasons they need to take a certain action or think a certain way…they might be suffering from guilt,” psychotherapist and relationship expert Kelly Bos, tells Bustle.

In retrospect, David did this pretty obviously — whenever he went to a party that I didn’t go to, he always meticulously detailed out his actions to me, even when I didn’t ask. If he didn’t pick up the phone, he’d always text me with an elaborate reason. At the time, I thought he was just an oversharer. Now, I know he was guilty and trying to rationalize it.

They React Out of Proportion if You Question Them
To quote Tacitus, “To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it.” In other words, if you question someone you suspect of a guilty conscience, and they overreact, it’s probably spot on.

“Guilt is a form of self-criticism that can beat your ego like a drummer hits a tom-tom,” writes psychologist Steven Berglas in Forbes.

When someone feels guilty, they’re probably already piling on self-criticism. When you add a question to that stack — anything as simple as, “why didn’t you call me back last night?” or “how come you spend so much time on your phone?” — that can often be the straw that breaks the guilty camel’s back.

David’s lesson hurt, but it was valuable: trust yourself and trust your gut feeling about people. Humans are pretty good about picking up each other’s tells. A guilty consciousness is no exception.

But you know what? I actually love the fact that guilty people are so predictable — to me, it’s a sign of a functional moral compass that we all have.

There are better things to have in common with each other, yes, but it gives me hope that nobody is truly irredeemable: a guilty conscience is a sign of eventual improvement. We all go astray sometimes, but we all react in such obvious and predictable ways to our guilty feelings. We messed up, and we use that as feedback for behavior moving forward.

How American Life Became Unlivable

Why the Young Want to Leave, the Middle-Aged are Broke, and the Old are Giving Up
by umair haque

See the headlines above? What story do they tell you? Here’s the story they should tell you: inequality in America has grown to immense, grotesque proportions. Such immense proportions that American life is becoming unlivable. From the constant violence, to the fanaticism, to the greed, America is teaching the world what it means to be a society of people in despair, anger, and numbness.

Over the last few years, many, maybe most, young people I know are making plans — or at least have dreams — to leave the USA. To touch down on shores richer with possibility. Like all great trends, that one’s a sign. American life has become unlivable. Why? And how?

Think about it from the end of a life — not the beginning. There’s a new boom amongst retirees. Bankruptcy. Basic costs of life — healthcare, food, and the like — have eaten up so much of their income, many are simply declaring themselves broke. How terrible. The average American dies in debt — at least $62,000 of it. And yet if old people are going broke because they can’t afford to eat, sleep, and go to the doctor, basically — what about young people, whose future is becoming those old people? Would you want to grow old in a society where you’d have to declare bankruptcy at 70? What would you even do then? Doesn’t that frighten you a little?

So how did America get to this point? What happens in between the beginning and the end of a life — in the middle? People have to make ends meet. But in American, they can’t. Not anymore. Life itself has become a wretched, desperate affair. Do you think I exaggerate? How do you feel most days? Happy — or anxious, frightened, and worried? How did you get there?

Americans think of “hyperinflation” as a thing that affect banana republics — poorly governed countries, Venezuela, little African barely-states. But the truth is that hyperinflation has wrecked American life, devastated its middle class, destroyed the prospects of its young, and made life unlivable. How so?

Healthcare costs have risen by two thousand percent. The price of education has gone up by 1000%. Food, 300%. Rent and house prices, 400%. Childcare, 500%. You can add to that list as you see fit. I call it “eudaimonic hyperinflation” — TVs get cheaper, but the price of the basic stuff of a good life rockets upwards beyond the edges of the solar system, way beyond the point of sanity, let alone reason. See the trend? Eye-popping, jaw-dropping, insane increases — for the basic stuff of life.

It can’t be justified in any real economic sense. There’s no good reason that healthcare should cost 2000% more than just a decades ago. A multitude of plagues, requiring everyone to be bedridden half their lives, didn’t strike. There’s no inherent reason education should cost a thousand percent more. Universities have been around a millennium. So what happened?

At the same time, average incomes haven’t risen for decades. They’ve flatlined. Americans aren’t earning any more now than they were in the 70s. Those two things aren’t a coincidence. Americans aren’t making more, but they’re spending thousands of percent more on the basics of life, because that is what predatory capitalism does. It might be the best definition of predatory capitalism of all — I won’t pay you a penny more, but I’ll squeeze you for hundreds of thousands of dollars you don’t have. Predatory capitalism made American life unlivable.

So what happens when insane, thousand percent increases for the basics of life meet incomes which haven’t risen in decades?

