Meanwhile, we have a political class that, with a few very rare exceptions, couldn’t care less about the good of the country. They may couch their rhetoric in lofty ideals and elegant words, but their actions show them out for themselves and no one else. Most of them are for sale to the highest bidder, and this holds even when the highest bidder is an adversary like China, who most certainly does not have in their hearts the best interest of ordinary Americans.
For those ordinary Americans to do nothing now is to accept their country being driven into a diminished state. It is to accept a loss of sovereignty and a loss of basic rights. It is to accept a perverse combination of 1984 and Brave New World as our future. At best.
But even that “best case” scenario discussed above might not be possible. Some are very angry about losing the election four years ago and are out for revenge. Oh sure, the presumed president-elect has made some calls for unity, disingenuously in my opinion. He certainly hasn’t done anything to call out the more inflammatory calls for revenge from political allies. Take this one from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, for example. Shortly before the 2020 presidential election, he put this little gem on Twitter:
Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Chairman Mao would be proud. When called out on his aspirations of tyranny, Mr. Reich defended this as completely legitimate. To him, we are beyond agreeing to disagree in the American tradition. Now, in his view, political differences must be criminalized, and if the wrong people win, they must be punished.
Reich was not alone. This tweet by David Atkins, a member of the DNC from California, calls for deprogramming. Yes, seriously:
The only way someone could have voted against his preferred candidate in 2016, or have supported the White House occupant of the last four years, is through programming in Atkins mind.
And of course, Godwin’s Law makes its appearance in both his tweet and the reply, with reference to the Nazis. Now to be sure, I have no problem with someone being critical of the outgoing president. But Nazi? Where were the concentration camps? Where were the journalists that were rounded up (note: mean tweets of “fake news don’t count)? Where were the new wars that broke out? Were they lost in the criticism of him “rushing” to get out of Afghanistan after 19 years. If the outgoing president and his supporters are Nazis, they are really bad at it.
Here’s another doozy. This one is calling for eradication:
When your enemy tells you who they are, believe them. Ditto when they tell you what they think of you. These and other threats are chronicled in this piece by the Federalist.
These are not just random people spouting off on social media. These are people who have influence and notoriety, people with significant numbers of followers. Sending out messages like those above is not only stupid, it’s dangerous given the levels of division in our body politic. Even more so on the heels of a hotly disputed presidential election.
And pushback against this rhetoric? Little if any from that side of the political spectrum. Notably absent is any from the incoming president despite his calls for unity. There has been virtually none from his political allies. Little if any has come from the rank and file.
You’d think in a country in which the right to bear arms is enshrined in the constitution, people would be more likely temper such inflammatory, threatening rhetoric. You’d think that even more so at a time in which gun sales have skyrocketed. But then again, restraint isn’t a hallmark of those that would call for Truth and Reconciliation commissions in the first place, of those who have such a tenuous grasp on history as to liken those who disagree with them as Nazis who need to be deprogrammed, if not eradicated.
With tempers flaring, the prospect of political violence cannot be discounted. Indeed, the country experienced political violence in the extreme the last time it was this divided, with a destructive civil war that was the deadliest in our history. Nobody who truly understands political violence and is thinking with a level head wants to see this. Political violence is not like a boxing match, where the combat has a limiting principle and definitive rules for protecting the fighters. Political violence tends to take on a life of its own and can get out of control very quickly.
We’ve already seen some violence. A crazed Bernie Bro shot up a congressional softball game a few years back, seriously wounding one representative. Rand Paul’s neighbor viciously assaulted him (and received a proverbial slap on the wrist from the judge). And just recently, Antifa thugs used intimidation tactics against the family of Senator Josh Hawley for him stating that he would exercise his constitutional right to object to electors. The Washington Post seems to be ok with this behavior. Democracy dies in darkness, indeed.
If those assuming power ever intend to make good on the desired totalitarian aims, their efforts at “truth and reconciliation,” and their efforts to “reprogram the Nazis,” those who are in the crosshairs will have the choice to either submit or use violence. Betting on submission would not be very smart with regard to tens of millions of gun owners. When you back someone into a corner, they will tend to fight their way out.
The Declaration of Independence tells us that governments are founded to protect rights among the citizenry to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It also tells us that it is our right to alter or abolish a government that becomes destructive to these ends; not only a right but a duty. This is the counsel of the Founding Fathers. Those quoted above obviously have little respect for the ideas of the Founders, otherwise they wouldn’t be contemplating such ideas in the first place. The 70+ million “Nazis” on the other hand do.
