It is time to break up the Union.
On election night in 1980, when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter, one of my parents’ conservative friends, gathered with us to watch the returns, turned to me and, dripping simultaneously with sarcasm and glee, smirked, “Well, I guess you think Reagan will now destroy the republic.” I smiled back, but said nothing.
Although I was convinced at the time that Reagan would introduce plenty of bad policies for the country, I didn’t think that he’d destroy the republic. But I think that now. Because Reaganism has shredded our Constitution and killed the republic.
As I expected, Reagan gave us those bad policies, the centerpiece of which was the stupendous fraud of trickle-down economics, which still drives Republican economic and political thinking 40 years later. That fraud, however, was merely a sip of the draught of fraud that we witnessed from Republicans thereafter, culminating in the shocking full-on con game that Trump and his Trumpeteers are playing today.
All that we face today from Republicans, across the nation, begins with Reagan. Not because of supply-side economics alone. But because of Reagan’s famous nine most terrifying words: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYuY85JbDFk).
Well, how can those be so terrifying? Because they follow from one of Reagan’s other famous sentiments: “…[G]overnment isn’t the solution to our problem; government is the problem” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XObcP69dhCg).
More than economic policies or cultural values, this sentiment defines how Republicans today feel about governing—not just government, but overall governing. From local politics to state houses to the White House and Congress, Republican governing exists solely to put into place policies that will keep the rich prosperous, will keep the white working class exploited but placated with “pro-birth” positions and with immigrant and minority scapegoats, and will load the courts with conservative judges and justices who will indemnify and perpetuate these policies and positions.
Plenty of people, left and right, lament what Trump is doing to our democratic norms and to our Constitution. But little of Trump’s actions could have had their impact without the enabling of Republicans in Congress and throughout the country. These Republicans stand by and do nothing, or actively abet Trump’s trampling, while the president flouts separation of powers; invokes executive privilege where there is none; shows contempt for the constitutional oversight duties of Congress; dangles promises of pardons; lies repeatedly and requires his staff to lie; invites a hostile foreign power to interfere in our elections; mocks the Constitution’s emoluments clause; and treats the executive branch as if it were a money-making operation for his family and his cronies, many of whom sit in his Cabinet.
Silent Republicans and those actively supporting these actions have placed party and, presumably, personal ambition over country and the Constitution, which they all swore an oath to uphold.
Republican values no longer reflect the values this country was founded on, values such as the rule of law, notions of equality among all persons, the rights of all citizens to vote and have their votes count equally, and equal protection before the law. Today in this Republican world, science can’t be trusted, political opponents are to be investigated, the press is the enemy of the people, separated powers are only for weak executives, civil servants with years of dedication to their governmental departments and agencies are vilified as members of a “deep state” bent on overthrowing the president, and extra-marital affairs and payoffs to silence the participants are acceptable.
The time for reaching out to Republicans is over. Reach out to what end? We have learned since Reagan what reaching out to Republicans means; their version of bipartisanship is simple: Getting both sides to do what Republicans want.
Should we reach out on the environment? Republicans, almost as a party, deny climate change. Their position is to keep drilling and fracking, to pretend there is something called “clean” coal, and to build SUV’s and trucks instead of electric cars. Those plans reflect values that have destroyed our environment and threaten our citizens. Continue with them, and we’ll kill the planet. Instead, against staunch Republican opposition, we need to enact the Green New Deal. Get the republic moving again with solar collectors and wind turbines everywhere, with living wage jobs paid to workers to retro-fit buildings and to make America fully reliant on renewable energy.
Should we reach out to Republicans on healthcare? Their “plan” is to repeal Obamacare and return to insurance apparatchiks determining life-and-death treatments on the basis of profit margins. Republicans oppose at every step creating any public program of universal healthcare that covers every American so that no one ever goes broke paying their medical bills or has to choose between prescription drugs and putting food on the table.
How about education? What’s the Republican option? Focus more on vouchers and charter schools that pick their students and dump the ones who don’t perform. Increase the number of for-profit universities. Republicans won’t fund public education, from pre-school through college. That’s government overreach. That’s socialism.
What about justice reform? For Republicans reform means increasing the number of private prisons to earn profits, while gutting public programs that protect and elevate people. They won’t countenance the idea of finding and funding alternatives to imprisoning people; they won’t advocate providing public resources to communities at the beginning of the pipeline instead of paying for walls, guards, and cells at the end.
The Republican version of political compromise is straightforward: Do what we want, or we won’t do anything, and we’ll see to it that you can’t do anything either. This is Reaganesque governing.
Contra Joe Biden, the Republican Party is not going to spring back into comity and working across the aisle. They’ve never wanted to, and now they don’t have to. Even with Trump gone, the Republican contempt for the Constitution and their relentless push for tax cuts, pro-birth policies, and retrograde judges will go on without end. It’s the way they’ve always governed but simply couldn’t be as brazenly transparent in their venality as they are now under Trump.
How can they continue with their chokehold on democracy? The demographic future of the country is against them. Sorry to say, that doesn’t matter. We are already well aware that because of equal Senate representation for all the states, Wyoming, with its 600,000 residents, gets two senators, just as California does with its 40,000,000 residents. Add the rural Western and mid-western states with their predominantly white residents to the states of the Deep South, and you see how Republicans will continue to dominate the Senate. Regardless of demographic changes, the GOP can control 70 Senate seats with only 30 percent of the country’s population. So Republicans can block everything that Democrats propose. Should they win the White House again, they can then push through Senate confirmation and onto the bench conservative judges to help the country define a zygote as a baby.
To be honest, we are too divided now to continue pretending that we share mutual values. What values are those? Not the rule of law. Not equality. Not dignity for all. Not paying a fair share of taxes. Not individual rights or liberty. Not separation of powers and the importance of democracy. Trumpism has exposed Republicans for what they are and have always been: self-serving money-grubbers who use their policies to serve the rich and to bamboozle white working-class voters in the name of “principles” and security.
In short, the Republican Party is now a cancer metastasizing throughout the republic. It has ravaged the body politic. The republic as we know it is dead and given the constitutional structure of the country, it’s not coming back. This republic cannot be saved. Reagan’s Republican ideology on government and governing has ripped apart the Constitution.
But our democratic republic can be reincarnated in a new body politic. This will be a new republic reconstituted through a new constitution.
Separate out the rural and Southern states. Give them their own country to govern. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be a republic except in banana form. A version of Handmaid’s Tale, anyone?
Follow the 2012 electoral map. Sure Florida voted for Obama, making it a blue state fit for our new republic. But Florida must be sacrificed to the party of DeSantis, Rubio, and Scott. On the other hand, Arizona, trending purple now because of the increasing Hispanic and California influx, would join our Nor-West Republic of blue states.
Of course, we can draw up treaties and alliances between our new republic and their theo-geriatric autocracy; of course, we would welcome into our republic anyone seeking to emigrate from Denial-landia. But let’s end the illusion that getting along means sacrificing what is most precious to us—our ideals and values—to the demands of those unable and unwilling to honor our Constitution, to examine evidence, and to recognize and follow facts.
So let’s divide the union. Let us put an end to pretense and spend our time, energy, and resources building up a republic that honors immigrants, women, diversity, facts, truth, the rule of law, and the planet.