Dear America, it’s Time to Break Up

 

I love America.  Or, at least, I used to.  I’m not talking about the post-9/11 fueled jingoism or even general American culture, but the pure idea of it.  To see America so divided and full of animosity today breaks my heart, it really does.

When I’m free of the distractions of the daily grind, my mind usually snaps to the current polarization crisis we’re facing.  The one in which many Americans are more willing to believe and support Vladimir Putin, the individual with the most power and intent to harm the West, than our own President and our many government agencies – simply because he likes their candidate more than the other one.  Or, whether you agree with the statement, “It’s wrong to mock those with disabilities” apparently depends on who you supported too.

I’ve toiled over how we could fix this, using what I’ve learned about politics, society, psychology, etc. and I’m not the only one.  For a long time, I thought it would be cyclical, that partisanship would rise, then people would see how toxic it is, and retreat, as it has in the past.

I sound just like someone who is in a relationship that’s over but doesn’t know it yet.


One of the many lessons of this election is that there are two very different America’s.  There are a lot of demographic graphs that illustrate this but they all tell the same story.

There’s the coasts, large metropolitan areas, and swaths of the Northeast and Northwest that are more liberal.  Then there’s the rest.  Just look at this comical version of the election results.

4tg354

Giant parts of the Midwest, Southwest, Heartland, Appalachia, and Deep South missing. Now, those areas are sparsely populated, but the point remains.

Here are some of the highest indicators of Republican support in this election.

 

  • White
  • Less educated
  • Live in a rural area
  • Religious
  • Work in “old economy” jobs such as agriculture, manufacturing, trades.

This election was marked for it’s lack of actual policy discussion and focus on cultural trends and anti-establishment rhetoric.  Those on the right didn’t have many policy agreements and many had reservations about Trump.  There was one thing they could get behind and that was hatred of Hillary Clinton -which made him tolerable.

This ‘Us vs Them’ mentality and win-at-all-costs tactics lend more credence to the notion that our political discourse is more of a war and less of a debate.

violence-trump-rally

Americans are already self-separating.  Gen-x’ers and millennials have flocked to urban areas for economic opportunity but also so they can be amongst similarly minded people, experience diversity and inclusiveness, and incidentally become more exposed to some of the benefits of a robust government – parks, public transportation, efficient services, etc.  This is basically the opposite of Trump voters who were downright vitriolic about minorities, are incredibly skeptical about government (and other democratic institutions apparently) and far more socially conservative than the typical 20-40 year old today.

This is manifesting itself socially as well.  This Pew report on partisanship is well worth your time but some of the findings show that people on different ends of our political spectrum don’t even want their children marrying the other, and they don’t necessarily want to be neighbors with one either.  This was in 2014 as well, I can only imagine what this chart looks like now.

 

screenshot-2017-01-11-16-59-46Basically, we just don’t want to be together anymore.

And here’s the thing, that’s fine.  

People look at places like the Middle East and wonder how there can be so much continuous conflict. Scholars will tell you it’s due largely in part to arbitrarily placing ethnic tribes into nation-states where friction and eventually fighting was inevitable.

 

We’re undergoing something similar in America today.  While there are 50 states, there are really 7 to 11 “tribal regions” in the US (depending on who you ask) and yet we try to resolve their conflicts in one federal system where no-one feels truly represented.  Is there really any surprise that there’s gridlock at the federal level when we try to include places like Portland and rural Mississippi into the same discussion?
The country has always had disagreements, but culturally, we are moving farther apart and concentrating into the areas where each group feels more comfortable.  Is there anything inherently wrong with that?

 

upinarms-map
This is what author Colin Woodard thinks America actually looks like
Thomas Jefferson once said, “We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as a civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

 

Well, as a society, we are bursting at the seams.  Two parties have been dating amicably for nearly 200 years but it is clear now that they don’t want be with each other anymore.  [I know different parties have risen and fallen, rebranded and realigned throughout history, but for brevity’s sake, I’m just saying two] So, before we end this relationship with anything resembling a fight, let’s just acknowledge that this isn’t working any longer and it’s okay to go our separate ways.

Look, I know this is next to impossible, but systems of government rarely last this long. America is a relatively young country but we do have the oldest surviving constitution among democracies, and yes, that’s something to be proud of.  It’s like driving a vintage car.  The fact that it’s lasted so long speaks to it’s original quality and other companies copied the model.  But your friends have the modern version and they’re tired of yours breaking down on road trips and the repairs are getting too expensive.  Time to acknowledge what it was good for and move on.

civwar
Let’s not do this again, please. 

It’s hard to get American’s to agree on anything political today, but if there’s one thing, it would probably be something like, “The current system of government is broken, isn’t getting the results it needs to and it harms both our prosperity and security”.

If we live in a democracy, and most of us agree that our government needs serious change, then why can’t we bring about this change?

To be clear, like any breakup, I’m not happy about it, but we should rip the band-aid off now.  Everyone gets what they want.  Smug liberals can create their Western-European style of society, conservatives won’t have to deal with them intervening and telling them what’s right, and we can all be friends.  We could become an EU like group of semi-autonomous states with free trade, movement, and communal defense.

To use another light analogy, it’s like living with somebody you thought was going to be a good roommate.  You still like them and want to remain good friends, but it turns out you had too many differences to live in such proximity.

So, c’mon America, let’s break up already.

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