America is Ungovernable

Civil war or Breaking into an EU-Style Union look increasingly inevitable

Photo by Samuel Schneider on Unsplash

As a fan of American Nations by Colin Woodard (2011) and Nine Nations of America (1981) by Joel Garreau, it is increasingly apparent that culture is the key insight underlying everything in politics in America. Simply put, America no longer shares a culture that can be used as the basis for governing.

As a middle-aged man who grew up on the west coast, large sections of the United States feel more foreign to me than many countries in Europe. National politics at both the federal and party level have been driven entirely by a handful of swing states — usually a variety of rust belt states. Every issue I care about — healthcare, foreign policy, drug policy, economics, race relations, etc. — seems driven by an increasingly misguided attempt to pacify an ever-more religious and authoritarian minority.

While the election of 2016 could be explained away by wishful thinking (the Donald Trump of the Apprentice will fix things!), the election of 2020 can’t — we have had four years to see exactly who and what he represents. As described in detail in American Carnage by Tim Alberta, the Trump-ification of the Republican Party is driven by the voters, not the elites. They are moving to Newsmax and OAN because that’s the culture and world view that they want. There is so many that believe that if Trump were gone, somehow things will get better, despite all the decades of evidence to the contrary.

While I love the optimism of Dan Rather’s What Unites Us, I can’t reconcile that with 74 million votes and the sea of red states that voted for Trump. It feels like a fantasy that those 74 million will unite behind even basics like the rule of law or democracy. These are different, irreconcilable world views. The combination of winner-take-all elections and such a deep cultural divide will make America increasingly ungovernable.

At this point, it’s distressingly clear the only way to avoid civil war in my lifetime is to break up the country. It’s the only reform that can be passed. I’d suggest six large European-style countries roughly along the lines of Woodard’s book and convert the US into an EU-style federation. While most think of the US Civil War, I think of the 1931 Statue of Westminster.

While a peaceful reformation could be accomplished with a single Constitutional amendment, I despair that this will all end in violence instead.

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