2012 Post-Election Thoughts

November 8th, 2012 

After all the sturm und drang, the election is over with only a few changes: the Democrats picked up a few seats in the House, and two seats in the Senate. Otherwise, things haven’t changed much. It’s pretty clear that the Republicans lost this election, but their loss wasn’t that large. In my mind, the single biggest question arising from this election is, will the Republicans back down from their obstructionist approach and start working with the Democrats? For the last two years the Republican House has practiced a scorched earth policy of refusing to compromise on anything. Mr. Obama wasted enormous amounts of energy hammering out compromises, only to have them rejected in the House. The Tea Party Republicans made it clear that they would not compromise their principles, especially the dogmatic insistence that, no matter what, they would never, ever vote to raise any taxes. 

The most striking result of the election is the huge gap between the Red states and the Blue states. Mr. Romney won by huge margins in some states; Mr. Obama won by huge margins in other states. This is just not healthy; the continuing polarization of the American body politic is paralyzing our government. (See my earlier essay on this). What can be done?

My hope is that the Republicans will learn their lesson from this election and dump the Tea Party nut cases; their two worst defeats in the Senate were of two Tea Party candidates. If they refuse to learn their lesson, and continue with this dogmatism, I can only hope that voter frustration with government paralysis will continue to eat away at support for Republicans. Perhaps, perhaps we’ll see some progress in that regard. But I would prefer change to come from within the Republican party, and sooner rather than later. That’s the only way they can become a viable contributor to the process of governance.

There’s an alternative, not a politically viable one, but a hypothetical one that deserves consideration. What if we were to split this country in two? We could have USA Red, consisting of the southern and Great Plains states, and USA Blue, consisting of the coastal and Midwest states. We could establish an open trade arrangement, permitting free movement of goods, services, and people across the borders; the only differences would be at the foreign policy, macroeconomic, and social policy levels. The Red States could ban abortion, lower taxes, end the social safety net, and maintain a large military establishment. The Blue States could permit gay marriage, legalize marijuana, free up abortion, raise taxes, and maintain a minimal military establishment. 

Moreover, such a major split would surely encourage both new countries to adopt new constitutions, something that is desperately needed. The current Constitution was never intended to last for more than a few decades, much less two centuries. The amendment process has become so difficult that the Constitution is in effect frozen, unable to evolve with the society. (If you think that the Constitution embodies eternal principles and does not need to be updated, consider this: the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press and of speech; it does NOT guarantee freedom of expression and so does not provide guarantees for television, radio, and any other form of electronic communication. We’ve all let that slide because the courts have expanded the First Amendment to cover freedom of expression, but that’s not what the Constitution actually says. Should we continue to rely on the courts to update the Constitution by fiat?)

The hardest part would be splitting up the historic treasures of the country. Who gets the Smithsonian, the original Declaration of Independence, and so forth? I think that the solution would be to declare the District of Columbia to be a national historic site for both countries, administered jointly, and require each new nation to set up its own new capital. 

I know, I know, it’s an absurd proposal, but there’s no question that America is splitting into two mutually antagonistic cultures that just can’t live with each other. Perhaps we would all be better off going our separate ways.