I’ve speculated in the past about the possible eventual dissolution of the United States into several smaller, more logical countries. There has always been a whimsical element to this; it was a means to point out the big regional cultural differences contained between the oceans.
Still, nothing lasts forever, and it is not beyond possibility that such a breakup could occur. It seems that this election is highlighting the fault lines, if not widening them.
Washington, Hawaii and Alaska went big for Bernie Sanders, socialist, on March 26. Nobody should be surprised; it’s the Left Coast, after all. You can bet that Oregon and California will be in the same camp.
Behold the future country of Ameripacifica, where everybody lives happily, paying lots of taxes in an economy dependent on movies, silicon chips and super-powered electric cars, at least until those industries move across the Pacific or to that other new country, Texahoma, where taxes are low and everybody thinks Bernie Sanders is the Colonel’s cousin.
A fantasy? Well, yes; certainly in the near term, but at some point voters and politicians have to think seriously about what holds the country together and how to keep it that way.
We are after all, in many ways, an accident of history; the result of many peoples thrown together on a vast, sparsely populated continent who united, mostly, to build a massive economy unimpeded by most of the physical, economic and legal restraints left behind wherever they came from.
This created chaos in many ways. Abuse of the relatively few native peoples in an unprecedented land grab, civil war, caused by racial issues still incompletely resolved, the Wild West, the robber barons, Prohibition and the wave of criminality it spawned.
Now, however, we are a great nation bound up by the same sorts of restraints our forebears left behind. There is no more free or cheap land. We have complex laws at federal, state and local levels, with the regulations and bureaucrats required to enforce them.
The economy is huge, with all the complications and limitations to further growth that implies. The tax burden imposed to support all this is great, yet it is still inadequate.
We should not be surprised that there is serious fragmentation of lifestyle and opinion in a large nation composed of so many different founding elements when attempts are made to impose a single set of values and laws on all of them. After all, what do Utah and New York have in common if you don’t count Mitt Romney?
The question politicians should be considering, instead of how to cobble together enough disparate constituencies to win 51 percent of the vote by dividing and conquering, is how to keep 100 percent of Americans at least interested in the future of the country and tolerant of viewpoints other than their own.
Is this possible? Probably not. But the politics of division as practiced by, oh, everyone running for anything, is only leading to the eventual establishment of Ameripacifica, Texahoma and whatever other scrappy remnants are left.
We are not all ever going to agree on everything, but we seem to have reached the point where most of us can’t agree on anything, and those running for office not only exploit these divisions but exacerbate them.
Nobody seems to notice, but the country is almost subconsciously organizing itself into separate, if not independent, geographic entities, each with its own culture and interests.
The West Coast is the heart of progressivism, and not about to change. The South remains more traditional, still working to shed the ghosts of the Civil War.
The Midwest is regarded by many as flyover country, and not particularly unhappy about it. The West just wants to be left alone. The East is the self-identified financial and cultural center of the country.
Stereotypes? Well, yes, but there is truth in them, and these regions seem to be drawing further inward. What is there to draw them together into a national identity? Not uniformity, but a recognition that we have common interests and a willingness to tolerate disagreement within that recognition.
Whatever it may take to accomplish that, it’s not happening now.
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him by email at email@example.com.