I wonder how near the United States is to a revolution. No one ever sees revolutions coming. They just happen. It's like spontaneous combustion. One day people are merely disgruntled and the next they are gathering in the streets. I see several ways a revolution could happen in the United States in the near future.

I have a bet with a Republican friend about the outcome of the Presidential election. He predicts that Romney will win the election and President Obama will find a legal pretense to stay in office, effectively becoming a Putin-like dictator.

Is that impossible? All it would take is for the exit polls to show Romney winning while the official vote count goes President Obama's way. That would create a plausible-enough conspiracy theory to mobilize the well-armed segment of the population. It won't matter if the cause of the discrepancy is that the exit polls are wrong, or perhaps only the FOX News exit polls are wrong. Half of the population will believe something fishy happened with the vote tabulation. The streets will be filled with gun-toting conservatives demanding the President's resignation. That could happen.

Another way that President Obama could lose the election and retain power is if the country is in an unprecedented military or economic crisis at the end of this year and a leadership transition would be a mortal risk. I could see that happening if banks collapse, there's a huge natural disaster, or a war with Iran escalates out of control. That could happen.

Another risk of revolution is that Romney gets elected and stacks the Supreme Court with conservatives who subsequently rule abortion to be unconstitutional. That would trigger a revolt the next day. That could happen.

Another path to revolution - and the one I think most likely - is that the approval rating for Congress will sink so low that confidence in the system will simply drift below the minimum level necessary for a republic to function. That could happen if the budget problems aren't solved and our economic hole becomes bottomless. If a quarter of the population stopped filing federal income taxes out of principle, the toxic effect would make the government collapse like a fat man with clogged arteries. There wouldn't be enough jail cells for all of the conscientious objectors. That could happen.

A straight-forward economic meltdown could bring down the government. Liberals would blame the government for spending all the money on wars while under-taxing the rich. Conservatives would blame the government for giving away all of their hard-earned money to the lazy poor. If the financial system breaks down entirely, and both Republicans and Democrats see it as the government's fault, citizens will take to the streets. That could happen.

The most boring scenario for revolution is that the federal government becomes so bloated, useless, and constipated that it simply ceases to do anything, good or bad. No laws are passed, no judges are ratified, and no budgets are approved. Everything just stops. In that scenario the government would be committing a sort of Congress-assisted suicide. Citizens would just wake up one day and realize their government had evolved from ineffective to non-existent. That could happen.

There's also the "spark" scenario for revolution. That happens when some high-profile injustice is in the headlines and the public starts seeing it as a symbol of the government's larger evil. That could happen.

Given all of the risks of revolution, it would be prudent to designate an Emergency Backup Leader (EBL). If the country gets to the point where its elected leaders are deposed, ignored, or thoroughly discredited, we need a charismatic figure to step in and keep some sort of order until the system is repaired. I hereby nominate myself for EBL.

I'm under no illusion that I'd be a good leader. I'm sure you'd agree on that point. But the thing that matters most in a crisis is not so much the talent of the leader as the fact that one exists at all. The first step in reclaiming order out of chaos is to know who is in charge. If no one else volunteers for the job - which seems likely - I'm all you have.

I'm assuming that if all Hell breaks loose and the country is falling apart, there might be failures in our communications systems. The country won't have the time or the capacity to find a more capable temporary leader than me. I'll be the default choice simply because no one else volunteered and the country would be too fractious and disorganized to come up with someone more acceptable.

I do have a few advantages as an Emergency Backup Leader. For starters, I'm neither a liberal nor a conservative; I go where the data leads me, with a bias for what has worked in the past. I'm pro-religion, because the data says it makes people happy and healthy, but I'm not a believer, so I won't be discriminating against your faith. One big risk in a crisis is that a crazy religious leader emerges. That wouldn't be me.