A whole nation goes broke. The result is a nation in which 80% of people live paycheck to paycheck. Millions live in a new kind of poverty–precarity. Once the stuff of Marxist theory — now a grim reality. Life is a daily exercise of fending off bill collectors, paying off crushing debts, trying to desperately just eke out enough to live this month. The vast majority of Americans live right at the razor’s edge of ruin. They are perpetually one illness, emergency, or expense away from disaster — homelessness, bankruptcy, eviction, genuine ruin. And that is because eudaimonic hyperinflation, for the basics of life, wrecked their chances at a decent life, on an average income.

Now, it’s easy to take a Stoic stance. “So what! They should suck it up! Nobody needs to be a millionaire!” That’s exactly the point. Today, in America, if you want to live like a European, you need millions — thousands won’t cover much at all. Want good healthcare? Decent food? Good education? A nice place to live? All those things don’t just cost what average people can easily afford anymore — and save, invest, and retire. They cost hundreds of thousands — and together, more. Lest you think I exaggerate, just giving birth to a single child costs $20K. So what about a family? A home? Retirement? A pension? How would you begin to have these things? An average income won’t provide them. Even an above average income barely gets you there. Hence, millennials who can’t afford them, are simply going without them — homes, relationships, families, kids.

You need to win the economic lottery — become Jack or Elon or Bill. A decent life in America is completely out of reach not just for the “average person,” but for a full 80% of people. And that’s because eudaimonic hyperinflation — stomach-churning, panic-attack inducing, thousand percent increases for the basics of life — means a whole nation has effectively gone broke.

What’s a life like that like, emotionally, culturally, personally? Americans, I think, being Stoics, don’t discuss it enough. So consider the tremendous, immense, unbearable, crushing pressure of it all. You don’t know if, this month, next month, every month, you can afford it — just the basics. Not a vacation home, not a sports car, not idle luxury. Just healthcare, education for your kids, a pension, transportation. A smile on your kids’ faces. Just a decent life. Such a life is full of profound, existential anxiety, dread, fear. The deepest kinds. Of death, of ruin, of catastrophe. Sleepless nights, tossing and turning — how can I possibly pay for all this? But what happens to my family if I don’t? — turn into days of full-blown heart-stopping panic, probably followed by desperate, numbing escapism. Does that sound a little bit like American life now? Maybe even yours?

But those days never end. They just roll on and on — even in your old age. It never gets better. Such people, I’d guess, feel devalued, bruised and battered, genuinely traumatized. A loss of faith, in themselves, in their society, in their worlds, ensues. No — it’s not just you, if you think that. It’s 80% of Americans who must feel such a sense of terrible dread, lurching anxiety, pervasive fear. But do you think that such a society can hang together?

That deficit of a good life affects three groups most. The young — who, growing old in such a society, face decades of frustration and strife. Minorities, who are excluded from opportunities disproportionately to begin with. And the poor — who are simply abandoned, quite literally left to die on the streets.

So young people — especially those who find themselves within these three groups — are dreaming of leaving now. Planning to leave, if they have time, money, connections. Some have already gone to Europe, where college is free. Why would they stay? Who wants to grow old in a society where the basics of life — which you need more of, not less of, as you age — are already unaffordable when you’re young? So America finds itself in the place many collapsing nations have been. Life is unlivable — and so those who can leave, do.

A society shouldn’t be a place where a decent life is just for Jack or Elon or Bill. If it is, it grows infirm, feeble, unhealthy. People turn to authoritarians. Democacy destabilizes. Extremism rises. Superstition and conspiracy come to rule the day. People give up on their own society — because it has failed to nourish them. And the young flee for their lives. And while that’s an old story, I find it a tragic one, too.

Capitalism. Not the mom-and-pop kind, which keeps cities vibrant, and people buzzing. The predatory kind. Paralleling the trend in massive inflation, industry after industry has concentrated. Gigantic, titanic monopolies now rule the lives of Americans. But they are more interested in what mega-capitalism is designed to do: eke out higher profits, quarter after quarter — without ever raising wages or incomes. They’ve done so, with spectacular success — “capital’s share of income,” i.e. profits, have never been higher in history. Bang! A nation that’s now effectively so poor, the young are beginning to flee in despair.

Predatory capitalism preyed on people to the point that a nation went broke — instead of allowing them to live genuinely decent lives. Some turned to extremists, some to bellowing authoritarians, some to superstition, some to religion — and some turned, maybe wisest of all, simply to more fertile shores. And that’s how America became unlivable.

Umair – October 2021