The Coming Breakup of the United States

Americans right now are more sharply divided politically than at any time since the Civil War. Things have gotten so bad that we now have, perhaps for the first time since the antibellum era, different states openly feuding with each other on ideological grounds. Last year, for instance, Tennessee enacted a religious liberty law that allows mental health therapists to refuse gay clients. In response, California banned state employees from using public funds to travel to Tennessee. For similar reasons, California maintains equivalent travel bans against seven other states: Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota, and Texas. The latter four states were added to the list just last week.

In response, Tennessee adopted a resolution basically telling California to mind its own goddam business. The resolution even featured some pretty good trolling.

WHEREAS, California’s attempt to influence public policy in our state is akin to Tennessee expressing its disapproval of California’s exorbitant taxes, spiraling budget deficits, runaway social welfare programs, and rampant illegal immigration; and
WHEREAS, Tennessee is pleasantly surprised that California will not be sending its economic development teams to Tennessee to recruit our businesses, but we can still send our teams to recruit their businesses; and
WHEREAS, Tennessee is puzzled why California thinks it is a good idea to prohibit its state colleges and universities from participating in athletic competition in Tennessee (March Madness comes to Memphis this year via the South Regional)…

That’s just fairly harmless trash talk, but the Tennessee resolution also includes threats to impose economic sanctions of its own. It also says the following.

[W]e urge the other forty-eight states to refrain from imposing their unfounded moral judgment on their sister states as California has done in order to prevent escalating foolishness.

I really don’t recall any precedent for states openly calling each other out like this since the Civil War. Marc Thiessen, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, says that America seems to be “on its way to divorce court” and offers a plaintive cry for unity.

This is not to suggest that there is no role for righteous anger in political discourse. Conservatives felt anger about many of Obama’s policies, and liberals have every right to be angry about Trump’s policies they find objectionable. And they have every right to fight like hell to stop them.

But it wasn’t so long ago that, despite bitter differences over policies, Republicans and Democrats still found ways to work together. President Bill Clinton and Republicans in Congress worked together to pass NAFTA and welfare reform. George W. Bush and congressional Democrats cooperated to pass tax cuts and education reform. Today, that kind of cooperation is unimaginable.

And the reason is simple: When anger transforms into contempt, permanent damage takes place. As American Enterprise Institute President Arthur C. Brooks points out, a marriage can recover from anger. But when couples become contemptuous of each other, they will almost certainly end up in divorce court. That is where our country is headed today.

Liberals need to understand: When they show contempt for Trump, they are expressing contempt for the millions of Americans who voted for him – including millions who twice voted for Obama. These Americans felt that the establishments of both parties were ignoring them and wanted to send Washington a message. The response they are receiving could not be clearer: We have contempt for the man you elected, and we have contempt for all of you who put him into office. They will never forget it.

We need to pull back from this spiral of contempt before it is too late. North Korea is our enemy. Our fellow Americans who disagree with us are not. It’s time we learn the difference – before someone gets killed.

The plea for civility and cooperation is noble and high-minded, but does nothing to address the very real differences dividing Americans. And those sources of division are not going away. Rather, the divisions will continue to widen to the point where a serious movement for secession might emerge.

Already in reaction to the last election, leftists in California tried to organize a ‘Calexit’ movement for independence. That’s another indication of how deep the differences now run. But when the time for the breakup finally arrives, I predict it will be the right filing for divorce from the left. One reason is that, in the ongoing culture war, it is the left that is the bully and the aggressor, and only a masochist submits indefinitely to bullying.

But more importantly, the demographic trends in America are working in favor of the political left and against the right. Once the right realizes that they can never win national elections anymore, they’ll see no point to continued participation. In 1860 the South essentially took the decision to secede because they similarly perceived national politics to be trending against their side.

I don’t know exactly how things will play out. As Mark Twain said, prediction is hard, especially about the future. But I wouldn’t be shocked if 20 years from now the United States as presently constituted no longer exists.

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