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The US is a system; it is an open system which means the other systems with which it communicates affect it.  Internal events have effects as well; the national system is made up of a host of smaller interconnected systems.  The Republican primary has got me thinking about systems in actions.

The classic example used for systems is the spider web.  A drop of water hits a single strand and the entire web vibrates.  Touch a strand and the entire spider's web responds.  It's a simple enough insight - things are connected.  Everything is connected to everything.  Perhaps because it's simple, it's also profound.  Rather than the old chain reaction theory or simple cause and effect, systems propose that things are interdependent.

Yes, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction but there are also sideways reactions.  Systems compensate for changes; change in one area results in unanticipated change in other areas.  I went to a lecture about the effects of the reintroductions of wolves to Yellowstone.  Once wolves were introduced to the park, the trees and shrubs starting thriving.  In a WTF? moment, biologists realized they were seeing an ecosystem response few people had really predicted.  It's a good example of a sideways reaction.  The wolves preyed on the various animals that ate the trees and shrubs.  With fewer animals eating the leaves and bushes, the bushes thrived which in turn affected the health of the streams and rivers.  The herds were healthier as well because their populations were lower which meant less competition for food.  The entire ecosystem of the park benefited when wolves were reintroduced.  The park ecosystem is still adapting and changing in response to that one change.  Each individual component is a system unto itself, interacting with and interdependent on other systems; changes in one part affect other parts.

Systems feedback into themselves, giving themselves information that shapes future changes and responses.  That feedback is part of what keeps systems in balance.  Throw one part out of balance and a moves towards a new balance; introduce or reintroduce a part and the system moves itself back towards balance.  The reintroduction of wolves resulted in great biodiversity in the park.  That biodiversity is the system moving into a new balance.  Systems thinking suggests we should expect the unexpected, anticipate the unusual.

Living systems respond to input and changes in all kinds of ways.  Sometimes those ways are obvious, sometimes not.  Newt Gingrich is currently riding high and to me that makes sense.  Why?  He's not the anti-Romney, he's the anti-Obama.  Where Obama is cerebral and measured, he's bombastic, tossing out idea after idea, insult after insult.  Obama is the suave, uber-cool big band, Gingrich is the rough and ready honky tonk.  Obama is cosmopolitan and multicultural, Gingrich, despite his education, is insular.   Even their ways of thinking contrast sharply.  Obama is measured, careful, analytical.  Gingrich, no less intelligent, is a whirling dervish, jumping from concept to concept, idea to idea.  He'll throw out whatever the latest "big idea" he heard or pondered, and a week later forget he ever said it and have moved on.  Gingrich is mercurial, Obama Apollonian (yes, I know the normal dualism is Apollonian and Dionysian but I don't see Newt Gingrich as Dionysian).  Obama is no drama, Gingrich is all drama.  Their personal lives reflect those differences.  The Obamas are a boringly conventional couple, evincing steadfast devotion to one another and are obviously doting parents of adored girls.  Gingrich, the serial adulterer, has left a trail of broken relationships in his wake, his entire personal life a cauldron of dis-ease and upheaval.  

My point is that Gingrich is riding high right now is the most effective carrier of the Republican Id.  Gingrich for all his flaws captures and communicates the frustration of the Republican base.  Romney may well emerge as the Republican nominee but unlike Gingrich he isn't angry.  Santorum is absolutely orthodox in is positions but his emotional demeanor is all wrong.  Bachmann and Perry weren't conduits for the anger and frustration of the Republican base for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that for all their ideological purity, come across as pleasant individuals - sure Michele Bachmann is a whackjob, but I'd be she's personally charming and entertaining.  Gingrich, prickly, unstable, seething, is the man who embodies the Republican base's emotional reality.  They want him to make people uncomfortable; they believe he makes liberal squirm and they like that because Obama makes them squirm.  (I'd argue much of the right's bombast is grounded in that dynamic.)  Barack Obama is a person of immense personal charisma.  Newt Gingrich is not.  It's as if each man is the other's shadow in the Jungian sense.  

Barack Obama's presidency embodies the emerging America, the America of 20 years from now.  Newt Gingrich embodies the America of thirty years ago.  Confronted with a host of changes, the Republican Party’s base prefers to wish those changes away and Newt Gingrich promises that wish can come true.  The system that is America complex, fascinating, contradictory and paradoxical, has generated two candidates who almost perfectly capture the systems internal struggle for balance.  

Originally posted to glendenb on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 09:31 AM PST.

Also republished by Systems Thinking, Community Spotlight, and Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  Republished to Systems Thinking (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lonely Texan, Nulwee, Matt Z

    We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

    by bmcphail on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 04:29:59 PM PST

  •  How would Newt change if given the nomination? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lonely Texan, Nulwee, Matt Z

    Thanks for this diary, while assigning characteristics to preset groups isn't faultless, it does put a nice framework around which to compare the two who might end up going up against each other for the top spot.  But how would Newt change over time?