On day one of my emergency leadership I will suspend all laws regarding drugs, prostitution, and gun ownership. I'd make it legal for anyone to operate a business without a permit. In a financial crisis the public will need to make money any way it can, and defend itself any way it needs to. Law enforcement will be busy enough without chasing the small stuff. Once the economy is restored we can have adult conversations about what needs to be regulated.

If the federal government falls apart, state governments are likely to be intact. As your future and potential EBL I pre-authorize governors in each state to ignore any federal laws and run things as if they are their own kingdoms at least until the federal government becomes functional.

I also pre-authorize the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make his own military decisions until an elected civilian leader is back in charge. That should keep the Canadians from launching a sneak attack.

I haven't worked out the rest of my emergency leadership plan yet, so if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments. Assume that in a crisis situation there won't be effective communication within the country, either for technical reasons or because there is too much "noise" in the political atmosphere. So your suggestions should be the sort where people know in advance what the drill is, the same way that occupants of a building learn where the emergency exits are before the emergency.

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Aug 23, 2012
Didn't we go through this same conspiracy crap after Bush? People were claiming that somehow, if Obama were elected, Bush/Cheney would refuse to accept the outcome and remain in power. They would claim they had to because of the war, etc.

["Stop worrying. They always talk about revolution but they never do it." - Gaddafi
"They're just making noise. It will pass." - Mubarak
"What are they going to do, stage a rebellion? - Assad
"One more tax won't make any difference." - King George III

Okay, I made up those quotes. My point is that you never see it coming. - Scott]
Aug 23, 2012
I think Obama will win (not that it really matters). I think our federal budget problems (particularly our national debt) will necessitate quantitative easing. I think that will lead to a stock market problem and layoffs, might affect our credit rating, and otherwise result in another depression dip.

I think high-profile shootings will increase, as people feel increasingly out-of-control. I think racial events and resulting tensions will increase. Since the recession has hit the black community harder than others, I think they'll rattle some sabers about taking equality and justice into their own hands. I think other people (whites, Hispanics) will stockpile arms for fear that they're serious.

Not sure how serious the "revolution" will be... but I think we'll have some severe economic distress, with military intervention on the streets, when our money becomes worthless and we have to restructure government finance and issue new currency.
Aug 23, 2012
If the Canadians invade again, it will end up just like last time....

"Sorry about burning your White House to the ground, eh."
Aug 23, 2012
"Dan Rather was once asked by Bernie Goldberg what the political leaning of the New York Times was. Mr. Rather answered, "Middle of the road." See where I'm going with this? You surround yourself with people who think like you, and then, because they agree with you, you convince yourself that you're middle of the road. You're not. "

Phantom has a good point here about the relativity of political positions. I mean if you define middle of the road shortly to the left of hitler (he was a big left wing guy if you know his popular ideals) or shortly to the right of rush limbaugh, in one scenario hitler is mostly a moderate and in the other, so is Limbaugh. In reality, neither is the case.

[There's no left, right, or middle if all you are doing is making decisions based on the available data. I have a lot of blue shirts but it doesn't make me more of a Crip than a Blood. -- Scott]
Aug 23, 2012
Wouldn't the EBL be either the secretary of state (Hillary Clinton), CJOTUS (John "the Traitor" Roberts), or the speaker of the house (John Boehner) if we couldn't trust the election? I forget the official order and I'm too lazy to google it.

Anyways you forgot another scenerio for the revolution: the red states sue the blue states to be divorced from the US or vice versa. I mean if your political beliefs state that if the other party wins, the US is doomed, why would you want your state to stay in the US? Get out and reform under a "better" government according to your beliefs. If you are on the other side, not having to worry about a calafornia or texas to screw up the votes in the house would be a good thing and you'd encourage the opposite states to get out.

PS. Obama hasn't been able to get a budget passed in 3 years thanks to the senate.


