2024 seems a long way off, but a curious phenomenon is afoot, politics mimicking physics. In real life, things can seem balanced – “in equipoise” – but are not. What seems stable suddenly shifts. False stability hides pent-up energy, a big contest. Think “tug of war,” arm wrestling, steady until one side wins, unmoving then over. Approaching 2024, that is us – Americans pulling hard, and things will break big, one way or the other.
At this moment, we appear balanced, in equipoise, but are not. We have a narrowly divided Senate tipping Democrat and a narrowly divided House tipping Republican. We seem balanced but that is a deception. Things will soon – in 2024 – tip hard, one way or the other.
What we know is that for six congressional cycles and two presidential, our elections have been characterized by intense political combat, not often seen. Conservatives fight for limited government, leftist Democrats increasingly defend power consolidation, and stakes keep rising.
Below the surface, we are at war, vying as seldom in history for hearts and minds – either a return to normal, to accountability, fiscal responsibility, moral compass, and global leadership, or the reverse, uncontrolled spending, redefinition of moral norms, and end of global leadership.
The key is that we are not in a state of “sit and rest,” not in a “happy place” of balance or stability. That is a deception. We are not shallowly divided, in some untroubled state. These are not normal checks and balances; the ideological division is deep.
We are in a state of mounting tension, internally at odds, battlelines drawn, stakes rising, what physics calls a state of bracing for “elastic recoil,” a sudden shift. Something is going to give.
In this contest for high ground, anything can happen – and may fast. Like the 2020 riots, COVID lockdowns, cross-accusations on election integrity, baseless impeachments, and belligerent anti-democratic talk, this period is fraught with risk.
Bad news is until we value what got us here and return to normal, people will be tense – the way political combat resembles real combat and physics, pressure building under a deceptively stable cork. Internally, many know this – political stakes are high. Now, we need to get this right.
Good news is, because of such points – when ideas meet and one side wins – we refresh the process, understanding again what our nation is about and why what we have is really precious. People begin to think, talk and act as if it mattered – because these moment do.
Before one side wins the tug-of-war, deep focus happens, and stakes are understood as people brace for what is coming. The good news too is that over the history of this republic, those favoring limited, constitutional government, due process, and liberty have won every time.
The main point is to know where you are, where we are, and what is expected of us – not “rest and relaxation,” the midterms battle now behind us, and not the expectation that this situation is normal.
Needed is the reverse, preparation for a major battle of ideas, defending the Bill of Rights in the marketplace of ideas – individual liberty and citizen sovereignty, versus big government.
Ronald Reagan was clear about such moments, as were others. We preserve the future by understanding the battle for liberty is never done, minds need changing, as they did at our founding, when men and women put everything on the line for liberty.
What we do not need is indifference, thoughts that we have won or alternately cannot win, or the idea that political violence is permissible. None of these things are true. Needed is thought, preparation for 2024, and awareness that what works in physics sometimes also does in politics.
We must pull on the rope, apply mental muscle, keep pressure under the cork, and channel frustration with COVID lockdowns, bad policies, socialism, and Biden to achieve a turnaround, a real win.
Despite appearances, despite a split Congress and divided legislative and executive, we are still in a battle for truth, and if I may be flip, “truth, justice, and the American way.” We are at a point in history when things matter, and will tip one way or the other.
Our job, as this process unfolds and 2024 hurtles toward us, is to keep our heads level, think strategically, and recognize where we are. This is an intersection. Divided government seems stable – but it is not. Not this time. It hides pent-up energy, and we need to win this tug of war.