How the American Union is shaking up the midterms

Phoenix Congress
13 min readMar 25, 2021

The American Union represents a block of swing voters, voting strategically to influence the 2022 midterms in pursuit of a specific legislative agenda crafted outside the two party system. It is a new paradigm for cooperative democracy, by which the people crowdsource functional government on behalf of the legislative branch.

“Digital Collaboration” Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Crowdsourcing functional government

“Functional government,” in this case, means enactment of a specific legislative package, one written by the people, for the people. Inspired by addressing Martin Luther King Jr.’s triple evils and nonviolent social change, the legislation’s primary policy goals are to end poverty, end mass incarceration, and end the endless wars as the basis for post-pandemic social contract.

As a block of swing voters in the 2022 midterms, the American Union has a goal of reelecting all incumbents of both parties across 435 congressional districts and 34 US senate races, in exchange for enacting our legislation.* There’s a little fine print, but that’s the gist; all the incumbents who enact our legislation get reelected, quid pro quo.

As true swing voters, willing to elect either major party candidate on the sole basis of a single variable, the American Union will have the ability to decide dozens of Congressional races; more than 60 House members earned their current seat with 53.5% of the vote or less. The political leverage inherent in this ability should accelerate the legislation’s passage… more on that later.

But Americans don’t like Congress, why would they band together to get them reelected? From 2010–2020, their approval rating only cracked 30% (from below) a single time, when the CARES Act was passed at the start of the pandemic. We can make Congress incredibly popular again when they pass our legislative package, which will improve the quality of life for all Americans. This omnibus package is intended to heal — or at least start to address — some of the traumas in our national psyche.

Addressing 2020’s problems

2020 was a draining year politically. The reelection campaign of Donald Trump was very polarizing, even before the impeachment(s) and that whole thing with the Supreme Court. All the political hatred wasn’t good for our country. By supporting bipartisan reelection for everyone in Congress (even that fringey Congresswoman with the three names), the American Union can deescalate the 2022 election, giving our nation time to take a big collective breath before the next presidential contest.

2020 was a tough year for tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs. The pandemic exacerbated situations of economic inequality, and while intermittent stimulus checks and temporary benefits helped mitigate some short term financial damage, more permanent solutions are needed. Millions of jobs are not coming back, and that financial stress is weighing heavily on America.

2020 was also a tough year for racial equality, with the murder of George Floyd widely condemned. A disproportionate share of racial injustice seems to revolve around the criminal justice system. While attitudes may be slower to change, enacting police and prison reforms can make us more like the country in the pledge of allegiance, one with liberty and justice for all.

2020 was also a year with a number of international stressors from a exchange of missiles with Iran, global tensions with China, and rumblings in South America. America is involved in an awful lot of places around the world and has been for far too long. It’s time to bring our troops home and end the endless wars.

Our legislative package — the combined demands of the American Union — will address these systemic issues. Society is a group of people dedicated to mutual success, and the simplest way to ensure general prosperity is with 300 million American Union Jobs, a form of universal basic income. When we unionize as voters, everyone gets an American Union Job, no strings attached.

End poverty

Everyone’s American Union Job starts with a digital Treasury account, with $300 of legal tender credited weekly, plus a fractional share for children. This will lift every American above the poverty line, while establishing a secure economic floor for all to build on. These no-fee digital accounts will also include access to free postal banking services and peer-to-peer transfers, bringing everyone into the banking system equally and with the economic freedom to move around the country.

The duties of these American Union Jobs, it should be said, are voluntary. There’s no clock to punch, this is just a patriotic reminder of the five duties of all Americans, individually and collectively: establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. These are the goals that define us as Americans, and we all contribute toward their success. Our American Union Jobs are regular payments that ensure everyone shares in the nation’s economic surplus. In our pioneer days, America gave away land to promote the general welfare. In the 21st century, everyone will be able to access their share of America’s growing economy with a digital Treasury account, once we unionize as voters.

American Union Jobs come with benefits; you’ll also have the opportunity to buy health insurance — Joe Biden’s public option — totally disconnected from employment. We’ll take the burden of providing health insurance off of small business and let the government take advantage of price discounts by negotiating and buying in bulk.

Not all babies get the option to spend time with mom, but those that do have a lower infant mortality rate. The United States is one of the last countries on the planet without paid maternal leave. (Photo by Victoria Borodinova from Pexels)

Finally, American Union Jobs will cover 18 weeks of paid family leave with any other employer. This common sense reform is expected to allow an additional 9,000 newborns to reach their first birthday every year. American Union Jobs will also provide financial stability to foster children who age out of state programs; one LA study found that 60% became homeless during their first six months of emancipation.

Everyone gets an American Union Job; but it isn’t payment in exchange for specific work. Instead, Americans are independent contractors, fulfilling our constitutional duties however we see fit. Employment promotes the general welfare. Homemakers can ensure domestic tranquility. And the children we raise are our shared posterity, who will inherit the blessings of liberty. The $300 each week is recognition of the value we all create.

