Automate your vote

When democracy is a nonviolent civil war, a ballot is a nonviolent bullet.

[This is a shorter, more accessible, less intellectual version of the political amplifier. If you think this kind of shit is cool—why not step up to our pro tier, and subscribe now?]

In the future, all elections will be won by automated voting. Automated voting is very legal and very cool. It works like this:

Right now, when you vote, you go to your polling place and register your opinion on all manner of persons and (in California) subjects. You actually have no opinion at all on most of these persons or subjects. But on most of them you can guess. On any of them, though, anyone clever who can get your ear can probably change your mind. You don’t like to think this is so, and maybe you are right—for you. Statistically, you are wrong.

In the future, as an automated voter, you won’t even think about voting. You won’t even have an ear to bend—making you immune to clever voices, like Ulysses to the Sirens. Instead, you’ll install a autovoting app on your phone.

Age of the digital gang

When it’s time to vote, your app sends a notification that tells you where to go. When you arrive, your app generates your sample ballot, and you autovote—you mechanically copy your phone screen into the voting machine. You become a human voting-robot. You’re turning democracy into data entry.

Your phone knows you’re at the polls—and can even verify your vote, local regulations permitting, with a picture of the ballot or screen. The app knows exactly how many votes it will generate for what candidates. The whole election is fully industrialized.

Once automated voting becomes routine, certified voting apps might send everyone’s votes directly to official servers—like Netflix no longer mailing DVDs. Until then, you have to suck it up and pretend to be a robot. It’s actually kind of fun. You can even make silly robot noises if you like.

But what is on the generated ballot? You decide—by joining a vote gang.

(You can use any word for these groups—a more traditional American term is caucus. But “caucus” sounds like a disease or a sex toy. And “gang” was good enough for the real winner of 2020—from an economic-policy standpoint, anyway.)

Your gang generates your default ballot. If you really have serious political opinions of your own (lol what century is it), you can edit this ballot.

To be exact: if you have really studied up on your local dogcatcher race, and have strong personal views about either or both candidates’ animal-handling skills, you can vote any or all of these opinions—into the app, which modifies your sample ballot accordingly. Then you autovote as usual. Once an autovoter, always an autovoter.

Otherwise, you delegate all your political power to your gang. You reduce all political decisions to one decision: what gang to join. So long as you feel you are in the right gang, you have no other political homework. You don’t even need to read the paper.

A vote gang can be of any scale. It can be just you. It can be you and your spouse. It can be you plus 100 million other people. A gang can even be a faction of another gang—which means it starts with the other gang’s default ballot, then tweaks it a little.

But bigger gangs are more powerful, even pound for pound—creating an incentive for gangs to combine. While vote gangs are orthogonal to the traditional party system, as they grow and merge they will eventually become its functional replacement.

Why you should join a gang (regular brain)

However politically conscious or conscientious you are, gang voting solves a basic user problem, for normal voters, about the voting experience today.

Voting today is an unpleasant user experience because, every time you vote, there are an enormous number of decisions on the ballot that you know nothing about. Whether you guess or abstain, you feel like a bad person who has not done their civic duty. This is correct! You are a bad person who has not done your civic duty.

Here you are making hard democratic choices about animal control—and not only do you not know anything about animal control, you care nothing about animal control. But nor do you want to be stalked and eaten by animals! So you, sir, are—a free rider. That’s political science for a goddamned parasite—a human tick.

And do you know enough, have you thought enough, about even the elections you do care about? You are guilty—guilty as sin. This country is obviously going to hell. And all because of people like you—people who just don’t care. Yes, you should feel bad… this is what, in the startup racket, we call a pain point.

Ganging up gives you a conscientious way to handle the decisions on every ballot for which you know too little to vote. Your gang is the group of people you trust to think conscientiously about politics; however much you can delegate to its knowledge and attention, you can conscientiously shed the cost of your knowledge and attention.

You get all the convenience of not caring about politics, without being a bad person. Lots of people are happy to vote a straight party ticket—which is all a vote gang is.

You can also see a gang as a specialized media channel that pushes voting suggestions. Newspapers, unions, churches, etc, have been printing sample ballots since Jesus was a little boy—we are just digitizing this noble old American tradition.

No, there is certainly nothing criminal or subversive about this kind of a “gang.” Since its goal is to empower and reinvigorate the American spirit of civic engagement, gang voting is almost literally the opposite of terrorism. Just in case you were wondering.

Why you should join a gang (galaxy brain)

Why do you vote, anyway? In increasing order of collective rationality, here are three reasons to vote: (a) to feel powerful; (b) for some powerful good; (c) to become powerful. You should join a gang because it’s the way to make your vote as powerful as possible.

