First Installment, 29 MAR 2020
I finished Divide the Country! late in 2019, and it became available for purchase in mid-February of this year. I felt some trepidation about publishing it. I still think a division of the United States is hairy as hell and perhaps an unacceptable objective for most Americans. I can think of several reasons why not to do it. I do not even have to think very hard.
In the final analysis, the only reason we should divide our nation is because we have to. Fortunately for us, the division, per se, has already happened—in attitude, if not in a formal declaration. We have to turn the debate about disunity on its head, quit complaining about it, and start a pro-active discussion about the future. We should start by expressing our desire for a unified nation, where everyone shares common beliefs and objectives,
All we need to do now is redraw the borders to reflect the reality, pack our bags, and move on. Americans, right and left, have to agree to it; but they also have to understand that, if the Right or the Left tries to force something on its opponents, they will cause a revolt. Denying this is short-sighted.
So I had my shoulder to the wheel putting these thoughts to paper, oblivious to anything going on in the world around me; and when I finished and came up for air, I was surprised to find so many websites and blogs already saying these very things. I was elated! Maybe we can do a division, after all. It will require some hard work and fine-tuning! The pay-off—the light at the end of the tunnel—is recovered unity. That so many reputable journalists promote this plan convince me it is an idea whose time has come.
Then I started looking more closely at the articles and realized that, beyond dividing the nation, the journalists and bloggers still disagree on plenty of details. Perhaps revolutionaries live under a curse from ancient times—that, once a revolution succeeds, the victors routinely cannot agree on anything else. They devour one another and slowly grind the revolution into the ground.
But there is enough basic agreement about the problem and the solution to make me believe that we can pool our resources and pull this off. I am impressed how many Democrats favor it. It makes the effort more non-partisan:
1. The Intelligencer (New York magazine), November 14, 2018: "Divided We Stand: The country is hopelessly split. So why not make it official and break up?" by Sasha Issenberg. Issenberg has the right attitude: a division will benefit Democrats, and he hits the high points: "Let's just admit that this arranged marriage isn't really working anymore. . . . the Republicans more conservative, the Democrats more liberal. . . . we've simply shifted to another gear of a perpetual deadlock, unlikely to satisfy either side."
Other supporters of a division see America's disunity as a failed marriage.
2. theweek.com (blog) November 8, 2018: "We should chop America up into 7 different countries. Seriously," by Bonnie Kristian. Kristian identifies as a Moderate. Her post begins "Look, we had a good run. . . . These United States were a grand experiment. But the experiment has gotten out of hand. It's time to peacefully dissolve the union. . . . Mutual partisan hatred is still nearly total. . . . How else should we intrepret, . . . 'If [candidate] wins, I'm moving to Canada.' However unserious, there are basically expressions of a desire for separate nations."
I agree with Kristian—except that surveyors, real estate lawyers, and logisticians should facilitate a division, rather than a "chopper."
3. nationalreview.com, May 14, 2018: "Of Course America's Too Big to Govern," posted by David French. French identifies as an anti-Trump Republican.
I contend America can't get too big. We may walk softly, but for the sake of world peace and our status of a super-power, the stick we carry must be big. The issue may divide even Republicans, but we really have no choice. We have to remain the equalizer.
America's big size does not concern me so much. Disunity is the problem. We must recover our sense of unity for our own sake. If you deconstruct the word "unity," you reveal the components of it that we miss so much. America has had disunity such a long time, we almost forget the sensation of it—the collective pull of a united spirit, the harmony of our policy initiatives, and the security of knowing we are all on the same page. I support a division for those reasons, to recover those things. We also want a "big" nation, in the sense that it allows us land-use opportunities: agriculture, mines, forests, urban centers, port facilities, and scenic areas. Any division of the nation will have to take those issues into account.
French also writes that "Centralization is incompatible with polarization." No matter how you look at this quote, it lacks coherence. There must be a hundred better ways to say it: two countries living under one government do not function well. The only solution we have, other than to force one side to submit to the other, is to divide the two countries formally.
Also, the word "polarization" does not work well. It suggests the Arctic, the Antarctic, or a mental illness. The lack of functionality in our nation has many causes, most of them pretty mundane, and reflect a lack of unity in its citizenry. French also writes, "it's time to get busy decentralizing or get busy dividing;" but decentralizing only resolves disunity up to a point. It also defeats the concept of a federal government, which Americans need to uphold, since it works so well. Realistically, we can only remedy the problems if we divide.
President Washington addressed unity in his Farewell Address. Modern Americans should follow suit, and should abstain from blaming anyone for the disunity. We should just remind ourselves of Washington's description of "factions" and "parties" as the fate of a developing nation still unsure of itself. Instead of letting the parties and factions undermine our unity, treat them as a positive force. Let them depart as friendlies into separate nations. Finally, the nation I live in must preserve the Constitution and Bill of Rights intact.