    "It's only a movie"--1960's era PR Man for B-grade Hollywood flicks

    by williamjustin on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 04:47:01 PM PST

  •  I liked your two pieces of analysis (6+ / 0-)

    Although I am not sure how well you established the linkage you felt was there.  But separately, both quite cogent.

    -9.00, -5.85
    If only stupidity were painful...

    by Wintermute on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 04:55:40 PM PST

    •  Agree about the linkage. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Matt Z, DBunn

      I thought the cultural analysis of the candidates was very interesting, though.

      Thank you to jayden, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, Aji and everyone in the Daily Kos community involved in gifting my subscription and gifting others!

      by Nulwee on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 09:43:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It sortof came together at the end, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      as examples of disparate pieces in an intertwined system in a state of unrest.  Good piece over all.  Rec'd and Tip'd.

      "Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right." - Isaac Asimov

      by Aramis Wyler on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 10:28:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lonely Texan, Nulwee, DRo, Matt Z, Aramis Wyler

    I'm forwarding to a colleague who's into systems thinking.

    You have some confusing typos, e.g.  in this sentence in p 6 (corrections inserted in brackets).  

    "Bachmann and Perry weren't conduits for the anger and frustration of the Republican base for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that for all their ideological purity, [THEY] come across as pleasant individuals - sure Michele Bachmann is a whackjob, but I'd be[T} she's personally charming and entertaining."
  •  Thank You ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, Matt Z

    scheduled to be re-published on Street Prophets.


    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 11:09:20 PM PST

  •  various reactions in no particular order (0+ / 0-)

    I'm thinking those wolves that got reintroduced to that wilderness overstocked with game thought they had been transported to wolf heaven.  

    When you refer to Obama as cosmopolitan I think of that scene in Blazing Saddles where Gene Wilder turns to Clevon Little and asks what a "dazzling urbanite" like him is doing in their backward town.

    If Obama is what our future will look like 20 years out - well, I know what you mean by that.  You mean the cosmopolitan, reasoned, hip, progressive part of it.  Full agreement there.  

    But then there is the Clockwork Orange side of him.  Not in the sense that he is like the killer kid in the movie.  In the sense that he is like the politicians in that movie - interchangeable bots presiding over a dystopia.  

    I'd like to do a good bit more tweaking and pushing so that over the next 20 years we have measures as epic and effective as the New Deal or the Marshall Plan, including mass prosecutions and jail time for bankers, the perpetrators of torture, the architects of the surveillance state and everybody in Rupert Murdoch's family.

  •  You are in tune with my many diaries (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matt Z, DBunn, linkage

    on the systems aspects of our politics.  Ginrich is not a person but a symbol.

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 06:29:33 AM PST

  •  I think fixed the typos (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thanks for pointing out the typos.  I think I got them all fixed.  There's probably a reason I shouldn't do three things at once and should always spellcheck.


  •  Tipped for a truism.. (0+ / 0-)
    (I'd argue much of the right's bombast is grounded in that dynamic.)
    ...and I'd agree.
  •  Thanks for this (0+ / 0-)

    It's interesting to think about politics from a systems perspective.  Right wingers are wrong if they think that Gingrich makes liberals cringe-- he makes me laugh much of the time!  The 'publican race is now at a stage where I want to break out the popcorn and watch them just melt down dealing with two fatally flawed candidates.

    "You're not allowed to sell your countrymen out to multinational financial corporations anymore and still call yourself a patriot." --MinistryOfTruth

    by Kurt from CMH on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 08:55:16 AM PST

  •  Leaving aside the politics your science is .... (0+ / 0-)

    I erased what I was going to say.

    First there is no balance. The balance of nature is a fallacy, google it. Nature exists in flux.

    The wondrous transformation of Yellowstone is likewise (edit, I've changed my wording) flawed. From the park service.


    The research demonstrates that the northern range continues to support large, healthy ungulate herds year after year, and that despite certain localized impacts, elk do not appear to have had any significant effect on the overall biodiversity of native animals and plants. Visible changes in vegetation such as a browse line on Douglas-fir stands and a lack of aspen reproduction are not simply the result of elk "overpopulation," and may be part of long-term ecological processes we are only beginning to understand. Ungrazed plants protected by research exclosures, as expected, grow taller. But except in drought years, grazing does not reduce the protein content or total volume of grass, nor does it inhibit the seedling establishment and annual growth of big sagebrush.

    Every few months wolf aficionados trot out these wondrous revelations. Fairy tales for children.

    It's kind of like finding scientists to deny climate change.

    Wolves were introduced to Yellowstone to have a full complement of predators, there was no need of them from an ecological perspective.

    "Slip now and you'll fall the rest of your life" Derek Hersey 1957-1993

    by ban nock on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 08:34:11 AM PST

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