Thomas F. Schaller has written an intriguing but disturbing opinion piece in The Baltimore Sun.
The piece highlights the growing political divisions throughout the country. Gridlock continues in Washington with little or no indication that a solution exists to bridge this gap in the foreseeable future. At the same time, at the state level, there is growing unity. More and more states are in the hands of a single political party.
Schaller notes that in the 22 states that once belonged to the Confederacy, Republicans now control all 22 state houses. The once-solid Democratic South no longer exists. Also, in the last four out of five presidential elections, 40 out of 50 states voted for the candidate of the same political party. Blue states are getting bluer and red states are getting redder.
Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama ran for office promising to unite the country. Neither has been successful. When Bush was re-elected in 2004, only three states changed their preferences. When Obama was re-elected in 2012, only two states changed their vote.
Schaller wonders if perhaps the solution to this dilemma is to simply allow each state to make its own decisions. Issues that are clearly national would be addressed in Washington, but states could implement as conservative or liberal policies as they chose with no interference from Washington. This idea is coming from a liberal who tends to believe in national solutions to political issues rather than state solutions.
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There is much that is attractive about such a solution. At a minimum, it should diminish the intensity and number of political fights in Washington. Yet short of a complete secession of states from the union, it is difficult to see how this could be accomplished. Could a state enact laws that are unconstitutional if they chose to do so? Would the Supreme Court simply defer to state wishes on contentious issues? Would the Constitution need to be amended? One of the continuing problems has been the determination of what constitutes a national issue and what should be determined at the state level. I still don't see any easy answers to that question.
Texas has spoken of secession recently. Alaska and some other states have given secession some consideration as well. Maybe at some point, this will become a reality for some of these states. Yet when the issue is addressed seriously, most states recognize the problems they would incur if they actually chose to separate. As much as some Southern states rail against the failings of big government, at some level, they recognize the benefits, particularly financial benefits, they receive from the federal government.
For any state, even Texas or Alaska, to go it alone would be an extremely difficult undertaking. There are so many advantages to remaining part of a strong federal union like the United States. This is why Alexander Hamilton and others wrote The Federalist Papers: to promote the importance of a strong federal government that resulted in the passage of our Constitution.
We have many challenges to address, but we must begin the process. The first step, I believe, needs to be a change in that group of legislators who have chosen to refuse to legislate. They have adopted the concept that the best thing they can do for the union is to obstruct and prevent business from taking place in Congress. I know of no other period in our history when such intransigence was so prominent. Minus this group of activists, the business of the country can proceed. It will not be pretty and will likely not please very many people, but the country will function. It always has.
The Civil War was fought 150 years ago, and it resulted in the preservation of the union. With all of the global conflicts and technological developments of the 21st century, it is easy to see the importance of maintaining the strength of that union.
While it is likely that Mississippi and Massachusetts will always be very different places, we remain one nation and will ultimately have to find a way to work together to form a more perfect union.