Very few political observers would argue that our current system of government in Washington isn’t broken, or at least in a state of serious disrepair. The House of Representatives is being bullied by a minority faction of Tea Party dimwits who have utterly dominated the pathetically weak Speaker, John Boehner. The Senate is floundering under rules that allow the minority to obstruct any legislative progress through filibusters that redefine a majority as sixty senators. But a solution is being proposed that has found supporters on both ends of the political divide.
Fred Jackson, news director of the uber-rightist American Family Association, told his radio audience that he thought a caller had a “good idea” when he said that secession is “the only solution that we have because voting doesn’t work.” The idea called for the red states to separate from the union. Jackson lamented that the American people may not be ready for such a measure, but that’s only because they haven’t yet realized “that we are about to hit that wall.”
The day before this broadcast the right-wing pseudo-news wire, Washington Free Beacon, published a story on the same theme but with a geographic limiter. They wrote that “A major Democratic donor said he supports Southern secession because the South is ‘dumbing down national politics.” It’s hard to argue with his reasoning while derps like Louie Gohmert and Ted Cruz are wandering the halls of Congress.
There is some real merit to this idea. After all, both sides would agree that neither is being particularly well represented when the legislative branch of government is so divided. By jettisoning the South the rest of the nation would be relieved of bible-belters who want to invoke a theocracy that believes Jesus rode a dinosaur to his sermons against gay marriage and climate change science. The South would be free to abolish all taxes and prohibit African-Americans from voting. This is not to say that establishing the Mason-Dixon line as the new border would automatically correct the problem. After all, Michele Bachmann would still be up in Minnesota and Darrell Issa would still be out in California. But a large chunk of the causes of division would be resolved.
There are, of course, some drawbacks as well. First among them is the fact that there are a lot of decent, thoughtful people in red and Southern states that would be horrified to find themselves sequestered in a new country that would rank at the bottom of the intelligence scale. A report published by (of all places) Fox Business, surveyed the nation’s academic profile and found that the ten states with the best educated citizens were all “blue” states, while nine of the ten worst educated were “red” states (and eight of those were in the south).
There is also an economic issue since the South is comprised of the states with the highest percentage of people living below the poverty line (31%). And that number reflects an increase of nearly 50% since 2000. The South is currently a net receiver of federal assistance, meaning that it gets more from the government than it contributes in taxes. That would bode ill for a new nation that couldn’t support itself, particularly if it implements the low-tax strategy that it wants to impose on the whole of the United States.
The better educated and financially secure Blue/Northern states would have a distinct post-separation advantage. However, the Red States of America would be a non-starter from the outset because too much of its population would be too stupid and too financially inept to be sustainable. These variances could not be resolved simply by having people relocate to the region they prefer. That would be too great a burden that would involve uprooting families and businesses, finding new jobs and schools and friends, and very likely overcrowding the Blue states, while draining the Reds of their smartest and economically savviest residents. The Blues would be well positioned to compete with international rivals in Europe and Asia. The Reds would be closer to Libertarian Utopias like Somalia.
There is a far better solution than secession. However, it requires the American people to participate in their democracy. First of all, they have to become informed. And that means venturing beyond the increasingly biased mainstream media to find sources that are diverse and independent. Then they have to actually vote. The U.S. has one of the lowest voter turnout rates of any industrialized country. That is a slap in the face to the Founders who were optimistic enough to believe that future generations would appreciate the gift that was left to them.
With their voting power, the people need to demand an end to the anti-democratic gerrymandering that allows representatives to choose their voters rather than the other way around. And part and parcel to that, judicial atrocities like Citizen’s United must be overturned. The people must demand that only real, human, citizens can vote and contribute to campaigns. Corporations, unions, and all other wealthy special interests should not be electing our representatives. Corporations are not people, and money is not speech.
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A final suggestion for reform is a tad more radical, but still far short of secession. The Senate should become a representative body. There is no reasonable justification for Wyoming’s half million residents to have the same political clout as the 38 million residents of California. Two senators per state is an anachronistic solution to a problem that ceased to exist shortly after the Constitution was ratified. Today it permits a tiny minority of sparsely populated, unrepresentative states to hold the rest of the nation hostage. In fact, it is mathematically possible for just 35 million residents (10% of the population) to dictate the national agenda for all 350 million Americans. That is a perversion of democracy.
So it isn’t necessary to dissolve the United States to find a more perfect union. It just requires civic commitment and the will to make substantive reforms. And it wouldn’t hurt if the media stopped deliberately making their audience stupider.