Right now, political paralysis is undermining meaningful governance at every level of government in America.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the state of the states in America. For now, the nation is stuck with a Constitution that created a federation of states with a central federal government of limited powers. While this Constitution has been subject to interpretation for well over two centuries, one glaring divide continues to split the nation.
There are states in the land in which the predominate view is that limited government at all levels, but particularly the federal level, is the intended constitutional model (red states), and other states that recognize the strong role that government at all levels can play in ensuring a better life for its citizens (blue states).
Both groups say they revere the same Constitution, but fight like hell to secure their favored model. I have had enough of this. It is time to move on. It is way past time to permit those who choose to live in red states to have it their way, but to do so without the federal influence and resources they claim they can live without.
In the short term, this will mean that some folks now living in red states who care about things like the quality of public education, access to meaningful health care, the quality of the air they breathe, the water they drink and the roads they travel will suffer. These good people will soon begin to move to blue states, further diminishing the quality of life for those remaining in red states. Further, the reduced demand for federal resources and services from the newly “free” red states will provide a windfall for blue states seeking to cooperate with the federal government to meet collective needs.
This should make both Republicans and Democrats happy. Republicans can assure their constituents that they have finally succeeded in freeing their red states from the yoke of federal tyranny, while singing the praises of the future economic and social growth to come from unfettered capitalism and little or no taxes. Meanwhile, the Democrats will be able to talk freely to their constituents about a cooperative federal, state and local government effort to improve schools, provide meaningful health care, improve public transportation, promote greater access to higher education, and ensure cleaner air and better water. They might even be able to sprinkle their speeches with “democratic socialism.”
At the federal level, Congress will have to adapt a bit. I propose they have separate red state and blue state legislative days. Everything should pass. If you want a 19th-century abortion law that will apply only in red states, you pass it on a red state legislative day with the full support of the blue state congressmen who are proud of the strong reproductive rights in blue states. This is done in exchange for red state cooperation on other issues on blue state legislative days, like expanded Medicaid access in blue states.
The beauty of this plan is that no one has to vote for anything that their constituents oppose that will have any impact on their actual constituents. Think about gun control. Each red state can fight with other red states to make that state the best magnet for the nation’s gun nuts, ensuring that every man woman and child is backed up by a psychopath with a gun. Meanwhile, in the blue states, now rid of the gun nuts who have flocked to the red states, hunters can hunt in peace and children can go to school without fear.
Meanwhile, the president of the United States, now free of the “united” part, can openly talk out of both sides of his/her mouth depending on the issue and the location of the listeners. Like Congress, the Supreme Court can have separate red dockets and blue dockets, where the Constitution is interpreted to meet local political and social realities.
Had enough yet? Then think about how much of this scenario is true already. This plan simply accepts much of today’s reality and gives it a path forward by institutionalizing it and encouraging citizens (and immigrants) to choose where they prefer to live and work.
A review of public school spending per student by each state is instructive. Twelve of the top 13 states plus the District of Columbia (Alaska is the outlier) in spending per student are considered to be blue states. The bottom 12 states in spending per student are considered to be red states, if you include Nevada as a red state. So, if you are thinking about sending your kids to public school, which would be better: a state with high expenditures per student or a state that spends what little it has on a “bibles-with-breakfast” program?
If you are concerned about taxes, you could check this out and make up your mind based on how much you are willing to spend to educate your child and then move accordingly. You get bonus points if you take into account that whatever federal funding is available to red states will be eliminated and available to blue states in order to free red state public education from immoral, atheistic and communist control.
Spur Debate in America
While this simplistic analysis is rife with generalizations, there is enough of a kernel of truth to at least spur debate. Right now, political paralysis is undermining meaningful governance at every level. Public institutions cannot meet public needs even where there is a consensus that government is the key component to a successful outcome. Red state interests are so keen to prove that government cannot work that they will stop at nothing to ensure an unsuccessful outcome everywhere.
There should be no expectation that simply accepting the red state/blue state divide will result in a modern-day above-ground railroad moving the poor and educated to the north, nor a pick-up truck parade headed south full of folks seeking a life anchored in the 19th century. Rather, it could be hoped that by accepting reality, America’s political institutions can be moved to permit the creation of dynamic pockets of progress.
If this can happen even on a small scale, the nation’s still-existing “freedom of movement” will allow more people to enjoy the benefits of progressive and enlightened public policy initiatives.
*[A version of this article was crossposted on the author’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.