All three reasons to vote are about power, because a vote is a slice of power. Since each slice is tiny, voting does not make sense individually, only collectively. Only groups of people can be powerful. You vote for what you think is your group’s best choice; so, when you vote, you must think not as yourself, but on behalf of your group.

It is dumb to vote to feel powerful—unless your aesthetics of power are so refined that the only way you can feel powerful is to be powerful. And few among us are this cool.

The other way to feel powerful—the fundamentally onanistic way, for power is so close to sex in the topography of human desire—is what Finkenborg called mimetic kingship. You practice mimetic kingship every time you use the word we—as in, “we should ban skateboarding and drinking from open containers”—when you mean, of course, “the government should ban.” The great Swede dubbed this verb tense the quasi-royal we.

Mimetic kingship is onanistic because it invites your political brain to inhabit a role, that of king, which you do not hold and which does not in fact exist. Politics is the art of the possible, and nine-tenths of the things people typically chatter about, when they speak in the quasi-royal we, are manifestly impossible under the present configuration of power—which these voices have no idea of, nor interest in, nor interest in changing. As Bronze Age Pervert has put it: you are gay.

Your actual job is that of voter—also a position of power, but a very different one. Your job as voter is to act as a member of a collective coalition which gets collective results. Your goal is to use this collective power for the good of all. Much more reasonable!

But still not reasonable. True: power can be used for good. But if power can be used in two ways—(a) for good, or (b) to get more power—(b) is obviously much more reasonable. In the long run, (b) results in much more good. If you were trying to survive on a desert island, which would you rather have—a fish, or a fishing rod? Power is capital.

Therefore, the rational goal of the rational voter is to strengthen his own coalition. This maximizes the voter’s power, which is his own Kantian categorical imperative—assuming, of course, that his coalition is the good guys, and the other guys are bad. Since everyone believes this true of their own coalition, the caveat is unnecessary.

Not only do the words ballot and bullet share a French root, they mean the same thing. The original ballot was a ball dropped in a box to vote; perhaps that very same ball could be dropped in a gun to shoot.

Whether we are fighting with ballots or bullets, the aims simplify as the battle grows. Private and individual bullets are fired for all kinds of reasons. But the more shots are fired, the more their purpose becomes uniform: to win the war. All objectives merge into that single goal of power.

And in any war where one side sees this, and the other does not—woe betide the other. In any war where one side behaves as a disciplined and orderly army, whereas the other is a willful, mindless and chaotic mob—ditto.

Let’s refine this intuition and see why gang voting is more powerful. It’s actually pretty simple.

Coherent light: the power of gang voting

Gang voting works because it turns a flashlight into a laser. The secret of gang power is coherence: the unconditional delegation of power from individual to collective.

Obviously, the power of a gang increases with the size of the gang. Unobviously, its power increases nonlinearly with the size of the gang—so long as the gang is coherent (few members edit their ballots; most members autovote properly). This means the bigger a gang you join, the more powerful (proportionately) your own vote becomes.

There are four stages in the growth of gang power: convenience, influence, dominance and sovereignty. We’ve already covered convenience—which is what such a tool needs to get off the ground.

A vote gang reaches the stage of influence when it is big enough for serious politicians to notice individually. While this threshold might be as low as 1% of the vote or even lower, let’s take an example in which it’s more like 10%.

Suppose a society is organized into gangs by the first letter of everyone’s first name. Two important gangs, naturally, will be the A-B-C gang and the D-E-F gang. These two gangs have the same number of members. But they operate in very different ways.

The D-E-F gang is a low-coherence gang. Its members ignore their sample ballots, or edit them. No one really cares what the gang’s official position is. This gang replicates the behavior of a coalition which does not even have a gang—like all coalitions today.

The A-B-C gang is a high-coherence gang. A week before every election, the gang holds an internal primary—in which every member can vote to decide the gang’s choices. This slate becomes the sample ballot. A-B-C members, having real loyalty and class, besides understanding the Kantian imperative, always autovote and never edit their ballots. Rather, all A-B-C members uniformly vote for the winners of the internal primary.

Suppose you’re a politician, and you have to choose which of these gangs to pander to. Doesn’t the question answer itself? The A-B-C members, by ganging up and showing real gang loyalty, have amplified their own collective power. They have essentially turned themselves into “swing voters.”

To win a solid 10% block of votes, politicians will promise pretty much anything short of the moon. If the A-B-C group has a monarchical, not purely democratic, structure—using a leadership structure, not a primary, to choose its candidates—it is even more powerful, because the A-B-C leaders can actually make deals—and deliver on them.

