BSKing over at Graph Paper Diaries referenced an interesting study in her What I’m Reading September 2018 post, concerning tipping points in social conventions.  I could link to the study directly, but I want you to see her discussion, plus her answer to my question in the comments.  You can get distracted and read her other stuff there if you want.  I’ll wait.

Her caveats are important.  It was an artificial situation, and the 25% may not hold on something people cared about more deeply. The intensity of either the minority or the majority about something like gay marriage, going to war, or toppling statues might move the number up or down considerably.  Also, the tested subjects were WEIRD – Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic – as social-science test subjects usually are.  (They are usually college students, and so young, non-military, and single with no children as well.)

Yet let us pretend, just for the moment that something like this is true. A determined minority of only 25% can flip the group opinion. Consider something like the TEA Party.  It seems to have approached that number and had influence but didn’t quite flip the GOP everywhere.  It did flip it in some places (and Trump may have been more beholden to that than we have credited). The Tea Party rose up to the tipping point and then receded slightly.  They might have been doomed to just fade out, election by election. Until…Donald Trump’s supporters may have been very much this 25% phenomenon.  A lot of people who eventually voted for The Donald didn’t like him much at first. They were okay with a Jeb or a Rubio, though not excited.  They may have relished the thought of watching Carly Fiorina debate Hillary Clinton, or wanted to go to a more-conservative, don’t-care-if-he’s-annoying Ted Cruz.  But almost no one was sold out for any of those.  Trump’s supporters, though few, were sold out.  It simmered for a while, with Trump getting something in the neighborhood of that 25% in various primaries, enough to win, though a majority still opposed him.  Eventually the 25% moved the other 75%.  Bernie almost did the same thing with the Democrats.  He would have, actually, if they weren’t so corrupt and had their thumb on the scale for Clinton. The sold-out-for-Bernie crew was over 25% of the Dems, I think.

I’ll wait again while you chew over that and think whether it’s right so far. Does the committed 25% move the majority?  Does it work even at high levels when everyone cares more? I submit that something like this happened with gay marriage and other social changes.  The few cared deeply on either side, but neither hit 25%.  Many Americans were opposed, but not so deeply that they put it top of their list. Eventually the highly committed change side hit 25%., and the flip happened fast.

I think the most effective of activists have a sense of when their committed minority might hit 25%, and know when to push their chips to the center of the table. Martin Luther King Jr comes to mind.  He was persuasive, but others were as well.  There were instances of injustice ripe for protest, but they were there five years before, ten years before. He was the one who knew it was time.  Similar things might be said of Lenin, of Patrick Henry or Sam Adams, of Hitler.  Maybe they were just lucky, yet I think they had a sense of sudden urgency, recognising the times. From my list one can see that this can be used for good or ill.

An important side note: those true believers are usually not corrupt.  They might become so later, but they burn with a purer fire.  You don’t have to pay them, they show up for free.  Some Nazis looted art treasures and even the gold fillings of the teeth of Jews. Others would scrupulously account for every pfennig, not to take anything not authorised.

So…what is happening with the Democrats right now? The minority – I think a near-insane group – are rising up as if they think they may be the 25%.  They don’t consciously think of it that way, certainly.  They have been there simmering for as long as I can remember.  The 1960’s left included the Weather Underground and the Chicago Seven, but they didn’t reach 25% of any party.  The other liberals, who were not like that but welcomed the more radical brethren and kept their criticism mild, decided to go mainstream instead, and slowly take over one political party and some institutions. The 1960’s split into two groups, the lesser one just simmering, hoping for a break.

The social liberalism of the high-tech crowd may have caught the Chuck Schumers and Bill Clintons by surprise. They were still hunkered down for the long battle. But Obama was a transitional figure.  While he was mostly from the mainstream left, the descendant of JFK, Mayor Daley, Al Gore, there were also roots reaching more deeply into radicalism, to Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. He disavowed them with a nod and a wink. Now the whirlwind is upon us, with the left eating its own. After all the table-pounding and posturing, they always came back into the fold for the votes, and listened to the politicos who said “We won’t die on this hill, because we can take the next one and live.” I think that is disappearing.

Republicans exult, hoping that this spells the final dissolution of the unstable alliances that have been the Democratic Party since 1958 – if not in 2018, then soon, very soon. I am not so encouraged. I think insane people taking over a major party is frightening. To counter that this has already happened with Trump and the Republicans is to completely miss the point of what Trump is.  Do not listen to what he says. Look at what he does. He speaks like a radical, but acts within the mainstream.  He is something like a mirror of Bill Clinton, who won elections by (brilliantly) trashing conservatives but whose actions were center-left. The radical minority arising among the Democrats has been 10% of them for five decades. If they reach 25% of the party it will not be good for America, whatever happens in elections.

Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot

5 thoughts on “25%”

  1. I think you mistake the fundamental nature of Trump, and of the Trump voters. Trump is, at his core, the antithesis of the elites who’ve been running this country. The elites that laughed at him during that infamous White House Correspondent’s Dinner, and who also laughed with Obama at the “bitter clingers”. Well, Trump went out and allied with those folks, and who’s laughing now?

    We have had the absolute rock-bottom worst set of people running this country ever, over the last few generations. Trump is what you get when enough of the “rest of us” recognize that fact, and decide to try something different. The elites aren’t smart enough to recognize that fact, and are going to suffer accordingly.

    Or, maybe they do, and what we’re seeing play out in the media is their attempt to combat the whole thing, and usurp the power they were entrusted with and found unworthy of. Should they succeed, we’re in for a long, hot few years, and who knows what comes out the other end of the sausage machine?

    My personal feeling is that the whole house of cards is potentially in play, and may well come tumbling down. Look at all this crap we’ve had shoved down our throats by these genius “elites”, over the last few decades. The whole thing is oscillating out of control, because none of their theories work. This fact is becoming brutally apparent, and the follow-on to that discrediting of their works is that they are all going to go into the trash heap of history. What comes after? Who knows, but I hope it at least works.

    Which is one reason, right there, that I will vote for Trump in 2020. Dude may be a complete scumbag, but he’s our scumbag, and what he does is working. Unlike, say, Mr. Prissy Pants Obama, who never met an American he liked, or held an American value in his life.

  2. @Kirk – that is how Trump speaks. I maintain that his actions are not as radical. Which is fine, they are still radical enough. That section of my essay was also something of a sidebar, a deflecting of potential criticism of my accusation that a growing portion of the Democratic Party is dangerously out of contact with reality. The immediate rejoinder by Democrats to such things is usually “Oh yeah, well look at TRUMP!” I endeavored to show that Mr. Trump is not, in fact, insane, despite the claims. He turns up the heat but he actually doesn’t burn things down.

  3. You wonder what is happening to Democrats? I’m wondering what has happened to Republicans.

    Drug Prohibition is socialism for criminals. Says Milton Friedman.

    “See, if you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel.” – Economist Milton Friedman (1991)

    Trump gets it.

    In a speech delivered at the Miami Herald’s Company of the Year Awards luncheon [April 1990], Donald Trump condemned the “war on drugs” as “a joke” and called for the legalization of drugs. “We’re losing badly the war on drugs,” he said. “You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”

  4. AVI,

    The issue here is that the Ailinsky-ite 25% social group is facing off against another 25% societal core that has crystallized around Pres Trump.

    The core issue here is that the elites in _both_ political parties are being replaced.

    The rear guard soon to be displaced elites of both political parties are more closely aligned with the SJW crazies for reason of class, but out is where they are all going.

    The bottom line is that the receding elites and SJW types all see the white working class as “The other”, the “New Indian” to be exploited, broken down and dominated.

    Their problem is that these “New Indians” are Americans and Trump has crystallized these “New Indians” to his banner.

    Please read the following two articles by a Canadian Anthropologist who correctly called the result of the Nov 2016 election in May 2016 simply based on his look at America’s cultural cleavages visa vi the white working class —

    Why Donald J. Trump Will Be the Next President of the United States

    Trump and Anthropology

    Here are three passages from his May 2016 article —

    1. New fault lines
    First, anyone understanding the contest in terms of Republican vs. Democrat, men vs. women, or white vs. minorities, is already far off. The primary dividing line of this election is globalization, specifically neoliberal globalization, and more specifically: the plight of the working class in the wake of free trade. In more traditional terms if you like, the contest is Hillary Clinton vs. Sanders plus Trump—two out of the three remaining major candidates have emerged as a protest against trickle-down economics, free trade, the dominance of financial elites, and “the establishment” more generally.

    3. “American Greatness”
    Here I need to write bluntly and in very poor taste, to better match real, lived, individual experience and private thoughts (maybe not yours, but some, whether conscious or not). When immigrants came to the US in pursuit of the “American Dream,” who would they imagine as the better embodiment of that dream?

    A) The small, spiteful, neckless old lady with the cruel face and the mysterious coats that appear to be hiding large urine bags (or a colostomy bag), someone with the kindness of a prison warden and a grating cackle that is a searing assault on every image of Cinderella and Snow White? Or,

    B) The gleaming skyscraper, the golden luxury suite housing the square-faced, golden-haired mountain of Grade A Beef in a $10,000 suit standing under a chandelier that looks like glinting diamonds in sparkling champagne, who is otherwise soaring through the skies in his own massive jet?

    If you are answering (a), then you do not understand the United States.

    Put differently, when it comes to providing a contrast between hardship, loss, and suffering for the majority, and long-cherished images of American success, Trump stands to remind voters of the first part, and stands as an embodiment of the second part. When it comes to “making America great again,” Trump looks the part–and I think this is the only way he can continue to boast of his wealth and success in the face of sometimes rather desperate, very underprivileged voters.