(yes I know they are right leaning, but it's the first link I found stating the timeframe)
Aug 23, 2012
Most of these suggestions are already being used in Africa ?
Is that were you got the Idea?
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 23, 2012
"If no one else volunteers for the job - which seems likely - I'm all you have."
Don't worry, there'll be plenty of volunteers.

"On day one of my emergency leadership I will suspend all laws regarding drugs, prostitution, and gun ownership. I'd make it legal for anyone to operate a business without a permit. In a financial crisis the public will need to make money any way it can, and defend itself any way it needs to. Law enforcement will be busy enough without chasing the small stuff. Once the economy is restored we can have adult conversations about what needs to be regulated."
So, the police won't keep guns under control but is supposed to protect the banks, stock exchanges, their data centers and other stuff from people armed with grenade launchers and whatnot.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 23, 2012
When a company isn't doing well, it starts to think about how to prune the deadwood. What parts of the company are no longer profitable?

If you become the EBL, I think it would be a really good time to think about what parts of the country are no longer a good investment and let them go their own way. Mississippi, I'm looking at you.
Aug 23, 2012
I agree with a lot of what you say, as you are generally rational and thoughtful. But I cannot understand why you think unrestricted gun ownership is a good thing?

From Wikipeadia:Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that, on average, one child died every three days in accidental gun-related incidents in the United States from 2000 to 2005. You can argue that people should be able to defend themselves but you are more likely to get shot if you are carrying a gun.

Even when things are quiet and settled, it is a BAD thing. In the revolution you are imagining, owning a gun would be really dangerous.
Aug 23, 2012
You're absolutely correct about "the national debt disappearing overnight." But it won't be because we went bankrupt. We can't go bankrupt unless we choose to.
The President could pay off all debt tomorrow. He doesn't need to print money. He just needs somebody to push a few keys. (There would be massive inflation, but that's not the point here.)

Money to the Federal government is like points to a scoreboard operator. The scoreboard operator doesn't care if both teams run back EVERY kickoff for a touchdown. He doesn't have to borrow points from the stadium in China or from his grandkids' future. It's okay that the final score is 438-437. There will be plenty of points for next week's game.

To the coaches, players, fans, and bookies, points are VERY critical. (In my analogy, these groups represent state and local governments, businesses, regular people.)

Social Security, Medicare, and the U.S. Navy is not going to go bankrupt. The money that funds them is, well, imaginary.

If you pay your taxes in cash, the taxman makes a few keystrokes and then he shreds the bills. Read Warren Mosler's Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds. It's free on his website.
Aug 22, 2012
"I also pre-authorize the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff... " Why would there be a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? One plausible outcome of a government collapse is that we split into 50 separate nations, one per state, just as what happened to the Soviet Union. That's a bit hard to picture, as some sort of national union would quickly sprout up from the ashes.

As for the idea of Romney packing the court and outlawing abortion, I'd simply point out that even without Roe vs. Wade, abortion would still be legal in the majority of the states. It might be a slightly longer drive for some women, but won't largely change things. Just playin' devil's advocate.
Aug 22, 2012
It's not that unheard of for us to elect a new President, but end up with the incumbent still in power - that's exactly what happened in 2004.
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 22, 2012
One interesting point is that there isn't even a debate over the economic issues. Insofar as it can be taken seriously at all, that specter of conservative propaganda, "the deficit", represents nothing more than a conflation of three separate themes: self-sufficiency of the nation, moral obligation to other countries, and how much the government has borrowed from athedomestic private sector which is taxable and accountable to the public. What they have is a stink bomb, not an argument.

And then there's the 32 trillion tax haven piggy bank that's recently been uncovered. Larger than the economies of Japan and the USA combined, and it's being siphoned out of the world economy by the corporate crony elite. It's enough to solve the world economic crisis with room to spare. Nothing is being done because the sci-fi authors were right and we're heading toward a corporate-controlled dystopia. In fact, it's already here.