Consider your Kantian imperative as a member of A-B-C who has reason to believe that some pick of the gang is wrong. You could follow the herd and vote for this bad person, or defect and vote for his good opponent.

Your choice is collectively good in one way (better candidate). But it is collectively bad in another way—because your defection weakens your gang, and your gang is good. In almost all cases, you should vote for the bad candidate anyway—because, as we’ve seen, you do the most good for the world by making your gang as strong as possible.

Obtaining mastery

At 10% of the vote, influence of this kind is the only relationship a gang can hope to have with a politician. As this number climbs, though, the relationship will reverse.

Closer to a majority, the gang is no longer limited to influencing politicians. It can begin selecting politicians—even creating politicians. Here is the period of dominance.

It is especially easy for a gang to win a primary (an official primary), because primaries are low-turnout. Once a politician owes his existence to the gang, he is gang property—he has to assume a gang strong enough to make him can just as easily unmake him.

The gang, therefore, does not limit its activities to elections. Is winning elections the point of winning elections? The gang will also supervise its winning horses in office. Naturally, if for whatever stupid reason they even once disobey gang orders—which will be detailed—they should hardly expect to appear on the slate in the next election. For instance, in a legislature, all the gang’s seats vote in a unified bloc.

The result is that the person in the job does not really matter. You are voting for a bloc. This transition from individual to organizational politics is not historically unusual. In the UK there remain real differences between Labour and Conservative governments, but no one thinks their individual MP matters at all—voters think only in parties.

Gang voting in the US today would not map gangs directly to American “parties” —there is no point in being a “third party”—but, to abstract political science, a big gang is essentially a political party—if an unusually well-organized political party.

Winning general elections, even a small number of unimportant ones, is also useful because it creates literal government jobs for gang leaders. Since the person in the job does not matter, any loyal, deserving, and legally eligible OG may be chosen for any position. This is, again, just how it works in the UK.

Achieving sovereignty

The last stage comes once the gang is so strong that it can take unconditional control of the government. At this point it can establish a one-party state—or rather, one-gang state. It can ban all other gangs, suspend or emasculate elections, and rule indefinitely. The gang has grown into a regime—not at all unlike today’s Chinese Communist Party.

Why would a gang not do this? From any point where it could take full power, its power can only decline. Why should it let its power decline? Our logic on this point has not changed—since your gang is good, increasing its power is good. Since their gang is bad, decreasing its power is good. How can this be called a “double standard?” Nothing could be more consistent; nor is there any natural limit to the logic.

Even once it participates directly in government, even once it absolutely controls the government, enhancing its own power remains the primary Kantian imperative of every gang—which may not be good, but always sees itself as good. Absolute power in the present can only be enhanced in one way: by becoming legitimate and permanent. With such a purpose did the Carolingians, once mere Mayors of the Palace under the Merovingians, then the real powers behind those rois fainéants, then crown themselves.

Of course, the structures ideal for capturing power may not be ideal for exercising it, and still less for retaining it permanently. The gang may become a regime, as is; but more generally, the gang has the power to create a regime. This regime, and the gang that becomes it, may and indeed should be as different as a butterfly and its caterpillar.

Le unified theory of power

I thought about power for a while and came up with a clever formula for it:

E=mc^3

Energy equals mass, times capacity, times commitment, times cohesion.

Energy is the power to create change. Mass is how many people you have. Capacity is how capable these people are—how good they are at doing things. Commitment is how willing they are to do things—voting, putting a sign in the window, donating, suicide bombing, etc. Cohesion is their ability to perform intelligently coordinated actions.

For example, the 75 million Trump voters have low E and little power. While their m is great, their c^3 is lousy. They have low capacity, because they are the lower class. They have low commitment, because apathy is the modern condition. They have low cohesion, because atomization is the modern condition.

Engineering artificial cohesion

Mass and capacity are what they are. The other two variables seem more adjustable. Most schemes for engineering political energy focus on creating artificial commitment. You rile up your people, making them terrified and angry and willing to do whatever.

This works with some people and some strategies. It is obviously incompatible with the modern condition. If anything, a modern political machine should seek to lower its levels of commitment. While the modern world does have unnaturally low levels of commitment, this isn’t something you can fix. High-commitment individuals in the modern world are usually unstable and difficult to control, and sometimes dangerous.

Artificial cohesion is much easier to engineer—because technology can fake it. When we think of high-cohesion structures, we usually think of them as human structures, held together by human bonds of emotional, economic and/or political loyalty. We tend to reach for Ibn Khaldun’s tribal quality of asabiya—that instinctive combination of commitment and cohesion that is so essential to natural human group psychology.

