Our republic cannot be saved with dialogue alone.
Polarization has been an extremely apparent driving force behind today’s political atmosphere in the United States, primarily on the federal level. It drives the conversations on news stations, political forums, and even social media. Many of my fellow politicos have begun to adopt the words of the Mugatu, the villain from Zoolander: “Polarization, so hot right now.”
In recent news, we have seen polarization taking a more violent turn, with a far-Left activist opening fire on part of the Republican congressional delegation while they practiced for an annual congressional baseball game. Such violence has seen a temporary unity coming from both sides of the aisle, with only a few fringe-lining people still feeling anger toward Republicans and vice versa. However, the act led to nationally syndicated radio host Michael Savage to proclaim that the United States is on the brink civil war.
In my previous work, I explain the current polarization in American politics and how it came to be, how it affects our politics, and how we are more polarized than we’ve been in decades. I even make a plea for the opposing sides to come together and begin a dialogue in a concerted effort to end said division. However, through thought and reflection, I have come to the conclusion that such a dialogue is comparable to putting a Bandaid on a severe wound: it wouldn’t be enough to stop and repair the damage.
While there a few swing states like Ohio, Florida, or North Carolina, most of the division we see in America is derived due to political differences on a national level. This is evident in the seething hatred seen between the Left and Right regarding President Trump’s election or the partisan breakdown of Congress, regardless of the fact that Mr. Trump won the electoral vote and the composition of the House and Senate was established by their respective constituencies.
But to some, those in power are not in power legitimately—the Constitution be damned.
To solve the polarization, we must look at the possibility of returning the United States to its original, Constitutional structure: a small federal government that maintains our borders, provides a common defense, and ensures a national tranquility (something it has failed at doing).
Meanwhile, the individual states would have more say and power over matters not specifically written in the Constitution as federal powers (read: 10th Amendment).
I previously mentioned how, according to Colin Woodard, America can be divided into eleven “nations” based on the population’s respective values, beliefs, and priorities. These regrouped populations create homogeny in a nation that—when looking at its national population— does not have much to go around. After all, a liberal congressman from San Francisco will have different values and priorities than a congressman who represents a farming district in rural North Carolina.
Granted, the fact that America’s diversity negates homogeneity is part of what makes the United States such a unique country. It is miraculous that this one nation has existed for well over a century. However, this beauty of America has created the beast that is polarization: a “Frankenstein’s monster,” if you will.
I submit that the United States begin moving toward a pseudo-federalist society, with the federal government’s power being diluted to a more regional basis based on Woodard’s eleven nations.
Sure there could still be one head of state (i.e. President), but his power would be drastically reduced with the power going to more regional governments such as the states based on their regions (i.e. Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Southwest, and Northwest). This way, everyone can still be American but also live in an area that promotes their preferred values, priorities, and beliefs.
This isn’t an idea that is completely alien to many Americans, including even some other writers at Merion West. Connor Mighell explains why federalism could be supported using “Calexit” and “Texit” as examples. However, talks of secession aren’t the only indicator that the American population would be supportive of this idea.
Ever since President Trump announced that the United States would leave the Paris Climate Agreement, states like California have decided to take the issue of climate change into their own hands, making regulations and even making deals with foreign nations, a violation of the constitutional definition of their powers. Other states, on the other hand, have decided against pursuing such lofty regulations. As it turns out, the states and cities that agree with the Climate Agreement are more Left-leaning, while those in opposition to the Agreement tend to be more right-leaning.
So, if state governments have gone ahead and made such decisions, with the support of their respective populations, it could be argued that the pseudo-federalism idea proposed here could be a logical next step.
Returning the states’ respective powers to their rightful place could alleviate some of the division. The most likely outcome is seeing a migration of people to states/regions of the country that share their respective political, religious (or non-religious), or political values. (This, for example, is the goal of the Free State Project, which encourages libertarians to move to New Hampshire to shift the electorate to be more receptive to libertarian candidates).
Though hopefully, we as a nation can scale back the recent tensions and clashes of political violence, if we do not change the path we are on as a nation, we face the likelihood of increasing acrimony and conflict. In the meantime, perhaps the way to unity is through more powerful regional governments.