By Laslo Boyd
The writer is a political commentator and higher education consultant.
The alarms are sounding. The United States seem hopelessly, even dangerously, divided. Our rickety, out of date constitutional system is no longer up to the task of holding the country’s warring factions together.
On Jan. 6, 2021, there was an armed, violent insurrection in our nation’s capital whose explicit goal was to nullify the result of a presidential election in which Joe Biden received millions of votes more than his opponent. On nearly a daily basis, we learn more about the planning of the event, the intentions of the conspirators, how widespread the plot was and, perhaps most ominous, how close it came to succeeding.
An entire political party continues to march in lockstep behind the lie that the election was stolen and is therefore illegitimate. While large numbers of participants in the attack on democracy have been arrested, tried and given jail sentences, many of the ring leaders are still flouting congressional efforts to uncover the truth and to hold them accountable for their actions. Polls show that well over half of Republicans say that they believe Donald Trump’s Big Lie.
Under the strain of hyper-partisan division, effective governance has become incredibly difficult to achieve. Think of the long list of important issues on which Republicans and Democrats are unable or unwilling to find any common ground. The rules for elections and voting. Abortion. Limits on gun ownership. The role of government in protecting civil and individual rights. Public spending to benefit the country as a whole. Whether access to health care is a basic right. The list, as you know, is much longer that what I have included here.
In the absence of compromise, gridlock has become the norm. Or an alternating cycle of the party in power overruling and reversing the actions of the previous administration. These patterns have been common in our history.
What’s different now is that the dominant faction in the Republican party is determined to rig the electoral system so that they remain in power regardless of the will of the electorate. That conclusion is neither hyperbole nor paranoia. The statements of individual leaders, the actions of state legislatures controlled by Republicans and the evidence being compiled by the January 6 congressional committee all point to that objective.
If that effort by the most extreme Republicans succeeds, the American experiment in popular sovereignty will come to an end. The United States might still have the external trappings of a democracy, but the reality would be far different. Our country is already no longer seen as a full fledged democracy by international institutions tracking governance around the world.
As Americans observe the growth of autocratic rule in Hungary, Poland, Turkey and other countries, we have no grounds to be complacent. As we watch populist movements in places like France and Italy, we need to realize how precarious our current circumstances are.
What options are there? Empires have fallen before. Our stature is certainly not guaranteed. What’s particularly troubling, however, is that the prospect of our decline and fall looks like it will come from within rather than from a foreign enemy or even a military coup. In truth, the United States is no longer a single nation but, rather, two irreconcilable tribes. The only other historical instance in which we faced that prospect was at the time of the Civil War.
Many readers believe that we will survive this challenge just because we always have in the past. The evidence strongly suggests that view is wishful thinking. Rather than wait for rigged elections in 2022 and 2024 that could seal our fate, Americans who still believe in the promise and values of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution might consider a preemptive move.
Let’s see if we can find a peaceful way to acknowledge the reality that we really are two separate countries. Rather than constantly bump heads and scream at each other, why don’t we formalize the split into Blue America and Red America?
I know that there are all sorts of significant obstacles that would have to be overcome, and some of the solutions would be highly imperfect, even messy. But think what we’re facing if we continue down the road we are currently on.
As a starting point, Blue America might encompass the states that Joe Biden won while Red America would include the rest of the country that supported Donald Trump. I realize that Bidenland would not be contiguous, but in the modern technological world, location is much less important that it used to be.
Lots of other issues would have to be sorted out. A transition period. An opportunity for citizens and businesses to relocate. The establishment of diplomatic relationships. Possibly the creation of a free trade zone. Deciding on a basic governance document, whether the constitution, a variation of it, or something brand new.
I realize most people’s first instinct will be to see this idea as unworkable, as impracticable, as an alarmist reaction to our current situation. For anyone who has that view, don’t you have an obligation to explain how the current dilemma can be resolved? Are you confident we will have free and fair elections in the future? Are you sure the freedoms we have enjoyed up to now will still be protected? Are you at all worried that a determined minority wants to take and maintain power?
If your reaction is to focus on specific details that don’t seem workable, let’s talk. My objective is to argue that passivity and complacency in the face of the clear and present threat to our democracy is a doomed strategy. What alternatives do we have?