The Corner


In Which I Agree with Ben Domenech about National Divorce

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There has been a vogue of “national divorce” rhetoric from some quarters of the right (see, e.g., this David Reaboi column). Ryan Williams of Claremont offers some sympathy for that view in his interview in The Atlantic, but Williams is not actually endorsing it — indeed, the very act of giving an interview to The Atlantic is a decision to continue engaging with Blue America and its established institutions:

We have to find some modus vivendi to go forward. If we’re two Americas, one of the more perfect solutions might be the return of federalism — the feds laying off in many respects. Let red America be red and blue America be blue. It’s obviously more complicated than that, because even in red states you have plenty of Democrats, and vice versa. But we need to restore a robust federalism, one that allows states much more leeway. We’ve gone much too far into the realm of federal control, arbitrariness, and overreach. . . . I worry about such a conflict. The Civil War was terrible. It should be the thing we try to avoid almost at all costs…A lot of normal Americans just want to go about their daily lives, raise their families, and make sure that our kids are successful. . . . [W]e underestimate the extent to which we can lower the temperature in America and move forward with a lot more unity.

In general, I have three problems with talk of breaking up the country. One, it disrespects our heritage. 750,000 Americans died to settle for all time the question of whether some states could leave the country. Two, it is not remotely practical, because Red and Blue America are deeply economically and geographically intertwined. And three, we should stand and fight, not run away. I confess this is partly temperamental; I’m a stay-where-you’re-planted guy. I didn’t leave New York when terrorists blew up my office. And I’m not leaving America now. In this morning’s Transom newsletter, Ben Domenech captures my view of the third point:

A new poll from The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics found that a shocking number of Americans are so fed up with division that they want what you might call a national divorce – a  breakup of red and blue states. Their poll found 41 percent of Biden voters and 52 percent of Trump voters favor this separation.

Let’s get one thing straight: That’s not happening. It’s not a thing that we will do. Federalism exists for a reason, to allow very different Americans with very different priorities to live in a country together.

What’s more, I’m disappointed in any conservative who seriously entertains such ideas. Did you miss every lesson about the growing backlash to leftist overreach we’ve seen for decades? They’re headed toward the exits, white-knuckling it til the midterms, barely hanging on to power, sending George Soros-funded shouting children into the bathroom to harass Kyrsten Sinema, and you want to bow out now?

That’s loser talk. . . . The answer to our division isn’t to give up on the American experiment. It’s to fight and take it back. It’s to say to the arrayed forces of the left: You can’t have my country. We built it. We own it. It’s ours. And we intend to keep it.

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