4 Litmus Tests
Compromise is Unacceptable
Blue Empire is powerful and entrenched. It must be dislodged. I have discussed the importance of alternative institutions before, but we cannot also abandon current institutions. We must work to take them over. There are certain policy positions that must be held by anyone worthy of support. If someone is unwilling to hold these positions, they are either too naive or too selfish to organize against Blue Empire. They are no ally.
1. Regulation of Big Tech
Perhaps the first and most obvious litmus test for deciding who to back is their ability to regulate Big Tech. Big Tech is likely the strongest element of Blue Empire (although both the NGO universe if we include lobbying, and academia may give it a run for its money). If we wish to dismantle Blue Empire, we must work to dismantle its power. It is clear how that must be done: We must break Big Tech’s ability to re-define and impose a narrative. After the Internet presented a major opportunity to obliterate narrative hegemony of mass media companies, Big Tech clamped down hard. Censorship prevails.
There are a variety of proposals to stop this.
I for one advocate for something along the lines of stripping Section 230 protections *and* defining broadband providers as Common Carriers alongside net neutrality protections. HOWEVER, there are legal intricacies that need to be handled. We want to enforce a duty to deal, NOT a duty of care (or at the very least, an extremely well-defined and narrow duty of care - but even that is a slippery slope).
More data privacy protections are important. The Do Not Track Act, something akin to the EU’s GDPR, and requiring universal and easy to access and understand opt-ins would go a long way. Restricting content moderation and passing something like the DETOUR Act to prohibit online services from manipulating users would be good as well.
Someone unwilling to truly reign in Big Tech is in service of Blue Empire, either wittingly or not. They are a witting corporate bootlicker or a naive libertarian. Primary them. Oppose them. They are not a lesser evil. There are an enemy.
2. Restrictions on Campaign Donations
Campaign Donations disproportionately come from the Elite, hence they support Rainbow Neoliberalism
In the absence of Citizens United being overturned (which should absolutely be a litmus test for any Supreme Court nominee), other politicians must favor a set of litmus tests:
Ban any out-of-state (or out-of-district, for the House) donations
It is absolutely absurd that people from NYC and San Francisco can donate to help a candidate in Georgia or Illinois. That is not how our representative system should work. This should also be further strengthened by locking out special interests. If a special interest wants to influence a state/district race, it can only use money on advertising and campaigning that came from that state/district. This will require lots of edge cases, but I hope the spirit is clear.
Supporting a variant of the For the People Act
The Act wants to amend the constitution to overturn Citizens United (good luck), but other facets of it are good (disclosing dark money ads, ban on foreign purchases of ads, more public financing/matching for *small* donors).
The Act could also spark a return to a Court deciding to overturn Citizens United, which would be a win for sure.
3. Reform of Pendleton Act
The Pendleton Act was designed to end the Spoils System (wherein new presidents would fire huge swaths of the administrative bureaucracy and fill them with supporters). While good that the Spoils System ended, it is clear the administrative bureaucracy is utterly dysfunctional (anyone who has visited a DMV will know this first hand, and this election was yet another demonstration).
There needs to be serious reform of this act. It is clear that the bureaucracy has been captured by Blue Empire
If we want to cut the administrative bureaucracy down to size, starting with the Pendleton Act is a good place to start. It needs to be easier to fire people, both for underperformance (*glares at DMV*) and for political malfeasance.
4. Restrictions on Lobbying, the NGO Universe, and post-Electoral Work
Lobbying furthers the interests of the rich, who are by and large Rainbow Neoliberals. The elite are the opposition.
They cannot be trusted, and they should be constrained to as great a degree as possible in terms of being able to influence politicians. This is a 2 part plan.
Limit the influence of lobbyists
This actually requires 2 points.
First, we need to limit lobbyist donations and stop lobbyist-sponsored fundraising (especially when the politician is taking money from special interests they regulate). There is model legislation in the works here, notably the American Anti-Corruption Act.
Second, we need to eliminate the demand for lobbyists. That means much better funding for Congress. I know, I know, giving more money to politicians is a big no-go. But it’s either we fund Congress with taxpayer dollars (and have some degree of recall control if/when needed) or we let the elite fund Congress with their private dollars and continue to let them slowly f*ck us into oblivion.
Simply banning lobbying without funding Congress is banning a product without eliminating the demand for the product. I have discussed previously why this fails. We must eliminate the demand for the product. Fund Congress with taxpayer dollars (or just nationalize the Fed and print money and only pay taxes when inflation goes up but thats a whole different rabbit hole I’ll dive into another time).
Stopping “The Revolving Door” is Necessary but Insufficient.
After leaving government, a large number of politicians take cushy private-sector jobs that afford them huge pay raises.
Interestingly, AOC and Ted Cruz both supported a bill to prohibit this. And yes, that is a real sentence.
The issue of course is that this does not go far enough. Many politicians take non-lobbyist jobs and this number will simply spike to 100% after a ban on politicians in lobbying. So there are two things that must be done:
First, there must be an absolute ban on working for any company that you previously regulated or otherwise regularly engaged with. No conflicts of interest will be allowed.
Second: For former politicians, there should be a 50% special tax on all remaining income after paying all regular taxes. This special tax is irrespective of the source of income (wages, capital gains, etc.).
Taleb puts it better than I could. These people’s success comes directly from being elected. It therefore belongs to the people. You could return that tax money directly to people in that district/state (or country, with a former president), if you wanted. There are options here.
Lobbying cannot be banned as petitioning the government is a constitutionally protected right. That is fine. But there needs to be far stricter regulations on lobbying and other direct and indirect ways to use your electoral position as a way to make money later. Any politician who refuses to accept this is not worth trusting at all.
These are litmus tests that MUST be held by any legislative or presidential candidate or judicial nominee. There is no “lesser evil” here. There is only the faction willing to stand up to Blue Empire, and the faction opposed to it.