Wednesday, March 13, 2019

At a Neptunian Crossroads: the Astrology of Election 2020

"Neptune's Horses" by Walter Crane

We are awash in Pisces/Neptune energy these days, and as loving, compassionate and magical as Neptune can be at its best, this overwhelmingly watery influence can also manifest in troubling ways, both personal and collective.

For instance, for every individual that achieves a Neptunian state of compassionate service, or the ever-satisfying “high” of creative fulfillment, thousands succumb to and struggle with addictions. 

Unfortunately, our very human, Neptunian spiritual need for transcendence is easily distorted and channeled in toxic directions:  into a precarious dance with pain and the quest to relieve it; into a quest for Belonging that turns cult-like, demanding the total surrender of personal will and integrity; into a quest for healing that ends up replacing one set of delusions with another; into toxic relationships that become “gaslit” prisons.
The list goes on. 

Hard Neptune transits can be tough on a person’s physical and mental health: like the relentless lapping of the ocean at the shore that eventually transforms the landscape and its ecology, this energy breaks down barriers and systems—including the immune system and other bodily defenses—over long periods of time. So long that we hardly know there’s a problem until there just is.  

All of this holds true on the collective level in one form or another—societies deal with their addictions and delusions, right along with their citizens. They also deal with erosion, decay and even dissolution—a process that again, breaks down systems, beginning with the structures and institutions that form their basis in law, that guarantee certain norms of behavior, basic rights and ethical transactions. Government and “Politics,” in other words. 

Social scientist Francis Fukuyama claims that people are naturally “political”—that is, inclined to establish and maintain institutions for the sake of achieving and administering collaborative projects, but he also says that these institutions are naturally vulnerable to deterioration and corruption. To his thinking, this “political decay,” as he calls it, takes two different forms:

“Institutions are created in the first place to meet the competitive challenges of a particular environment. That environment can be a physical one, involving land, resources, climate, and geography, or it can be a social one, involving rivals, enemies, competitors, allies, and the like….[but] when the original conditions leading to the creation or adoption of an institution change, the institution fails to adjust quickly to meet the new circumstances…The disjunction…then accounts for political decay or deinstitutionalization…
The second form of political decay is repatrimonialization. The favoring of family or friends with whom one has exchanged reciprocal favors is a natural form of sociability and is a default manner of human interaction…in certain stages of political development, this constituted the only form of political organization. But as institutions evolved, new rules were put in place to recruit on the basis of function or talent…But there is constant pressure to repatrimonialize the system.”[1]
In short, societies decay and falter because first, essential institutions that protect all of us from corrupt power players can be caught off-guard and fatally undermined by demands for rapid adaptation. These institutions don’t turn on a dime (not for the better, anyway) and are often not prepared to respond to such demands.

"Neptune" by Leonardo da Vinci
And second, because the “repatrimonialization” process takes over when a society is under stress and its systems have regressed (for whatever reason) into more primitive “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” ways of working. “Let’s not be naïve” or “when in Rome…” are mantras that enable a creeping sort of ethics-free approach to doing business. “Everyone’s doing it…” is a Neptunian argument if there ever was one.  

Unfortunately, under our present regime, American society seems to be caught up in both these forms of political decay at the same time—and it’s no surprise that transiting Neptune is now edging closer to opposing its Sibly equivalent. The fact that this “half-return” is inching into place at the same time Pluto transits into its return position in the Sibly chart reminds us that these heavies often work in tandem as they transform the institutions and entities in their paths. This is especially true now, in these troublingly corrupt times. Consider Trump’s role in all this, for example.

Trump came in like a tornado and began shredding every institution he got his hands on, sending public servants pledged to protect them scrambling. The oaths they have taken to serve and protect the Constitution—the same basic oath that Trump took, hand on Bible—have been sorely tested because Trump has made it clear that loyalty to him takes precedence over all. Ask former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former FBI Directors James Comey and Andrew McCabe, former…former…former…former… You get the idea.

Former Trump advisor, Steve Bannon (l) and son-in-law Jared Kushner (r).
Which is not to say that the decay is entirely new since Trump: like all Neptune-Pluto collusions, the rot that’s infected our national institutions has marinated for a long period of time. Trump seems to have stepped into the process at a critical, vulnerable moment with his whirlwind, Mercurial nature, and he promptly set out to –as Steve Bannon put it—“dismantle the Deep State.” 

In other words, to destroy the institutions that are designed to check any excesses or abuses in Executive power. And, we’ve found out that when those excesses involve catering to Trump’s odd allegiances—Putin comes to mind—we could find ourselves in treacherous territory. Unfortunately, we have to wonder what their new arms race is really about. More on that ahead. 

In an unfortunate “twofer,” in the process of undermining and battling the Free Press, the Justice department, the State Department, our Intelligence services, Congressional oversight, the EPA, our alliances, the Supreme Court, and the character of the presidency itself, he’s also pushed the “repatrimonialization” process. Every week in the news we learn new ways in which Trump and his family members/aides have used his brand of “deal-making” to profit from the presidency.

Nepotism was the first step in this process—Trump’s refusing to divest himself from his family business empire was another. Why would he? Both of these self-dealing ploys have allowed him (and others, on his behalf) to basically sell “favors” and access. Among many other avenues for profit and fund-raising, it’s been a great time for them to own a hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and to rename Trump’s Florida country club the “winter White House.” It’s been a great time to build business contacts and gain patent rights in China; it’s been a great time to seek foreign funding for Kushner real estate projects, and so on. 

How many foreign dignitaries and their entourages have paid Trump hotel fees with one hand while shaking his “presidential” hand in a photo op with the other? Playing business and politics against the middle (We the People) is a sure recipe for breathtaking corruption, and it won’t stop until the rule of Law is strengthened and upheld—Saturn is the best antidote to toxic Neptune. 

Trump's latest budget calls for massive, complicated cuts to Medicare.
Double-dealing is engrained in Trump’s full Moon Gemini-Sagittarius character, but this facility for talking out of both sides of his mouth (his Gemini super-power) and for not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing (Sagittarian duplicity) has served some dark purposes. He gained political advantage over his GOP opponents in 2016 by pledging to preserve Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, staking out a more “populist” position for himself and daring to be different, while still claiming social conservative credentials. 

Between that pledge and another to drastically reduce the national debt in short order, he probably siphoned off many voters who might have otherwise voted for Clinton. 

Needless to say, neither of these promises has panned out; in fact, aside from appointing conservative Supreme Court justices and signing Bibles, he’s done quite the opposite. 

It’s certainly not populist to take a hatchet to our national health care system (such as it is) and to apply heavy pressure to the bottom lines of all non-defense domestic programs and more. The national debt has soared to $22 trillion and his new budget will only add to that. The Washington Post calls this new budget plan a “horror show” and “positively savage,” and warns that it will trigger a whole new round of government shutdown drama. 

Here are the budget highlights they list:
  •  “The Trump budget would cut about $845 billion from Medicare over 10 years
  • It cuts $241 billion from Medicaid
  • It would push Medicaid toward block grants which cap the amount each state would receive, which when the money runs out would result in pared-back benefits, recipients being tossed off the program or both
  • It would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which would mean millions would lose their health coverage
  • It would cut $25 billion from Social Security
  • It would impose work requirements on recipients of food stamps, Medicaid and housing assistance, forcing them to navigate a bureaucratic maze or lose their benefits
  • It would cut $220 billion from food stamps
  • It would cut $1.1 trillion from domestic discretionary programs, which do not include Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security
  • It would cut the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 16 percent and the Education Department by 12 percent
  • It would cut the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent.”
And all of these cuts are being done in the context of a monumental build up of the Defense budget and $8.6 billion more for the “Wall.” This list is a real statement of what Trump and company value, but more importantly, what they don’t:  a well-educated, healthy populace and a clean, healthy environment. 

My point in providing this long example isn’t to argue the policies and priorities, however—it’s to discuss the blatantly double-dealing tactics in play here—a toxic blend of Mercury and Neptune that Trump seems to have mastered, with his natal Mercury-Neptune square (Cancer-Libra)—with Mercury disposing his whirlwind Gemini Sun-No. Node-Uranus gathering. A “populist” whose priorities serve those at the top at the expense of those on the middle and bottom is no populist.   

This extends to his massive 2018 tax cut for the wealthy, his continued attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion, and now his intention to make retirees and working and middle class families bear the brunt of his new plans for Defense. He may be adept at talking the populist talk, but he’s not about to walk the walk. 

Unfortunately, similar duplicitous tactics have been used to corrupt and neuter our essential governmental institutions: most egregiously, by his non-stop slandering of the FBI and Justice Department, people who might really need their services—i.e., to protect us against terrorists—no longer trust them. Heaven knows, the individuals running these agencies have their flaws, like everyone, but the work they are doing is essential, and they need to operate independently, free from White House influence (or any other influence) to do it properly. 

Our Founders foresaw a time when the rule of law would clash with a power-hungry Executive, but they may not have foreseen how vulnerable our institutions could be to an Executive who will stop at nothing to get his way, including declaring a bogus emergency so he can go around Congress’s authority to allocate funds. 

The list of dangers to our institutions is getting longer by the day: IMHO, if the 2020 election ignores this gnarly constitutional crisis entirely (because it’s too wonky or technical) to focus on “normal” issues like health care and taxes, We the People will stand to lose some cherished constitutional ground.

Despite the chills this idea sends up my spine, I must admit that astrologically, Trump can be re-elected, and here’s why: Neptune continues its Pisces transit into 2025—enabling those who have no scruples about lying and obfuscating—while Pluto continues on in corporate-friendly Capricorn (ever on the hunt for lower taxes and bigger boondoggles), returning to its Sibly position late in that sign in February, 2022. Pluto first enters Aquarius in March, 2023, but doesn’t fully commit to the sign until January, 2024. 

This certainly doesn’t mean that Trump will be re-elected—a lot could happen between now and November 2020—but these transits are concerning because we have seen how Trump manipulates these heavy energies so adeptly for his own purposes. Those who don’t want to see him re-elected had better not be naïve, again. 

On this note, let’s examine the chart for Election Day 2020. This falls on November 3rd of that year.  This chart will give us a feel for the dynamics and likely tone of that day—we know that the media will be crackling with stress that day, as will the public’s mood, but let’s remember that the same “good” or “bad” placements can play out in multiple ways. As far as I know, the Cosmos could care less who wins! Trying to read an election chart dispassionately can be difficult. 

Over the coming weeks, we’ll move on to consider more closely how Trump’s nativity figures into all this, and what impact he is likely to have on the nation as the election unfolds. This gets to be a long story very quickly!

Chart #1: Election Day 2020, November 3, 2020, 6:39 a.m. ST (dawn), Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

Moon (Gemini) inconjoins Sun (Scorpio), sextiles Mars (Aries) and widely squares Neptune (Rx, Pisces). Notice that several planets fall in their home signs in this chart: Mars (Aries), Neptune (Pisces), Saturn (Capricorn) and Venus (Libra). This suggests a serious, earnest tone to the day, as if everyone involved will be bringing their “A-game.” It’s very likely that the public will feel scattered, uncertain and possibly frustrated, nevertheless (Moon inconjunct Sun)—there could be many voters that try to hedge their bets in some way.

This impulse can take many forms, such as voting for the candidate that feels “electable” instead of following their true preferences, working to maintain the status quo instead of “rocking the boat,” etc. Some may be so frustrated by the challenge of sorting the lies from the facts that they simply stay home.  

With Moon in Gemini, the media (including social media) could play an outsized role in determining where the vote falls, yet the media could be somewhat marginalized or compromised (Gemini ruler Mercury is retrograde in the 12th). We should be aware that all may not be what it seems on Election Day: this is reinforced by Nodal axis (Gemini-Sagittarius) squaring Neptune, which points to possible subterfuge and worse. If high-level Intelligence reports are saying then what they’re saying now, that Russia is actively meddling in European and Baltic democracies and will try to influence our election again, we should pay attention! 

It probably isn’t surprising that this t-square is firmly tied into Trump’s chart – more on that in a future post.  

Mars (Aries) sextiles Moon (Gemini) and inconjoins Sun (Scorpio), forming a Yod; Mars conjoins Eris (Aries) and opposes Mercury (Rx, Libra). The feeling of uncertainty and frustration that permeated the Moon aspects above gains an aggressive edge with these aspects. It’s not hard to imagine voters feeling that they’re “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” on election day, but this is why it will be so important to educate ourselves on the facts and avoid making decisions on the basis of bluster, emotionalism, sentimentality, or delusions (that goes for all sides).

A certain amount of fortitude is called for here: Mars is warrior energy, and with Eris there’s a reinforced sense that the stakes are high in this fight—tough choices will have to be made. Mercury Rx raises the possibility that challenges to the election will force a recount. 

Election day aside, with an Aries 6th house and two powerful “warriors” placed in that house (Mars and Eris), it’s possible that an actual shooting war may be either on the horizon or already in progress in November 2020. This isn’t that difficult to call, actually—in a December, 2018 report, ForeignPolicy .com listed “10 Conflicts to Watch in 2019,” and the U.S. could play a role in several of them, despite the fact that the report’s author red-flags the waning status of U.S. leadership in the world, saying that “authoritarian leaders are competing to see how much they can get by with.”

Competent foreign policy leadership is more essential today than ever, yet such imperatives rarely decide U.S. elections. We’ve lost major ground and reputation under the present administration—will voters care? 

One way or another, it won’t be too surprising if Trump has involved us in a “hot” war between now and the election, but the justifications could be spurious. If he’s feeling particularly vulnerable leading into this election, involving us in a war is one way to shift the advantage his way: among other priorities, a war allows the Commander-in-Chief to wield extraordinary powers, and it allows him and his supporters to claim that it would be a horrible time to switch leadership. Incumbent presidents are rarely voted out during wartime. 

Of course, if these machinations are detected in Congress, this could force the issue of impeachment, whether Democratic leadership wants to go there or not (it wouldn’t look great, close to an election). One way or another, ongoing volatility and conflict could be in the works at that time, and someone could benefit. Some will, unfortunately, be pawns in these power struggles. 

Of course, there’s a more benign interpretation of all this as well: we know that Trump’s budget calls for massive increases to the Defense budget at the expense of almost everything else, and it could all be for the sake of enriching Defense contractors (how many will vote for Trump?) and looking “tough” in the world—no need to wage an actual war. More on this later in this post.

The U.S. Pentagon
In fact, Foreign Policy points to a growing problem of unoccupied positions in the Pentagon—two highly-placed women, officials with the Air Force and Navy respectively, resigned this past week, adding to a growing list of empty offices. Trump wants to throw a lot of money at the Pentagon, but doesn’t seem concerned with the Defense Department being fully-staffed. Could it be that the money (and the influence it buys) is the goal?

The financial possibilities represented by Defense contracts might explain the Jupiter-Pluto-Saturn (Capricorn) square to Mars-Eris (Aries). But the new Saturn-Pluto cycle will be in its first months at this juncture, and will be planting seeds for a new world order—how will that mesh with the Trump agenda, and the agendas of those who are attempting to influence him at that time? The willingness Trump has shown to blend personal profit and official business is troubling enough, but doing so with our Defense budget would be monumental. Will “pay-for-play” be the new order (everyone’s doing it, so why not?), or will we see more emphasis on accountability and responsibility? 

Unfortunately, we have evidence that under Trump, a new cynical view of how one “gets things done” has taken over. Trump himself makes no secret of the fact that he takes a purely transactional approach to negotiating, which means that he goes where the money and/or influence are to seek out his latest deals, and whoever ingratiates him- or herself with him will get his attention, ethics be damned. Trump’s loyalties seem as malleable as his narratives. 

This approach has real-world impact, unfortunately, and it certainly tied in directly with Boeing’s weeks-long crisis with its 737 Max 8 aircrafts: nearly every other country grounded or suspended the aircraft from their airspace and airports because of flaws that have caused two major crashes (and over 350 deaths) in the past couple months before Trump finally ordered Boeing to ground this line of planes today (3/13).

This Southwest Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft is now grounded for repairs.

The fact that Boeing’s CEO has been known to frequent Mar-o-Lago and to chat on the phone with Trump raises the issue of undue influence, and may explain why this grounding order was so long in coming and required such a preponderance of evidence and public pressure. It shouldn’t take that much for essential, regulated public systems to err on the side of safety. 

Notice that the Pallas-Jupiter-Pluto-Saturn (Capricorn) square to Eris (and very widely, Mars in Aries) becomes a t-square when we factor in Mercury (Rx, Libra). Again, this all speaks to the biggest corporate boondoggle of all, waging war, but Mercury’s position and Rx status here suggests that such topics will be very hush-hush at the election. Mercury’s also placed in the 12th here—another indication that speech will hardly be “free.” 

Military warfare isn’t the only possibility, of course: elections themselves are a type of war, so it’s possible that this tense configuration simply reflects the conduct of the election itself. Pallas’s involvement here reminds us that elections are a matter of justice and equity.

Mercury here also brings in the issue of technology, and between this and issues raised by Uranus (more ahead), it looks like tech issues could be important for this election. Indeed, candidates like Elizabeth Warren (D, Massachusetts) are running on the issue of breaking up the tech giants (Amazon, Google, Facebook) that basically squelch competition by their sheer enormity and reach. This will be far from easy, of course: Jupiter-Pluto (this new cycle will have begun in April, 2020) is all about amassing big power and big money, and the bigger the corporation, the better.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposes breaking up the tech giants.
In Capricorn. this dynamic is predictable, although Saturn’s involvement may signal there’s room for sane regulation. The difficulty of breaking up such corporate giants in this astrological environment doesn’t mean Warren won’t try, however, and she may be joined by others, since Amazon in particular has become a favorite target of venom with progressive Dems.

The other glaring possibility for this tense configuration is the role that campaign dollars will play in the election—especially from those same tech giants and any corporations that want to wield influence in Washington. It’s interesting that these heavy Capricorn energies are so snugly situated in the 3rd house of communications, transportation (roads, bridges, etc.), education and local affairs—in other words, a sector with grass-roots implications. Large swaths of our population can agree on the need to rebuild infrastructures—there’s just so much that the states can do alone on this issue.

It’s also possible that building Trump’s “Wall” across our southern border (to separate us from the 9th house “world out there”) is represented by these 3rd house placements, however, and we can guess that under Trump, this will take precedence over infrastructure projects that actually help the nation. Clearly, with all the wall money he’s demanding in his current budget (we’ve seen that he’s willing to hold the government itself hostage to get what he wants), this issue isn’t going to go away before the election. He’s already claiming the wall is being built—these being Neptunian times, maybe it is, in his imagination. 
In so far as the Wall represents Trump’s “zero-tolerance” approach to immigration, we can see that Pallas’s involvement here, again, points to the need for just solutions. Trump’s policies have exacerbated, if not created the humanitarian crisis at the border. And just for the sake of argument, do we know who stands to profit from building that wall? Mercury Rx periods are good times to investigate such lines of inquiry, with the hope that once Mercury goes direct, more transparency will be possible. 

All of these issues are more than fair game for this powerful Capricorn-led t-square.

A final thought on this t-square has to do with the institutional nature of our two-party electoral system, and the complex organizations that support their respective campaigns. We were smacked with a real wake-up call last time around when DNC email systems (Democratic National Committee) were hacked by Wikileaks on the eve of the Democratic Convention: can we expect the coming election to be equally dirty? Are we okay with that? These are questions that will confront us; it will help to remember that Saturn-Pluto will take cues from us about the “new order” we want to inhabit.

Uranus (Taurus) inconjoins and forms a mutual reception with Venus (Libra); Uranus opposes Sun (Scorpio). In fact, this “new order” is going to be heavily influenced by and geared towards accommodating Uranus—ruling technology. We’ve been hearing stories for years now about the rapidly developing potentials for AI-driven businesses, about the coming “jobless” times, and so on, and dealing with these realities is going to require our economy and society to consciously evolve going forward. 

Here, we’re focused on Election Day 2020, however—technology may not be the main issue that brings voters to the polls, but my guess is it will be an issue that helps sort voters into futurist v. reactionary camps—those who look forward to the “brave new world” offered by autonomous vehicles and AI nannies, and those who don’t. Even if the election doesn’t feel like a referendum on these tech issues and all their implications, however, there’s a new Jupiter-Saturn cycle launching at 0°+Aquarius within weeks of the election in December, 2020, and that will undoubtedly shift our focus into futurist mode.

Trump isn’t a particularly future-minded person—long-term thinking doesn’t work very well with a transactional mindset, but he’s pushing hard for a Uranian sounding “Space Force” branch for our military, and his new budget reflects those plans. Given that Russia and China are reportedly busy producing new “hypersonic” weapons for which we apparently have no effective response, this all reads like a new, budget-busting arms race. 

It’s interesting to me that Heather Wilson has just announced her departure as Air Force Secretary this week, shortly after issuing a statement saying that the new Space Force branch would cost an estimated $13 billion to establish. We’ll never know her motives for leaving (aside from a new position elsewhere), but we can see from the Uranus-Venus mutual reception (and inconjunct) in this chart, that issues regarding finances and technology and the tight ways in which they converge and feed each other, will be a nagging issue come election time. 

A key underlying factor in all this is the inability to trust Trump’s motives in anything—keeping others off balance, yet still in thrall to him in some way is a common tactic with him. That same approach is reflected here, in the frustrating, codependent feel of this Venus-Uranus aspect: Venus rules the 12th and 7th, suggesting back-room relationships (12th) fueling technology-related programs (in the 7th, perhaps defense technology related).

Has "America First" triggered a new, three-way arms race?

So, perhaps we need to wonder what sort of favors defense contractors typically pony up for the lucrative contracts they seek. The election is conveniently timed to coincide with Trump’s new push for a multi-billion dollar “Space Force”—could a new round of contracts (enabled by Trump’s new budget) be in the works to dangle in front of defense contractors with deep pockets for campaign contributions? It’s not hard to imagine Trump claiming that his Space Force will be sidelined if a Dem is elected—this power to hand out multi-billion dollar contracts is toxic when it comes to fair elections.

Not that influence peddling doesn’t happen on all sides in some form, but the sheer scale of it in today’s political climate is daunting. Looked at from this perspective, Trump’s Defense and Wall budget plans might as well be one massive re-election campaign fund—a way of “laundering” federal tax dollars into his campaign coffers. Needless to say, the strong cardinal t-square with Jupiter-Pluto-Saturn square Mars discussed earlier will only reinforce these Venus-Uranus possibilities, and the connection to Trump is fairly explicit: all those Capricorn points will be transiting opposite his natal Saturn-Venus from now into the election (chart not shown).  

A critical bifurcation point

This election chart is far more than a look at that one day—it represents a fork in the transformation path we’ve been on for some time. Clearing out the old for the sake of renewal and transformation is a necessary Saturn-Pluto process--it's all good, and we're right on schedule. Even so, there are precarious junctures in that process where tough choices will need to be made, and tough people will have to stand by them. 

So, unless something very unforeseen happens (like Trump resigns or is impeached), the cardinal energy at the bottom of the chart for that day will transform the election into a serious referendum on Trump’s presidency. The Mueller investigation and others led by Congressional committees will still be fresh in people’s minds (or still in progress), and the American public will have to decide what kind of political system it wants to support. 

Remember that mutable Neptune-Nodal axis t-square mentioned much earlier? With Neptune, we tend to see what we want to see, but this t-square indicates to my eyes that on Election Day 2020, the nation will be at an idealistic crossroads, where we either put up or shut up about democracy. 

One of the most chilling messages that came out of Michael Moore’s latest film, Fahrenheit 11/9, was that America has never lived up to its democratic potential—that it’s never been a true democracy because despite considerable progress, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" have not been equally available to all Americans. It's good to remind ourselves of that goal: we tend to measure the so-called American Dream by the quality of our material lives, when there is so much more at stake. Unfortunately, Neptune's ability to dis-enchant and dis-illusion is very real.

The fact is, we’ve always been a work in progress, but this election will represent a major bifurcation point (Gemini-Sagittarius Nodes), square Neptune. Will we push in the Neptunian direction of Abraham Lincoln’s “more perfect union,” or passively allow what is left of this union to run aground?

I think we're up to this challenge!


[1] Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, NY, NY, 2011, pp. 452-53.