With Biden in the White House and the Senate still controlled by Republicans (It’s a moon shot to think that Democrats can win both runoffs in Georgia), the country is ungovernable. Nothing of substance will be accomplished. No Green New Deal of any variety, no infrastructure of any significance, nothing to reorient the Supreme Court or other federal courts toward justice, no public option for health care, no Senate investigations of Trump’s and his administrators’ many crimes, little but Executive Orders to thwart the pandemic, and certainly nothing to relieve those unemployed and evicted.
The majority of this country does not support Trump, Trumpism, and the new face of the Republican Party. Joe Biden received more votes than any other president in our history. But more people voted for Trump after four years of his reign than voted for him in 2016. Nearly 70 million Americans want more of what Trump offers. So stop blaming Hillary for being a flawed candidate. Stop lamenting that Bernie wasn’t the nominee. Would down-ballot Democrats have fared any better with him at the top of the ticket? The political and cultural rifts in this country are wide and deep. The United States is now a failed state. It’s time to take a serious look at blue-state secession.
Secession seems like an extreme reaction to this election. It is. The alternative is to try to integrate into a democratic system people who prefer authoritarianism; people who value confrontation, even violence, over persuasion; people who applaud fraud and kleptocracy over justice and equality; people who accept lies and conspiracies rather than evidence and facts; people who push scapegoating of immigrants and minorities rather than inclusion; and people who tolerate abuse of and cruelty toward children by separating them from their parents. Again, 70 million voters not only put up with that, but they also want more of it. The nation is ungovernable.
Perhaps a less extreme move, as I wrote in my book What Hath Trump Rot?, is to see the parties splinter. The Republican Never-Trumpers can try to form a new center party by joining with moderate, centrist Democrats. Meanwhile, the progressives in the Democratic Party can push their agenda through a new left party.
Regardless of such political compositions, the nation will remain ungovernable. As we know, a sizable portion of Americans wants walls against immigrants; the state to limit women’s choices; retrograde judges to narrow our freedoms and undercut civil rights; law enforcement to target minorities; and, apparently, ongoing tax cuts that benefit few but the ultra-rich.
America is a failed state. Let’s carve out a blue-state alternative that we can be proud of.
As I also pointed out in my book, secession can happen. There are a couple of paths to it — outright withdrawal or a constitutional convention. So a breakup is plausible. The dilemma is, however, that no matter how you carve up the nation, you cannot separate out the domains of liberals and conservatives, progressives and centrists, Republicans and Democrats. The national divide is urban and rural. Blue cities and towns are strewn throughout even deeply red states, as the 2016 map of votes by counties shows. However you slice out blue states, large swaths of red territory will remain within them. You thereby force rural counties into a coalition of blue states whose policies they mostly oppose.
Of course, remaining in the United States leaves that same problem unaddressed. Many rural counties exist in blue states; many blue cities and towns exist within red ones.
To my mind, the solution is for blue states to secede en masse. The New England states would join with the rust belt and upper Midwest, with the Southwest-Mountain coalition of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada, and with the “ecotopia” of California, Oregon, and Washington. This collection forms a coalition that can govern according to values all agree on: Follow a new Constitution that enshrines and honors democracy, welcomes immigrants, protects women’s reproductive rights, establishes equality and economic justice, examines evidence, emphasizes quality public education, accepts science, differentiates facts from opinions, and pursues truth.
To assure that all areas and people in the coalition are heard, governance at every level will be democratic. Every citizen will be eligible to serve at every level of government — local, regional, federal. Representatives will be randomly selected from all segments of this society. Marbled within this representative system will be forums for direct deliberative democracy where citizens make rules and laws themselves.
Economic justice requires democracy within workplaces, schoolhouses, boardrooms, agencies, associations, and state houses. Democracy demands political and moral judgments, and as jury studies show us, every citizen is capable of weighing evidence to reach reasonable conclusions. That is the purpose of deliberation.
When each citizen has an equal chance of being selected to serve at the state, local, or national level, then no citizens can complain that they or their group have been treated unfairly. Rural or urban, liberal or conservative, every citizen has a voice that he or she can exercise and that can be heard. If citizens volunteer to serve, if participation isn’t mandatory, then perhaps the terminally clueless and the willfully dumb will exclude themselves.
Of course, economic justice, sortition — that is, the random selection of citizens to serve as representatives — and direct, deliberative democracy can all exist within the United States as it is. Except one party, the Republican Party, seems bent on gaining and holding power at any cost. Democracy diminishes that power, and so they will oppose any movement toward greater democratic participation. And as we’ve seen in this election, plenty of people are willing and happy to vote for Republicans, many of whom oppose democracy, science, evidence, equality, and inclusion.
When one party has abandoned the values and ideals of the nation and the other party seems divided over whether it represents corporate America or the working stiff, then it’s time to forsake both and create a new Constitution for a new coalition of states that places citizens first and uses democracy as its guiding principle.