4. federalist.com, April 10, 2018: "It's Time For The United States To Divorce Before Things Get Dangerous," by Jesse Kelly. Kelly suggests he identifies with Trump. He introduces his post with an introductory warning, "The idea of breaking up the country may seem a bit outlandish now, but you won't think so, once real domestic unrest comes to your town." Then he quotes the opening line of the Declaration of Independence, "When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connect them with another . . . ."
Like Sasha Issenberg, Kelly compares the disunity to marital discord. A divorce becomes the only course of action to remedy the conflicts. He warns, "If we want to avoid this political divide turning into a deadly one, (America) should do likewise."
Other blogs complain about the division movement. They may understand the reasons for wanting a division, but have overriding reasons for opposing it. Conservative Christians especially dislike the idea of a division. They cannot accept that any amount of disunity is worth dividing the nation for. They believe Americans can put their differences behind them, and to move forward to tackle the nation's problems.
1. federalist.com, April 12, 2018: "To Suggest An 'Amiable Divorce' For America Is To Talk Civil War," by Lyman Stone. Stone is another anti-Trump Republican who sees in division plans a repeat of the Civil War scenario—not division but secession leading to civil war. Like other opponents to a division, he worries that conflict will disrupt the consumer economy, leading to a famine, and more serious unrest.
The solution to Lyman Stone's concern, or course, is a bilateral agreement to a division. He should know were are more likely to experience a civil war if we stay together. The Left greeted the Trump election with cynicism and paranoia. Americans only respect the electoral process if it serves them. If Stone expects the next election and a defeat of Trump to defuse the problem, he is making a huge mistake. Adolf Hitler won in the German election. He disguised his true intentions and deceived the German electorate. Only a division of the nation will give us unity again, not another manipulated election.
The Czechs and Slovaks did a division in 1993 that is a model of its kind. The Soviet Union split up in 1990, and Russia basically told the nations of the former Soviet Union that they were on their own, now. Since then, many of the new nations have aligned themselves with the West and have distanced themselves from Russia. They seek membership in NATO and want to use the Euro as their currency. The rest of the new nations want to remain close to Russia.
America has a similar dilemma. Some Americans want their nation defined by Republican values. Others want a nation defined by Democratic values. I contend we need the division to resolve the disunity peacefully. Like the nations of the former Soviet Union, the liberated Americans will take different paths from the get-go. Both may use the Constitution and the Dollar, but under their own, independent jurisdictions.
Other blogs acknowledge the disunity, but absolutely reject a plan to divide it. They would rather blame the Republicans and shame them into backing down:
1. aljazeera.com, August 9, 2019: "Why Trump's America is more divided than ever," by Bob Abeshouse. Abeshouse blames President Trump and the Republican Party for "toxic partisanship." He does not one time suggest a division would help. He only says Republicans should stop being partisan and racist and give in to the Democrats. Not likely.
2. Divided America: The Fracturing of a Nation, edited 2016 by Jerry Schwartz. This book was written by journalists of the Associated Press from different vantage points in the United States and says that Americans are divided by "political party, choice of media, income, gender, race or ethnic group, religious faith, generation, geography, and general outlook." The book suggests that, with so much division, something has to be done, but a single division into two new nations does not take into account that the divisions cut so many ways. The authors never suggest doing a division, and would oppose a Republican suggestion to do one.
The prospect of nationhood appeals to Republicans more than to Democrats. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are Republican documents. If the Democrats had their own country, they could use the Constitution, no problem, but the underlying philosophy and the parameters of administrative functions reflect the input of the Federalists—i.e. the modern-day Republicans. Their ideals reflect George Washington's and Alexander Hamilton's thinking more than Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson's. Jefferson ultimately turned against Washington and Hamilton.
3. salon.com. May 15, 2019: "Democracy's in real trouble—and the mainstream media's finally noticing," by Andrew O'Hehir. "Nobody really knows what to do about this, but at least the world finally noticed." Again, O'Hehir does not suggest what other bloggers state categorically, that the United States needs to divide to regain unity and recover lost momentum. Nothing proved it better than the impeachment vote, which was a nearly straight party-line vote, both in the House and the Senate.
O'Hehir describes the failure of the impeachment vote as a "constitutional crisis," and Trump as a "uniquely polarizing historical figure." His suggestion that we can only restore order, decency, and constitutional values to the nation if we vote Trump out does not resolve America's chronic disunity. We can only do that with a division. Significantly, O'Hehir never once suggests this as a solution, that Democrats would be better off with their own country. Perhaps he has no faith in Democrats to survive, if they have to go it alone.