Wealth doesn't trickle down, it floods offshore.
Aug 22, 2012
I was about to describe what an evil genius Rupert Murdoch is, and how Fox News is so unfair, but now I see the New York Times reporting that News Corp has contributed more money to the Obama campaign than Mitt Romney.

So nevermind.

+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 22, 2012
You had me right up to the point where you made Rick Perry a king...
Aug 22, 2012
Revolutions tend to happen when everybody hates the government for mostly the same reasons. In the USA, half the people hate it for being too conservative and the other half for it being too liberal. Therefore, I believe civil war would be more likely than revolution, or it would be the quick phase two of any revolution.

Nevertheless, your thought experiment of the states acting autonmously with no federal government actually got me very excited. Then, California could go quasi-solcialist, Texas could go the other way, and every other state could choose something within that spectrum. Voila, no need for revolution, no more stuggle to get two opposed sides to agree. Everyone moves to the state that most fits their needs. Maybe leave the actual defense part of the Defense Department intact and have states contribute to that.

Perhaps I am naive, but that sounds a lot more attractive to me than what we have now.
Aug 22, 2012
I love the way you use your hypnosis skills to try to make and un-makeable point. You start with something outrageous, like "Is it possible that Obama could somehow stay in power if he lost the election? My Republican friend says YES!!!!" And then you follow that with "All it would take. . ."

All it would take?

Then, you go on to put a bunch of ridiculous scenarios out there, implying that it isn't if they could happen, but actually just a question of which one is destined to happen. Pick one, you seem to say, because it will be one of these! You can count on it!

Come on, Scott. You know history a lot better than you let on. You know we've had presidential elections during war before. You know that the exit polls in Bush vs. Kerry showed Kerry winning by almost 60%, yet he lost, and there were no riots in the streets. You know that the least likely group to have armed riots in the streets over a presidential outcome is conservatives, who support the Constitution far more than liberals do. You then come up with the very unoriginal idea that people failing to file taxes would bring the government financially to its knees, blithely ignoring that little thing called "withholding," which means the government already has most of our money, whether you file a tax return or not. And that's even disregarding government borrowing, which has disconnected spending from revenue intake.

In short, all you scenarios are just this side of ridiculous; yet without your implication, your punch line (I will be your benevolent dictator after the poop hits the fan) wouldn't work. The point for those of you in Rio Linda is that there is a universe of difference between "that could very well happen" and "there is not even a remote possibility that it WILL happen." But Scott likes to conflate the two. Caveat emptor.

But going along with the joke:

The federal government isn't going to collapse. The Constitution won't allow for that to happen. We can and probably will go bankrupt, but all that really means is that there will be a lot of p i s s e d off Chinese, and the national debt will disappear overnight. We still have a great big military and a lot of nukes, so it's doubtful that any other country will attempt to enforce their legal rights to recover something through bankruptcy courts.

So, voila, the Republic is saved, and there's no need for an EBL. Even if there was, I doubt the powers that be would sit around and say, "Well, we've got Senator so-and-so, and Secretary of State Whomever, . . . oh, wait, how about that cartoonist that writes the Dilbert strip? Yeah, that's the one we want!"

Your qualifications amount to roughly this: "I have no qualifications." Boy, I'd vote for that. Oh, wait, you haven't voted, ever. I guess that's another one of your dis-qualifications.

But the funniest thing you said (you are a humorist, after all) was this: "I'm neither a liberal nor a conservative. . ." OK, folks. If you believe that one, I have a beautiful bridge to sell you that stretches from San Francisco to Marin. And then, some waterfront property in Arizona, for when the Big One hits and California slips into the ocean.

Scott, I'm sorry to break it to you, but you are a liberal. The fact that you don't see yourself as a liberal shows how unqualified (again) you are to be any kind of a leader. All right, maybe I'm wrong about that. It could be said that many of our leaders are delusional, but go with me here.

