Federalism is why some states thrive and others don’t, columnist David Harsanyi says
Marjorie Taylor Greene says the country needs a “national divorce.” “We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government,” she tweeted. “Everyone I talk to says this. From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s traitorous America Last policies, we are done.”
Generally speaking, I’m sympathetic to the idea that the political left is unable to accept a truly diverse nation. Virtually every legislative policy proposal from modern Democrats — and every policy issued by edict — strengthens federal power and economic control over states. Modern Democrats are champions of direct democracy, an effort to undercut the choices of local communities and individuals. When they don’t get their way, the D.C. bureaucracy steps in to circumvent the will of states. And when courts stop them, Democrats work to delegitimize and weaken the judiciary.
Just this week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) argued states should simply disregard the Supreme Court when they don’t agree with a decision. Ignoring the division of power is far more likely to cause a national schism than any Greene tweet.
None of that means a “national divorce” — really secession, since other states are unlikely to concede to a split — isn’t a reckless thing for someone who took a vow to defend the Constitution to advocate. Even if we took a moment to seriously contemplate the idea, how would it be achieved? We aren’t separated ideologically into large geographic regions or even states, but rather urban, suburban and rural areas. Conservatives like to share that map showing virtually the entire country painted in electoral red — and it matters more than Democrats like to admit. But we can’t discount that density also matters. A “national divorce” would create even smaller minorities and divisions, but little difference in the way of policy.
For that matter, where will Greene’s Georgia, which Joe Biden won in 2020 and now has two left-wing senators, end up in this split? How about purple states like Virginia or New Hampshire? Will we have 50 separate referendums? Will there be population exchanges like the one India and Pakistan undertook in 1947? If history is any indication, it’s the kind of situation that leads to political violence and economic ruin.
And, you know, you already have the freedom to move about the nation and find a place that suits your lifestyle and politics. That’s one of the reasons we’re a place that has room for a progressive vegan, the evangelical conservative farmer, the suburban moderate and everyone in between.
During the past 42 years, the federal government has been divided for 30 of them. Over the past three presidencies, the president’s party lost at least one house after only two years. The instinct of the American public is to split power. The organic state of a divided nation is glorious gridlock — which is why the 10th Amendment exists. Now, it’s also true that leftists struggle with the notion of letting people in red states think, speak and live in ways they dislike. There is a national political and cultural effort to homogenize us. And when Republicans appropriate the existing local power Democrats have used for decades to implement their own choices — as Gov. Ron DeSantis has done in Florida — leftists act as if we’re on the precipice of a dictatorship. But they have no power to stop him. Only Florida voters do. This is why federalism exists. It is why some states thrive and others don’t. And federalism is not only a more desirable solution than breaking the country into two, but also far more feasible.
None of this is to argue there aren’t serious problems facing the nation, but Big Tech’s relentless highlighting of every decisive moment, every rabid voice and every radical position clouds our view of reality. The nastier and crazier you pretend to be, the more misleading your tweets and the more partisan you act, the more followers you can expect. The incentive of social media success is corrosive. Most of it just exacerbates political divisions.
In the real world, you probably live in proximity to plenty of people with different religious, cultural and ideological values, yet, despite what you’ve heard, we’re a nation with negligible political violence. In many ways, despite the mess politicians have made, our lives are better than ever. Let’s keep it that way.
David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist. Harsanyi is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of five books — the most recent, “Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent.” His work has appeared in National Review, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Reason, New York Post and numerous other publications. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.
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