American Union Jobs are funded in three primary ways; a 12% value added tax, a fee-and-dividend on carbon and plastic, and the use of digital legal tender to increase the money supply, instead of creating additional debt. The funds in an individual’s digital Treasury account represent a share of the growing economy, and can be withdrawn as cash, transferred elsewhere, spent directly, or just used as a refundable tax credit. By adding enough economic stability to everyone’s life and ending absolute poverty, we’ll find that many other societal problems decrease, such as crime and healthcare usage.

End mass incarceration

Unionizing as voters will help us look out for each other as Americans, but ending poverty is just one part of a 21st century social contract. Our first duty in the Constitution is to establish justice, and 2020 exposed systemic racism in our criminal justice system. 71% of voters reported they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who reduced prison populations; the time has come to end mass incarceration.

In her bestselling 2010 book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander broke out the racial injustice in the judicial system. After tracing it back through Reconstruction and Richard Nixon’s southern strategy, as well as detailing the social and economic costs, including the loss to everyone’s liberty, Alexander threw down a challenge to reformers. “[To] become serious about dismantling the system of mass incarceration, we must end the War on Drugs. There is no way around it.”

To address systemic racism, we must boldly challenge the status quo.

Just as the repeal of alcohol prohibition kicked off the New Deal, drug prohibition will be ended on the federal level. The legislative package creates a regulatory framework for legalization that states can opt into. Consumption taxes can fund treatment services and address other social costs. To the extent that the federal government is downsized as a result of this policy change, former drug warriors and their families will always be able to count on regular income through their American Union Job.

Additional prison reforms are included, in the name of establishing justice, such as the ability for the incarcerated to request a sentence review after serving either 10 years or the full sentence of any non-drug crime offenses, the restoration of Pell grant eligibility for incarcerated Americans, and a repeal of all federal mandatory minimum sentences.

Currently, three quarters of a million people are employed by the prison industrial complex, many in rural areas where other income sources are scare. As demand diminishes for detention facilities, American Union Jobs will provide a regular flow of money into those areas to offset the lost employment.

For those stepping forward from the prison walls, economic insecurity has long been a driver of recidivism. Now, American Union Jobs will provide a stabilizing force to ease acclimatization to civilian life. Meanwhile, neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by poverty and the drug war will be revitalized with new local spending. The transformation of the poor into purchasers, King observed, would deliver “a host of positive psychological changes” as a result of “widespread economic security.”

Any comprehensive solution to 2020’s problems must include police reforms on a national level. As of this writing, it’s unclear what Congress actually intends to pass. A variety of issues, including civil asset forfeiture, qualified immunity, no-knock warrants, and the use of cash bail require attention.

End the endless wars

Martin Luther King Jr. identified three interconnected evils in poverty, racism and militarism. The latter represented the US military, which King called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” King gave passionate speeches against the endless war of Vietnam as he linked these triple evils for American audiences. The military industrial complex, King recognized, benefited from low-income populations as a source of recruits. By ending poverty, we also reduce the supply of cheap labor available.

As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, we should reflect on our real goals in the Middle East. Donald Trump’s support for ending the endless wars mirrored a widespread weariness among Americans after so many conflicts across the globe. Our legislative demands include 10% cuts to military budgets as we bring our troops home, where everyone has an American Union Job.

Some of our foreign policies are unjust, like the indefinite detention of dozens of men at Guantanamo Bay, technically cleared for release but not allowed to leave. Our economic sanctions lead to tens of thousands of civilian deaths, and our hundreds of military bases are international stressors.

These interconnected evils can all be addressed together in a post-pandemic legislative package. When people come home, from foreign posts or federal prisons, everyone gets an American Union Job. Their weekly $300, in addition to any other earnings, will serve as a trickle-up stimulus to the American economy. As William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic nominee for president, observed: “If you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

We can legislate prosperity, if we unionize as voters. Poverty, mass incarceration, and militarization are all the result of policy choices that have been made in the past and policies which largely coast on inertia. We can demand better choices be made.

Congress has the ability to steer a new course, and the American Union would happily reelect Republicans and Democrats alike after they end poverty, end mass incarceration, and end the endless wars. Why wouldn’t we give them another term?

Everybody can win.

A moral crusade

Because America has the ability to lift tens of millions up out of poverty, choosing to allow the status quo would be a moral failing on our part. In this vein, members of the American Union participate in a monthly fast, what Gandhian scholar Gene Sharp identified as a “fast of moral pressure.”

By observing a 24-hour fast on the 15th of the month, we demonstrate our willingness to cooperate toward a higher ideal, a step toward King’s “beloved community.” As a fast of moral pressure on Congressional incumbents, the American Union demonstrates its sincerity in demanding King’s triple evils be addressed, with the understanding that the results will be felt at the ballot box on November 8, 2022.

The fast also serves as a way to connect with the incarcerated, whose simultaneous participation from inside prisons adds moral weight to the demand for justice in America. In March 2021, incarcerated men and women in Iowa, Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan joined with the American Union in the #fastforpeace. (Volunteer here to help with outreach.)

We can upgrade everyone’s quality of life in America when we work together, but the legislative package will require compromises from everyone. Fasting is a way of demonstrating a willingness to give something up, a shared self-sacrifice. When our fast of moral pressure inspires Congress to enact our legislative package prior to the 2022 election, we can reelect all the incumbents.*

*Unless we don’t reelect them

Some of the pessimists among us ask, well, what if the incumbents ignore us? What if the Republicans and Democrats don’t pass this legislative package? The practical answer is, we don’t have to reelect them, and we have at least three options. After the October 15, 2022, fast for peace, the members of the American Union — all willing swing voters supporting the final legislative proposal— will be asked to choose an option.

An obvious strategy would be to oust all incumbents of both parties. While this might leave little net change in party margins, as a national block of swing voters, our projected vote share of 3.5% could decide the outcome of 60 or more close races in the 2022 midterms. Anti-incumbent sentiment could easily drive it higher. This comes from the strange paradox where many people hate Congress as a whole, but think their own likable Congressperson has nothing to do with the problem. However, when they see that others are voting “the bums” out, those voters are likely to pivot and join in the fun.

Congress as a whole remains wildly unpopular. The American Union is like voters sticking together to say “Look, if you guys are willing to throw out your incumbents, I’m willing to dump mine too.” Even the mere possibility of widespread, bipartisan losses should give Congress a strong incentive to cooperate.

Another option is the coin flip Congress, a technique used to decide an American Union party endorsement in the January 2021 Georgia senate runoffs. When neither party was willing to offer any legislative concessions, the endorsement for the Democrats was made by the flip of a coin. Had 29,000 Georgians who voted with the American Union voted the other way, Republicans would have maintained power. The random nature of the choice is not an act of spite, but an act of noncooperation with the constant demand that we choose the lesser of evils. When done on a national level, electoral gains by the winning party will be delegitimized, reminding the majority party they are there not with a mandate, but on a vote of no confidence.

A third option would be to make a more nuanced set of endorsements across the Congressional races, in order to collect political capital and lay the groundwork for another election. If we assist those who helped advance our policy objectives but did not succeed, we must be wary. Our goal is not to seize the reins of power or prefer one party over the other, but to achieve “a radical redistribution of political and economic power” in service of ending poverty, mass incarceration, and the endless wars.

The wisest choice for Congress, of course, will be to cooperate and enact our legislative package. The pandemic has brought forward an cyclical opportunity Americans have every four generations called the Phoenix Cycle. During the Revolutionary War, we overthrew an unresponsive political system. The Civil War addressed the racial injustice of slavery and reorganized our nation. In the 1930s, the New Deal took on wealth inequality nonviolently through the ballot box, and brought prosperity to America for decades.

After 2020, all of these issues needed to be addressed anew. With the end of the global pandemic in sight, we imagine an America rising up from that tragedy like a phoenix being reborn. All of those evils of previous cycles have returned; by ending poverty, ending mass incarceration, and ending the endless wars we can tamp them down for decades to come.

Upgrades to the banking system are also part of the Phoenix Cycle. Alexander Hamilton brought prosperity with the National Bank; Lincoln issued legal tender and began national regulations on banks; FDR revalued gold to increase the money supply and tightened banking standards. In the 21st century, digital Treasury accounts can bring everyone into the modern banking system, while establishing a free and fair marketplace for transactions.

Focus on the positive

We don’t have to let the two parties make us hate each other.

If you’re an incumbent in Congress, wouldn’t you love to be part of a historic opportunity to shepherd America into an age of peace and prosperity, all while guaranteeing your reelection?

If you’re an American, wouldn’t you love to reelect a Congress that shepherded America into an age of peace and prosperity?

Transforming America this way requires working outside of the old Republicans vs. Democrats paradigm. The American Union is organizing differently, and to do that, needs your financial support for our political action committee and participation on an individual level.

The first step is opting in to one of the monthly fasts. It is a small but real hurdle for entrance, intended to foster community spirit while demonstrating sincerity and a willingness to make sacrifices and compromises. (Pledge here.) Help us grow the American Union between now and the midterms. The final call for pledging votes comes on October 15, 2022; everyone gets a last chance to weigh the political dynamics before deciding who wants to collectively bargain.

What will America be after the pandemic? If you share our vision of a country with peace and prosperity, with liberty and justice for all, join the American Union. Just 3.5% of Americans will leverage the balance of power in Washington- #VoteAU in 2022.



Phoenix Congress

Challenging the duopoly with crowdsourced legislative solutions since 2019.