5 Ways Our Government Can Help Prevent a 2nd Civil War
Changing where we're headed as a nation
If you are a regular reader of Culturcidal (and if you aren’t, something may be going terribly wrong in your life), you should already be aware of these poll results:
A stunning poll from the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia showed that 52% of Trump voters and 41% of Biden voters favored red/blue states seceding from the union.
Last week, we discussed, “5 Devastating Potential Consequences of America Breaking Up” and today, it’s worth talking about how to start to reverse those numbers. Some of it is certainly hard to address because it has to do with cultural factors that have grown up like hellish weeds over the last few decades. For example, there was a time in America when there wasn’t as big of an ideological gulf as there is today. There were conservative Democrats, liberal Republicans, and people like John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon who were in many respects, much more similar than different on most of the issues that mattered in American life. Meanwhile, we’re having debates today about whether men can choose to transform into women and whether or not the police should continue to exist. What’s the middle ground between socialism and capitalism, draconian censorship and free speech, or “we need to balance the budget” and “we can spend as much as we want on anything with no consequences ever?”
Culturally, there are ideas and attitudes we need to address to prevent a civil war but in the interim, it’s worth talking about things the government COULD do to lower the temperature in the country and hold things together. Granted, COULD and WILL do aren’t the same thing. However, the first step towards fixing a problem like this is pointing out alternatives to what we’re doing currently that could help fix the problem. Then, unfortunately, it’s usually a waiting game until things get bad enough to make those options attractive. It’s like that famous quote that’s often errantly attributed to Winston Churchill:
“Americans will always do the right thing, only after they have tried everything else."
Here are the 5 crucial actions our government at different levels COULD take that would help prevent a 2nd Civil War.
1) More federalism: Between the end of the 17th Amendment (it allowed senators to be chosen by popular vote), a number of Supreme Court decisions that completely ignored the 10th Amendment ("The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”), and an overpowering desire that liberals seem to have to solve every problem by a dictate from the Feds, government power in America has become far too centralized in Washington, DC. There are a wide variety of problems with this, but one of the biggest is that we are not a “one size fits all” nation. The sort of attitudes, issues, and people you will find in different parts of the country vary widely and if you expect the same thing to work in New York City and rural South Carolina, you are often going to be disappointed. The more we decentralize the power in America, the more responsive the government will be to people’s concerns by default and the less opportunity sweeping edicts from Washington will have to aggravate the populace. Also, the more differences there are between how the states are governed, the more likely people are to find a state where they are content to live. Do you live in San Francisco and think drag queen story hours for kids help improve tolerance? Okay, well I live in South Carolina, and I would morally have no problem with an angry dad breaking a drag queen’s legs with a baseball bat for putting his kid on his lap and reading him a story. There’s room for people with both ways of looking at the world in America, but ultimately we’re going to end up killing each other if the federal government tries to force everybody to take the same positions on the most contentious issues in society.
2) Flattening the tax code to get spending under control: One of the biggest problems we have in America (and that’s saying something since we have a lot of big problems) is that there is a complete disconnect in the public’s mind between their taxes and what particular programs cost in DC. If I say to you, “Would you like me to give you a Rolls-Royce Phantom?” You’d probably say, “Sure, I’d love to have one of those.” If I followed that up with, “Great, that will be $455,000.” You’d probably say something like, “You should leave now before I get back with the gun.” It’s ludicrous, right? Yet, the first part of that is what we do every day of the week in America when it comes to government programs.
Here’s a little dose of reality. There is no program in America that should exist if the middle class isn’t willing to pay for it. In other words, if say a majority of couples making $70,000 per year aren’t willing to put part of their paycheck towards it, it’s not something we should be doing. Yet, we don’t talk about government programs like that. We tell people that the “rich” are going to pay for it or we borrow money from foreign governments as if we don’t have to pay it back. This is where flattening our tax code would make an enormous difference. Let’s say everyone (other than perhaps the poorest Americans) had to pay 22% of their income in taxes. Guess who’d suddenly be very interested in cutting waste and the cost of any new programs that could raise that rate? EVERYONE who pays taxes.
This is incredibly important because it’s becoming increasingly likely that the United States is headed towards a debt-driven financial disaster. Unless we change our course, our economy is going to implode and payments like Social Security and Medicare are going to become much smaller or cease altogether. That will produce everything from grinding poverty to widespread violence to wealthy people and businesses fleeing the country. It will be very stressful, very dangerous, and very ugly. That’s concerning, not just because it’s increasingly likely, but because those are often the sort of conditions that lead to revolutions, coups, and yes, civil wars.