    10. The Working Class
    One of the most significant changes of this US election period has been a notable transformation in the dominant political vocabulary. In a country where for so long it seemed everyone was characterized as “middle class,” where the working class had somehow disappeared, suddenly “working class” has reappeared in the media discourse, even on Fox News. When it comes to white, working-class voters, Hillary Clinton is not only already failing in winning them away from Donald Trump, in some quarters she is being openly rebuked. Going back to #1 in this list, when it comes to the devastating social and economic impacts of free trade, there is now more open acknowledgment that this has bred the “angry white voter” who is more likely to support Trump. If anything, there is already evidence of Trump winning working class voters away from the Democrats, who feel discarded by the neoliberal Democrats, and even some of Bernie Sanders’ supporters have for months indicated a preference for Trump over Clinton. One poll showed 20% of Democrats moving to vote for Trump. Thanks to rare reporting that approaches near-ethnographic density, we have a picture of Trump strongholds that are off limits to the Democrats.

    and here is the video clip he posted in his second article titled “The New Indians”


  5. FYI, as the kicker — Pres Donald Trump studied, and has a minor in, anthropology from his college days.

    Now consider that fact in reading this column from roughly the December 2015, from a 4th Generation military warfare analyst William S. Lind.

    It was an interesting observation WRT 4G War, Trump and the rest of the Republican field. [Note: I have always viewed “4G warfare” as tribal warfare with PC restraints on the Western (non-tribal) side.] Trump the Jacksonian will return pre-PC (or Cultural Marxism)
    sensibilities to the Western Way of War.


    The View From Olympus: Donald Trump and Fourth Generation War

    December 16, 2015 William S. Lind

    Donald Trump’s recent proposals to register Islamics living in the
    United States and to bar more Islamics from entering this country
    until we can determine how to separate the dangerous ones from those
    who are not dangerous show that he is the only candidate who
    understands what a Fourth Generation world will be like. The
    hysterical denunciations from all other candidates except Senator Cruz
    demonstrate they don’t get it. While that alone may not be enough to
    indicate Trump would be a good president, it strongly suggests none of
    his opponents are fit to hold the office. Whether they like it or not,
    or understand it or not, Fourth Generation war is what they and this
    country are facing.

    In 4GW, primary loyalties shift away from the state–someone’s native
    state or one to whch they have immigrated–to a wide variety of other
    things, including religions, races and ethnic groups, and cultures.
    Immigrants who do not acculturate are especially likely to become
    Fourth Generation threats, because they probably will not give their
    loyalty to a state whose culture is not their own (and to which they
    may be hostile).

    Measures such as those Trump proposed vis-a-vis Islamics will be
    routine in a world of Fourth Generation war. Any state that wants to
    survive will have to take them, and stronger actions as well. If a
    population becomes a base for 4GW on a state’s soil, that state may
    have to expel them. There may be no other way for the state to perform
    its primary duty, maintaining order. Any state that cannot maintain
    order–safety of persons and property–will disappear.

    Cultural Marxism forbids us to acknowlege any of these realities,
    which is why culturally Marxist politicians (Democrats actually
    believe the stuff; Republicans are too cowardly to challenge it) and
    institutions such as the New York Times editorial page have frothed at
    the mouth over Mr. Trump’s entirely reasonable proposals. Cultural
    Marxism says all cultures are wonderful, peaceful, “vibrant” sources
    of enlightenment, except our own culture, Western culture, which is
    evil and oppressive. Defend ourselves against another culture? The
    very notion horrifies the cultural Marxists; we are instead to embrace
    it even as it cuts our throats. Cultural Marxism’s goal, after all,
    from Gramsci and Lukacs onward, has been the destruction of Western
    culture and the religion from which it grew, Christianity.

    Mr. Trump’s proposals do not indicate he has studied 4GW. I would
    guess he has probably never heard the term. His reactions are
    instinctive. But they are sound. They reflect reality. If elected, he
    can leave the theory to the leaders of his Defense Department (we can
    hope he chooses leaders who do know the theory). He would need only to
    keep the same instincts under the barrage of condemnation they will
    bring from the establishment. So far, he seems pretty good at that.

    The degree to which the establishment has abandoned all grasp of
    reality was shown last week in Time magazine’s choice of Angela Merkel
    as Person of the Year. Merkel will go down in history as Germany’s
    poisoner, the person who flooded what was a safe, orderly country with
    carriers of the 4GW bacillus. That, of course, is exactly what
    cultural Marxism demands, so she is a hero to Time and the rest of the

    Meanwhile, the more Trump insists on confronting cultural Marxism,
    a.k.a. political correctness, and urges us to face reality, the more
    his poll numbers go up. The public, it seems, both here and in
    Europe, want leaders whose feet are planted in the real world.

    No wonder the shrieks and cries of the cultural Marxists sound ever
    more shrill. Ideology has no deadlier enemy than reality

Comments are closed.