Alas, asabiya (as Ibn Khaldun himself says) is always low in more civilized populations. Natural psychology is the one thing we just don’t have. Best not to rely on it, then—politics is the art of the possible. Remember that by historical standards, you are gay.

But asabiya is a cause; cohesion is an effect. If you can get a large number of people to act in an intelligently coordinated way, it doesn’t matter why. Yes, the normal cause of the effect is impossible; but other processes might still cause the effect.

Preconditions of engineered cohesion

Once, coordinating a large group of people required a high level of both commitment and capacity. Then, the organization had to be done by hand. Now, this is not needed.

In the 21st century, there are two main preconditions for engineering a high level of cohesion at low commitment levels. The first is mere freedom of computing—which, alas, is not doing great. But it’s not dead, neither.

The second is the mere willingness to be coordinated—to become a human vote robot, rather than a political opium-dreamer in the banal verb tense of mimetic kingship. While it is fun to play at being a king, it is also fun to play at being a robot. It could even be described as super gay.

And yet added to this receptive kingdom of pleasure is the knowledge that you are not just feeling powerful—you are becoming powerful. To even the most experienced of aesthetes, tastes hardened by the most baroque and degenerate modern perversities, this subtle, ironic and refined combination may still offer a quiet but sensuous appeal.

Indeed the problem here is not, as with asabiya, that the modern audience is just too sophisticated to think this way. The problem is that it is not yet sophisticated enough. But why skate to where the puck used to be?

A feature, not a product

For the aspiring founders and PMs out there, gang voting is not a complete product description. It feels like a feature, not a product—a feature of a more general social network. You could easily add it to Facebook, but you would have to be Facebook.

Rendering reasonably accurate sample-ballot images for all jurisdictions is itself an enormous pile of work—running easily into 8-figure costs. But the government can print money, so maybe making it easier for citizens to control their government is worth that. But maybe autovoting still works fine if its UI isn’t all that slick. But never understate the power of a slick UI.

If automated voting is a standalone product, it has to be a neutral product that any group of people can, and hopefully do, use in any way and for any reason. Why not? Everyone should be able to supercharge their civic engagement. It’s the American way.

(Just don’t admit your source—two people have the same idea every day, you know. That too is the American way. If you steal my horse, you ought to be hanged. If you steal my ideas, we both win.)

But autovoting seems more like one feature in a broader social network. This could be a politically centered network like Gab or Mastodon, or a geographically centered network like NextDoor or Citizen. But none of these examples seems quite right.

The user experience of political messaging networks so far has been more or less an unimaginative copy of Twitter, which seems like a mistake. In fact, their ideological homogeneity is both the strength and the weakness of these “silos.”

You cannot own the libs in your silo. There are no libs. You cannot punch Nazis in your silo. There are no Nazis. You can gesture performatively at an invisible enemy tribe across the river—but this gets old fast. You can fedpost—but who needs that?

The 21st-century political network

For the purpose of this section, let’s assume each network is its own gang and its own app—like Gab or Parler, the right-wing Twitter clones.

The problem with cloning Twitter is that Twitter is a free, flat, low-trust environment. A political network ought to be a premium, hierarchical, high-trust environment.

The purpose of a political network is to connect with people you trust—in a political sense. You may disagree with people you trust. It’s always a friendly and productive disagreement, never a food fight using ideas as tomatoes. Sometimes there are people with personality problems who just need to be tuned out. This is always an individual problem, never a structural problem. The gang may even have factions—but even these factions are not enemies. (They just have their own slightly customized ballots.)

This high-trust network is a valuable service and must be profitable as a business. This means it has to be funded by its users—just like public television.. A digital vote gang is like a political party—but less in the sense of the Republicans of the 2020s, than the CPUSA of the 1930s. Ideally, membership is by invitation only. Without exception, party dues are charged. (When it’s time to add a free and/or open tier—you’ll know.)

With real revenue, the gang grows a brain. It becomes a non-invertebrate organization with a full-time central leadership. Cohesion is intelligent coordination, and all forms of really effective coordination are centralized. Obviously this leadership is needed to manage the gang’s default ballot. But it can do other stuff, too.

Votes, perspectives, and opinions inherently go together. When you let your gang vote for you, you naturally also expect it to tell you why it is voting this way. The best way for it to do so is for it to present and maintain an adequate and complete perspective of the world—all the news, as someone once said, that’s fit to print—a thorough and updated truth feed. Power and truth naturally flow together through one path of trust.

