How America will divorce itself

B. Duncan Moench
B. Duncan Moench
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All national declines ebb and flow. The street violence and chaos of the summer of 2020 marked the moment the curtain was pulled back, and the true psychic state of the most powerful nation on earth was revealed for a single season before the curtain fell once more—President Joe Biden entered office, the pandemic subsided, normalcy seemed to return.

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In the two years since that summer, I’ve considered the specific series of events that might trigger our final national fragmentation and it seems clear that America’s demise will be inaugurated by what has become an American pastime: a contested election. As early as two years from now, both parties will declare themselves the electoral victor, with neither presidential candidate conceding defeat; state electors will ratify two different presidents, according to their preferred narrative or conspiracy theory; the country will then fracture, legally and institutionally, along red and blue lines.

According to recent polling, more than 50 percent of Americans now expect a new civil war in the "next couple of years." It's a pathetic scenario more fitting for a semi-authoritarian backwater than the world’s beacon of democracy.

Since 2000, the US has witnessed three contested presidential elections, with one side labeling the results illegitimate. In 2000's Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court shut down vote recounts and delivered the election to the son of a former president, a man whose family, at various points, maintained that the 1992 election itself was "stolen" by the querulous Ross Perot and the meddling "liberal media."

The appointment of President George W. Bush, grandchild of Prescott Bush—who took part in a bumbling coup d'état attempt against Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s—led the country into two disastrous Middle Eastern wars, one based on blatantly fraudulent premises. In his final year in office Bush stood at the helm while the US banking system collapsed, causing the country's most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Eight years later, the former first lady, Hillary Clinton, who everyone in elite media penciled in as their next queen, deepened the Democrats’ failures by taking electoral losses throughout the Rust Belt region far worse than Al Gore's 2000 campaign.

Instead of admitting fault for their losing campaign strategies, Democratic party apparatchiks and their allies throughout the legacy media became full-time election denialists. The news operations that made billions airing Trump's every idiotic word in the lead-up to the 2016 election accepted no responsibility for his eventual victory; neither did the Democratic party establishment which all but rigged their own primary process in favor of one of the least popular political figures in American history. The Democratic party leadership and journalism class did nothing wrong, we were repeatedly informed. It was Vladimir Putin and the Russians who were actually to blame—they hacked the election!

Heading into the 2020 election, COVID-19 crashed what had been a not-quite-as-disastrous as anticipated 45th US presidency for Donald Trump. By embracing both the Covid lockdowns and a miniscule relief package that did not tie employees to their jobs, Trump tanked any realistic chance of winning a second term. But instead of admitting his own errors, Trump—like the Bushes, the Gores, and the Clintons before him—blamed everybody else.

Predictably, Trump claimed his defeat was a fraud. The election, you see, was stolen. Sound familiar? Within a matter of weeks, "stop the steal" became the mantra of the Republican party. All who refused to abide by its claims were run out of the MAGA camp as traitors—or worse.

Bringing us to the present, when no one in leadership takes responsibility for anything—not America’s military generals, nor its public health officials, and least of all its political parties. Scapegoating and conspiracy accusations are the norm. Both left and right view instigating mass hysteria as a legitimate political tool—not only for career advancement, but regime takeover. Where does that leave us?

Entire nations can go insane. Here's a way to test if Americans are headed that way: watch five minutes of US TikTok – nearly anything related to social justice. Follow that up with five minutes of MSNBC, then the same amount of Fox News. Next, read a chapter of Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility — any chapter. Lastly, carefully scan some QAnon reddit posts. Immediately after doing all this, take a shower and then ask yourself: Is American political culture not in the throes of degenerative madness?

Once a political culture embraces the path of the dark triad—narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy—negative end products are not simply possible, but inevitable. There's only one chance to stave off the worst potential outcomes in the United States: Recognize our 50-state partnership as a failed marriage and, like adults, move on.

* * *

In need of an informed interlocutor, I called F.H. Buckley, a foundation professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, and outlined my predictions for America’s end. We discussed two distinct national breakup possibilities:

Scenario A is the “Buchanan,” named after President James Buchanan’s apathy toward the South’s independence efforts. In this scenario, Trump—or any other Republican—occupies the White House when Californians set in motion a serious move toward “Calexit.” According to Buckley, the Republican president responds by saying “‘goodbye and good luck.’”

Scenario B, the "Lincoln" (nicknamed after Abraham Lincoln's inexorable campaign to keep the union together by force): Under a Democratic chief executive—including a Biden second term—red states launch independence movements. Buckley believes this is where the true danger lies. "The question is which party is prepared to invade and occupy the territory of another part of the country," he asks rhetorically. The Democrats, he goes on, “wouldn't hesitate to make war on the Republican parts of America."

"The ironic thing is that American conservatives are the tolerant people here," Buckley, a Canadian citizen, tells me. "I'm from Quebec and lived through a real secession debate,” he says. “There was never such animosity between English and French Quebec as there is between conservatives and liberals in America. There is such a degree of deep-seated contempt and widespread fantasies of what life would be like without the other side around."

Here's how an American divorce settlement could look: California, parts of Oregon, Washington, and Nevada agree to become a new federal system but keep their independent statehoods—and legislative bodies—intact. Utah, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas do the same. The Rust Belt states—including, let’s suppose, a separated Western Pennsylvania—forge together as another similar regional governance agreement.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, and the rest of New England become another confederation of nation states. Northern Virginia and Eastern Pennsylvania join it, as do upstate New York, Vermont, and Maine. Regardless, the five boroughs of NYC should probably be given unique status inside this new New England, like Scotland's place inside the United Kingdom: a distinct parliament and some distinct form of micro-nationhood.

Down south, the former Civil War border states of Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, and a renegotiated Virginia territory link up with North Carolina and, perhaps, Tennessee to form a new nation of the Upper South. Similarly, the remaining 9 states of the former Confederacy forge together once more, minus Texas, which we all know—because they remind us incessantly!—has been counting the days until it can declare full independence again.

Alaska and Hawaii are beautiful and luxurious places. They'll easily find a home in one of these new state partnerships.

Breaking up the country into six or seven new semi-autonomous state partnerships won't solve all, or even most, of America's political disfunction. It should, however, end the insane and unwinnable culture wars over the national identity of a country that was never intended to have a massive top-down, one-size-fits-all solution for how its citizens should live.

Like it or not, the United States is poised to Balkanize at some point. If anything, sustained independence movements are overdue. The 21st century ascent of the critical race and gender-as-a-social-construct ideologies might not actually represent an effort to dismantle the phantasm of "heteronormative white patriarchy," as is ostensibly claimed. A better way to understand the tremendous popularity of woke thought amongst America's bureaucratic class could be as an unconscious attempt to create the moral economy needed to forcefully keep the union together a second time. Regardless, by demanding fealty to woke liberationism for entrée into the country's upper crust institutions, today's US elites have all but assured the end of Middle Americans' confidence in their civic leaders and the institutions they control. As a result, national breakup efforts will commence at some point in the not-so-distant future. If not handled with care, those efforts could result in another violent episode of US Civil War.

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