Dan Rather was once asked by Bernie Goldberg what the political leaning of the New York Times was. Mr. Rather answered, "Middle of the road." See where I'm going with this? You surround yourself with people who think like you, and then, because they agree with you, you convince yourself that you're middle of the road. You're not.

Saying you're middle of the road does not make you that. Saying you'd be a wonderful ly unbiased leader? Ditto. So for those of you who are afraid that Scott's scenarios are even remotely possible, breathe a sigh of relief. For those of you who are even more worried that Scott would have even a ghost's prayer of becoming a leader of anything more far-reaching than the Cartoonists' Union (if there even is such a thing), rest assured that the Union will stay intact, even without Scott's benign dictatorship. Scott is a great cartoonist, and a visionary. All those in favor of him sticking to that, say aye!
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 22, 2012
"Who is John Galt?" should be more appropriately re-phrased "Where is John Galt?'"

I might argue that if the top 10% of the population were to boycott paying taxes (not 25%) you would find the government basically turning off the lights. Should that happen, the rats would depart the sinking ship and the remaining population could begin bailing . . .

Invaders would initially come from Mexico, but eventually turn back. Living in the dark might not be so bad.

But then, I wax negative. Oh, so did you!
Aug 22, 2012
Now you are just being silly! Obama is obviously not going to try to take over the universe if he gets voted out. Some people are just a tad too paranoid. On the plus side, I hope he bet a lot of money on that prediction so you can rake it in later. If someone were popular enough to be an OBL, then he would probably already be in politics and run the normal way. Otherwise they would be a HOllywood star and I don't think that would go over too well either.

As for election disagreements, we've had em before. We lived through the hanging chads, we can live through another. Whatever side loses will just use it as an excuse for everything that is wrong in their life. I have come to suspect that is the real issue behind political arguing. People want someone to blame their problems on. Russia is kind of collapsed now. I had guessed the next big enemies would be China but looks like they went with the Muslims instead. Still, the Muslim countries are kinda far away so it's nice to have someone to blame right here. Can't get a job? Home Owners Association giving you trouble? It's all Bush/Obama/NATO/NaziRepublicans/Liberals/GayPeople/immigrants stealing our jobs (yeah like I'd want a job picking strawberries or doing dishes!), ruining marriage (as if someone else could ruin YOUR marriage even if they never met you), destroying the economy, etc. It's always someone else's fault, that is the rule, and that someone else is always someone that is different than you in some major. I met this one guy who was convinced coastal beach front housing in California was expensive because of all the welfare mongering immigrants 'stealing' (ie buying) all the houses (apparently they were doing this using their welfare checks?). He would not consider that maybe really really nice beachfront property tends to cost a lot no matter what!

The real danger of revolution is classically when more and more starving desparate people who can't find a job accumulate. Hunger and resentment breed discontent and riots. Build that high enough and you will likely have more and more problems. Once it gets bad enough, then the criminal element also steps in to take advantage. I do actually think we have been slowly heading in that direction in recent years, especially with the bad economy. But I think we still have quite a ways to go before total collapse and still time to stem the flow, assuming no monster disasters occur to hasten it.
Aug 22, 2012
RE: apocalypse planning, I've never understood why so much importance seems to be placed on continuing government, especially Congress. This plan seems to follow that trend.

I will admit that the most boring scenario where "...Citizens would just wake up one day and realize their government had evolved from ineffective to non-existent. ". appeals to me immensely. But I don't think ensuring that people who know nothing accept how to make new laws & regulations is the first thing we need.

I remember in some of the FL hurricanes, the authorities actually thwarted individuals from helping, slowing down the recovery process incredibly. And not much needs to be said about Katrina, where the government (and it was not all on GWB, but local, state & federal) incompetence and inflexibility made a terrible situation, much, much worse.

So, if the Joint Chiefs want to help that's fine, but we'd be better off not depending on them to be "in charge" or we'll be doomed more than we were already.
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