3) An end to gerrymandering: As Bill Bishop pointed out in his brilliant book, “The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart,” Americans are sorting ourselves out geographically:
This process of self-segregation would be inconsequential if only a few Americans lived in politically homogeneous counties. But the numbers, we learned, aren’t small. In 2004, one-third of U.S. voters lived in counties that had remained unchanged in their presidential party preference since 1968. Just under half lived in counties that hadn’t changed since 1980, 60 percent lived in counties that hadn’t changed since 1988, and nearly 73 percent lived in counties that hadn’t changed since 1992, voting consistently Democratic or Republican for four presidential elections in a row.
It's worth noting that Americans are doing this even more thoroughly online where most people now almost entirely follow people that agree with them. Unfortunately, as Bishop notes, this has rather significant ramifications:
There have been hundreds of group polarization experiments, all finding that like-minded groups, over time, grow more extreme in the direction of the majority view. ...Like-minded groups create a kind of self-propelled, self-reinforcing loop. Group members send signals bolstering existing beliefs as they all vie to stand out as the most Republican or most Democratic in the group.
In other words, in an area that heavily tilts ideologically in one direction or another, the people and the politicians will naturally become more extreme and less considerate of the views and humanity of people on the other side. It’s difficult to change that on the national level, but it could be changed on the state level by trying to create districts that are more competitive. Obviously, you are still going to have more conservative districts overall in places like Mississippi and more liberal districts overall in places like Massachusetts, but anything that helped change every battle in DC from a win/lose battle to more of a win/win scenario would be helpful. Ultimately, if we’re going to live together, we do have to work together and find some areas of common ground, even if that seems nearly impossible today.
4) Open, honest and fair elections: If you’re a conservative, imagine that in 2024, Joe Biden clearly, unambiguously loses the election to the Republican presidential candidate and then says, “There are too many important things going on to change parties now, so I’ve decided to just continue on as president until 2028.” How would you feel about the legitimacy of the government under Biden? What about paying taxes? Would you feel like you had the same obligations and responsibilities as a citizen that you do today? How about the morality of someone say, taking a shot at him if they had the opportunity? If you’re a liberal, replace Joe Biden in 2024 with Donald Trump in 2020 and you’ll probably come up with the same answers.
Think about your answers to that question and now consider that both parties have started becoming very casual about suggesting that our elections are “rigged,” and votes are being “suppressed.” Meanwhile, many of our elected officials don’t seem to be ready to go the extra mile to prove that our elections are secure, election conspiracy theorists are increasingly being taken seriously, and politicians on both sides of the aisle are making all sorts of ludicrous claims about elections essentially backed up by nothing of significance.
People on both sides are treating this as just another political game or way to gin up turnout when it’s potentially DANGEROUS to the future of our Republic. We will only have a Republic as long as most people generally believe our elections are honest and we need to start acting like it at every level of the government or the price we pay for it could be horrific.
5) One set of laws for all Americans: Massive numbers of illegal aliens are being allowed to circumvent our immigration law with the help of the United States government. Groups like ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter were allowed to break the law at will all summer while people that stood up to liberal lawbreakers, like Kyle Rittenhouse and the McCloskeys, were prosecuted for defending themselves. In parts of the country, criminals are allowed to shoplift at will and liberal district attorneys refuse to charge liberal protesters for breaking the law. Meanwhile, the participants in the one equivalent conservative riot on Jan. 6 had the book thrown at them. It would be perfectly fine if we were throwing the book at ALL of them and much less fine if we threw the book at none of them, but they should be treated the same. Along similar lines, if you’re conservative can you trust the IRS to treat you impartially after they targeted groups for being part of the Tea Party? No, you can’t. Can you trust the FBI not to take politics into account or the obviously politically motivated DAs in places like New York City as being impartial? Absolutely not.
This mentality destroys respect for the law, builds resentment towards the government, encourages people to bend the law at will, and in the case of groups like ANTIFA, encourages non-state actors to usurp authority from the government and engage in mob rule. Do we really want a country where protesters and counter-protesters are bringing weapons? Where “political rallies” end in violence, arson, and murder? Where you could be prosecuted because you’re a member of the wrong political party? This sort of lawlessness is corrosive to our shared bonds as a nation and could easily get out of hand that it could lead to a 2nd civil war.