Just think what America would look like without its mostly Southern states. (We could retain “America”: they could call themselves “Smith & Wesson” or “Coca-Cola” or something like that.) Universal health care. No guns. Strong unions. A humane minimum wage. A humane immigration policy. High revenues from a fair tax structure. A massive public-works program. Legal gay marriage. A ban on carbon emissions. Electric cars. Stronger workplace protections. Extended family leave from work in case of pregnancy or illness. Longer unemployment benefits. In short, a society on a par with most of the rest of the industrialized world—a place whose politics have finally caught up with its social and economic realities.
But I don’t want to appear blindly partisan—a sundering of the union would make the other half of America equally fulfilled. The red-state republic could finally establish a theocracy in which the fundamentalist Christian church would legislate all the important aspects of civic life. It could either send its illegal and/or legal immigrants northward or reinstitute a reformed system of indenture whereby immigrants are purchased by bona fide citizens who have a fully modernized respect for private property. It could, taking the lead from the pioneering Kansas legislature, abolish the income tax, raising revenue from, for example, a “pay to work” program. It could ban abortion in all instances, including rape and incest, and use the growing population of orphans to establish an impressive standing army.
The red-state nation, giddy with new mobility, could make the 1958 Chevy its official car, and use the cutting-edge resources of cable television and the Internet to broadcast postwar situation comedies 24 hours a day. It could arm all of its citizens, and thus relieve itself of the financial burden of maintaining law-enforcement agencies. And without any type of regulation, it could finally compete with similarly unhampered societies all over the world. Without the FDA, a new red-state republic could use refined transfats to develop ever tastier delicacies, perhaps energizing its economy by instituting a toxic-food-for-toxic-toys program with China.
Bitter sarcasm aside, both regions of the country would, in a word, have conferred on them the fundamental freedoms they each believe the other side is denying them.
Instead, we are stuck living in an America whose politics hang suspended somewhere in the 1850s, when the almost symmetrical divide in the country kept one half of it mired in a barbaric system of slavery—itself rooted in ancient customs and conventions—and the other half moving quickly, along scientific and technological lines, into the modern era. Almost 150 years after the end of the Civil War, when it comes to basic issues and fundamental values, America is still split right down the middle.
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