If your gang is the CPUSA, it needs its Daily Worker. Anyone could read the Daily Worker (few of whose subscribers, of course, were actually workers)—but a loyal Communist needed to read no other paper. Indeed, he should read no other paper.

Thus the gang, at scale, must become a media outlet. Once all the member’s news is generated through the party, it is only natural that his entertainment be generated, or at least curated, in just the same way. Nothing on his screen will offend his taste or challenge his reality—why should it? The party always has to get it right, anyway.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that if there is any such thing as a human right to freedom of information, it involves the freedom to be informed by people who agree with you. It might even involve the freedom to have your children educated by people who agree with you.

(If you disagree with either of these freedoms—when was the last time you asked yourself whether you are really one of the good guys? Also: were you aware that, by etymological meaning, “fascist” and “faggot” are the same word? Look it up, fascist.)

Local news and information will be a particular strong point of gang media, because the public local information available today, especially about crime and safety, is so thin and sterile. To deliver the right default ballot, the gang must locate its members; this lets it create local networks that can also connect IRL, strengthening its social fabric. We degenerate urbanites are not built for it, but a little asabiya never hurts.

Finally, one of the most important roles of a gang is an intellectual immune system. The gang must move heaven and earth to make sure its members know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That involves the key role of fact-checking—hearing, classifying, and debunking or rebunking all the rumors floating around the Internet. If you hear some rumor, you can just ask the gang’s AI rumor hotline if it’s true or not.

Of course, a number of existing organizations already claim to perform this service. But you know how it is. You do not have a right to your own facts, but you do have a right to your own perspective—and you have a right to have your facts checked by capable researchers who share that perspective. Anyone who disagrees is a fascist.

The birth of a true multiparty democracy

The above is a fair definition of a real 21st-century political party, designed for the present world, but defined as that term was defined in any ordinary 19th-century constitutional democracy—an organized shadow regime seeking to win power by organizing the energy of popular support.

A friend texted me the other day and asked if we were headed for a one-party state. I love this guy—but in the mind of the con we always have to be “headed” somewhere. I snapped—called him a fascist. “Neighbour,” I said, “we’ve been a one-party state since your grandma was—” the rest I can’t print.

When you realize that a real political party would have its own coherent, professional and organized perspective of the world, you realize that we are obviously living in a one-party state. While I do think Tucker Carlson is a brilliant anchorman, comparing him to the entire profession of journalism, not to mention the Everest of academia standing behind it—both of which grand eminences are synoptic and unipartisan—is comparing FDR’s yacht to the Japanese Navy. What else is there? The Epoch Times? No offense to American conservatives, but again: you are gay. Just look at the scale.

There are two principal differences between a real party—the gang or political network described above—and what we call a “party” in Western countries today.

The first is that the goal of a real party is to obtain the consent of the sovereign public to take complete and unconditional control of the government. Again, today there is only one real party; and the doctrine of that party is the doctrine of the whole regime. To displace that party, a successor party must displace it and its doctrine from every niche it currently occupies—which is a lot of niches. If the new regime does not inherit and capture all the power of the old regime, the change is incomplete and may be symbolic.

The second is that a real party has a total vision. It has a single shared perspective of the past and present, a single shared idea of the future, and a single shared roadmap for getting there. This common intellectual infrastructure—which must be created, updated and propagated by a picked professional cadre—allows it to act with high cohesion first as the party seeks power and later as the party wields it.

The emergence of a genuine second party in a one-party state is always an occasion for great gnashing of teeth. To the ruling party and the ruling class, its new competitor will always appear not as a legitimate peer, but as a dangerous terrorist network; and the memetic dominance of the ruling mainstream will always be strong enough that any insurrection is sorely tempted to inhabit the frame of the regime’s propaganda.

But the farther the party’s reality is from this frame, the weaker its enemy’s devices. The antibodies of the regime are expecting an insurrection with high commitment, low cohesion, and low quality. They have no programmed response at all to a party which operates with low commitment, high cohesion, and high quality—and it is hard to imagine what any such response would be.

The irony of the modern regime is that, though in many ways it is in effect a sadistic tyranny, it is a sadistic tyranny which is not in general staffed by sadistic tyrants—or at least, certainly not by people who think of themselves as sadistic tyrants. It is usually safe, or at least much safer than it looks, to give anyone the opportunity to behave as if they were your caricature of them, since they usually know this caricature and reject it indignantly—so they are unlikely to see any advantage they could gain by inhabiting it; at least, inhabiting it in a direct, naked way where the caricature could not be denied.

Which is why—let’s cross our fingers here, folks—you can still: