Today may feel strange, like we have lost track of who we are as a country. It may feel like this is the most divided our nation has ever been. Let me assure you that is not true. This is closer to normal than we have been in a while. It’s easy to point to the Civil War and Reconstruction. Those are obvious. But let’s also remember the Civil War was a couple decades (at least) in the making. We should also remember that there was a time when an angry mob assembled outside the Whitehouse to burn John Tyler in effigy over the Bank of the United States. That was before Secret Service so an angry mob was more of a threat than it would be today.
Everyone alive today has lived in the shadow of WW2 and the Cold War, external existential threats that required some level of national unity to confront. Even in the midst of that we faced the division of the Civil Rights movement, race riots, and desegregation (and Vietnam). Our memory is shaped by the some true landslides (1984, 1980, 1972, 1964, 1956, 1952, and then Dwight D. Eisenhower). However, there was a national unity in the face of Nazis and Communists. All young men had served with eachother regardless of politics from 1942-1945. We knew how to disagree and still cooperate.
That was the anomaly. We saw this beginning to break down with George W. Bush, although 9/11 brought a temporary return to unity (gone by 2005). What we have now is a collection of states that have irreconcilable differences. I honestly don’t think that the legislatures of Texas and New York could ever come to an agreement on energy, monetary, or environmental policies. What then? Do we split up?
Interestingly there was a group of dudes who faced the same situation back in 1787. What they did was draft a document that treated each state as its own separate sovereign entity. The states would work together for outward involvement (declare war, provide defense, treaties, import tariffs, immigration), prevent states from sabotaging each other (nobody gets to block trade with another state, intellectual property protection), and a few items that cross state boundaries (coinage, post roads, piracy). Other than that Virginia could set Virginia’s priorities for healthcare, social safety nets, energy policy, licensing, and so on. If Texas thought Virginia’s rules were stupid then Texas would have different ones. Any law must be agreed to by both the representatives of the people, and the individual sovereign states. This is kind of how the EU operates. They only have a senate, no House of Reps. That is because Belgium is an independent sovereign, just like Germany.
Our problem is that so many decisions (drug policy, health policy, welfare policy, environmental policy, research priorities, and on and on) that should be local are now national decisions. We elect people who will support our farmers, our industries, our health insurance policies. Then they will shove those polices down the unwilling throats of states that 65% disagree with us.
I don’t think we should break up. Think about it, do you want California deciding whether to house Chinese military bases? Didn’t think so. However, given that the US now is as divided as it was in 1787 we should probably take a look at what they did. The next time Republicans get the trifecta (I’m guessing 2024) we should absolutely not try to put in place our priorities. We should (over a 2 month time frame, faster if possible) devolve all authority not expressly given in the Constitution back to the states. California may decide to have a universal healthcare system and net zero energy. Bully for them, go for it. They have the population and GDP of Canada, if they want to run their state that way who is Wyoming to object? Texas may go the opposite direction. Fan-freakin-tastic. They have the population and GDP of Australia they can manage it. Most of our states have more population that Singapore which manages just fine. We should respect that other states may have different priorities. We should also assume Massachusetts should be as respected to make their own mistakes as Singapore, and let them.
Also, for all our fine military folks out there… I have been suggesting for a while now (off and on) that the Army should be cut by 75% or more. Looking at the last week do you still think our military should be as large and well armed as it is? Personally I look at what we have and think it is going to end badly. I for one would prefer a national government with far fewer tanks and fighter jets.