It would be wise for those quoted above and their like-minded cohorts to cool the rhetoric such that the shooting never starts. It would be equally wise for the leaders on that side to call them out. That being said, I don’t have much confidence in a political movement that not only failed to reign in political violence over the hot summer of 2020, but tacitly, if not openly, encouraged the same.
Should We Continue as a Union?
Even if we don’t come to blows, it really is time to question whether this country can and should remain a union. Some will dismiss this as crazy talk. But when a people are as divided as Americans are now, when they cannot reach a consensus on the most basic ideas of what our country should be, it is time to ask whether we should be one country. Half the country believes in the ideals of our Founding Fathers, John Locke, and so on. The other half believes Locke and the Founders to be racists, white supremacists, and whatever other woke invective they can hurl. If we can’t agree on our basic founding premises, if all of our major institutions are broken to the detriment of the body politic at large, it’s time to consider whether we should remain a single country.
Yes, that’s a bitter pill to swallow. In the lower 48 states, our borders have been set for over a century now. But borders are artificial constructs, and nothing says they have to last forever. Has anyone booked a trip to Yugoslavia lately? How is Czechoslovakia doing these days? You get the point.
Many will balk at this suggestion. If they have a solution that allows us a way out of this division and a reaching of consensus that allows us to preserve our liberties and our basic founding ideals, I’m all ears. But I have yet to hear anything other than a conclusory “we shouldn’t break up.” Some will argue that we can vote our way out of this. But to those who set forth such an argument, can you explain how when we can’t have faith in free, fair and transparent elections?
The predictable argument against the idea of breaking up the country will refer to the last attempt to do so, in 1861, when the Southern states seceded. But the sources of division and the questions to be settled then are nothing like those to be settled now. And while the issue of slavery was settled once and for all, that doesn’t mean that the issue of borders and secession was settled for all time. Our own founding documents flatly contradict that idea:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. … But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
It’s not only our right to do so, it is our duty.
This, of course, doesn’t mean those on opposite sides of the divide should force the other into their way of thinking or doing things. We can split, and we can do peacefully and agreeably.
Geographically, the way to such a split isn’t as obvious as it once was. But some clarity was provided in the recent Texas lawsuit referred to in Part I. With states that joined in or offered support, one could see on a map an unbroken path from the most northwestern point of Idaho to the southernmost tip of Florida that remained within the confines of those who signed on with Texas. More generally, it is clear that majorities on the West Coast and in the Northeast have a much different vision for how this country should be run than those in what they derisively refer to as “flyover country.”
Why should people in flyover country be force to submit to their will? Why should the people outside of flyover country be restrained from trying their own vision of government? Shouldn’t we at least consider agreeing to disagree, to go our separate ways, and peacefully form two different nations? Although I lack any experience participating in or living through any sort of political violence or civil war, I am supremely confident in my belief that peaceful separation is far more preferable than its non-peaceful alternative.
But even in the absence of a full separation, I do think it’s time for states to begin practicing at least a soft secession through nullification. As our courts and government have failed the states and the people, it’s time for the states to stand up to the federal government and just say no. Although it’s disputed whether Andrew Jackson ever uttered his famous quote about John Marshall, we could find its spirit in stating that “the supreme court has made their decision, now let them enforce it.” Ditto with the federal government.
Some will retort that the federal government has the Army and will just use that to enforce their will. While I don’t doubt that the top brass would go along with that, I have my doubts that the rank and file enlisted troops would as well. Over 40% of our troops hail from the Southern states, and the sense of statehood seems to be stronger in that region. They know their history a little better than most. While the cause of the seceding states in 1861 was not just, the cause of preserving our liberties now is more than just. Betting on the armed forces to suppress those liberties among their countrymen is not a very safe bet.
As I finish this piece up, there are two senatorial run-off elections occurring in Georgia. As it unfolds, it’s looking very much like a replay of November 3rd. Candidates from the same party as the president have pulled into a large lead … and suddenly, they stop counting. There are numerous reports out of the state of voting machine “malfunctions.” In the largest country of the state, observers from the president’s party have been denied access to the ballot counting, even though state law mandates their access. Those in power who could do something about it are doing nothing. It’s becoming increasingly clear that we are not going to be able to vote our way out of this mess.
The United States is no longer united in any meaningful sense. It’s time for us to acknowledge that and figure out a way forward before things turn ugly. The longer we wait, the more likely things will turn ugly, and the more ugly they will become. So let’s all just dispense now with the wishful thinking and be grown up enough to realize where this country stands. We had a republic, and we couldn’t keep it. What comes next depends on us facing reality now.