The best explanation of modern American politics I have seen was presented by the always insightful John Robb over at his excellent Global Guerrillas blog. Robb describes the political conflict in the present-day United States as a battle between two networks: “the Mean Girls” and “the Bad Boys.”
Here’s how he describes them:
- “The Mean Girls (similar to a social clique or ruling aristocracy) network solidified in response to Trump’s unexpected victory. Its cohesion and single-mindedness neutered the Trump Administration even before he took the oath. It’s FAR more effective than the Democratic Party and the media at exercising political power.”
- “The Bad Boys (similar to a gang or tribe) network grew in support of Donald Trump. It proved innovative and fast enough to circumvent first the Republican Party’s and then the media’s control of the electoral process. It was decisive to his victory.”
Our Future: America as High School
To a lot of Americans, this will sound like the social dynamics of the high-school cafeteria – which is a pretty accurate comparison.
The Mean Girls are the smart, socially-connected kids, who control the established power structure. Much of Mean Girls’ power comes from their ability to manipulate the adults, popular opinion, and the school administration. The Mean Girls’ most potent weapon is their ability to isolate and ostracize anybody they do not like or approve of.
The Bad Boys are the outsiders, the cool kids who become popular and influential by breaking the rules, defying authority and flaunting convention. They’re the smart alecks who smoke cigarettes, use the F-word and ditch class. The Bad Boys power comes from their ability to be disruptive.
As in high school, the Bad Boys often start the new trends or fads, but the Mean Girls quickly take them over. The Bad Boys are the first to listen to the new music, but the Mean Girls quickly pick it up and label anybody that does not play the right songs a “nerd” – who must be shunned.
A good example of this behavior is in Silicon Valley; which was started by the Bad Boys, but is slowly being taken over by the Mean Girls. Companies like Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) start as bastions of Bad Boy behavior but end up following the Mean Girls’ rules – whether they like it or not. Part of this process is that the Bad Boys slowly get pushed out; and replaced by Mean Girls, as their enterprises evolve into established institutions.
The Mean Girls will win
My prediction is that the Mean Girls will win this war because they are patient and methodical. That makes them more systematic and better-organized which is always an advantage in warfare.
Trump won the election but he has found himself isolated in the White House and largely powerless. Instead of a powerful authoritarian ruler, the Donald has quickly degenerated into a weak figurehead – who is easily manipulated by the media and the Pentagon.
This occurred because the Mean Girl network was quickly able to ostracize Trump, and systematically purge his supporters from the administration. Wealthy and powerful figures; like Elon Musk, who reached out to Trump found themselves ostracized by the power elite and quickly ran away from him. Now no business leader will go near Trump, and almost all of his political allies have been driven from the White House.
How the Mean Girls Win
The Mean Girls win by slowly grinding down their enemies much like a large established army would. The Bad Boys succeed by making fast aggressive attacks -like a guerrilla force. As in guerrilla warfare, the insurgents often win spectacular victories early on – only to be driven back and crushed later in the war.
Another similarity to Guerrilla warfare is that the Bad Boys will end up as terrorists; making pointless violent attacks just to show they are still around, and capable of wreaking havoc. Many Bad Boys will also turn on each other in an attempt to get in the Mean Girls’ good graces.
Just as many guerrillas often end up fighting for the anti-insurgency forces, many Bad Boys will degenerate into the Mean Girls’ hatchet men. A likely scenario is that Breitbart pest Steve Bannon will devolve into Trump hater number one – who will spread every ugly and vicious smear about the Donald throughout the blogosphere, in an attempt to get back into the Mean Girl clique.
Trump himself is likely to turn on his fellow Bad Boys at some point to preserve his family’s money and position. Whether the Mean Girls will let him back in the club remains to be seen. The person most likely to push Trump to do this is first daughter Ivanka – who looks like a poster child for the Mean Girls.
It should be noted that the Bad Boys are not automatically male and the Mean Girls are not all female. The Bad Boys are disproportionately male; but they have some notable female members, such as Catherine Coulter. The Mean Girls are predominately female; but they have many male members (prime examples are Jared Kushner, Warren Buffett, and Mark Zuckerberg). So the terms are accurate but obviously sexist.
Why we should be Scared of the Mean Girls
Robb believes that the conflict between Mean Girls and Bad Boys will end in some sort of authoritarianism. That should scare us to death because here’s his description of the Mean Girl World Order (which I think is our future):
“If the Mean Girl network gains control, we could see intersectional identity (all identities are in a perpetual struggle for dominance akin to Communist class warfare) mutate into an ideology that violently purges groups of people who become obstacles to progress.”
People around the world should take note of Robb’s thesis because this conflict is likely to be repeated in many nations. It is also likely to undermine democracy and replace it with a new kind of oligarchy based on technology, wealth, and identity that will become the world’s political norm.