It seems like every month something else happens that shows us how deeply divided the U.S. is as a nation.
This month, we've seen the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
and the subsequent debate over whether it was all the Tea Party's fault
or if the fact that the shooter had "The Communist Manifesto" on his MySpace
"favorite books" list meant that he was a big liberal.
Meanwhile, every four years, we have an election to pick a leader that about 52 percent of the nation is super-psyched about and roughly 48 percent think is the biggest moron ever to walk the planet and/or is secretly from Muslim City, Kenya.
All of which brings up this (admittedly awkward) question: Why do we do this to ourselves? If half the country is still all into Obama and the other half clings to the hope of Palin/Beck '12, why not just cite irreconcilable differences and split it as though the red states and blue states had a no-fault divorce?
But then, we're hardly experts here. Fortunately, people who are experts are willing to humor us and explain why this could or couldn't work. Keep reading to see what we learned.
It's Been Done Before
Al Martinich, a professor at the University of Texas with an interest in political philosophy, cautions us that this isn't his area, but he also brings up the fact that there've been a few obvious examples in the 20th century -- primarily the split of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. "Ethnic pride motivated the Slovaks to want their own country even though they suffered economically," he explains.
Professor Martinich also mentions that Slovenia's war for independence from Yugoslavia wasn't particularly hard-fought. "Less than 75 people were killed in fighting that lasted only 11 days," he points out.
Martinich's fellow U.T. prof David Prindle mentions that a similar proposition is currently in the works in the Sudan, where the South is voting on whether to secede from the northern part of the country. He adds that "West and East Pakistan divorced into the countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh during the 1970s" for further proof that it's worked in the past.
So, theoretically at least, the idea of splitting into two countries isn't completely absurd on its face. Other countries, albeit not of the size or stature of the United States, have made it work.
But It Didn't Work Last Time We Tried It
We've been through this once before, though, and Prof. Prindle says that the challenge we'd face now is the same one we faced way back in 1861: "When the Southern states were seceding to form the Confederacy, one of the chief objections to simply letting them go was that such a new 'country' would block the Mississippi trade route to New Orleans," he explains. "A huge amount of trade, then as now, went down the Ohio, upper-Mississippi, and Missouri rivers to the port of New Orleans and then out into the world. This objection to the secession of the red Southern states is still very much alive."
Professor Martinich adds that the U.S. is just too diverse to make this an attractive option to a majority of Americans. "When someone like [Texas Governor Rick] Perry talks about the possibility of secession, he's more hat than gun," he says. "And what would happen to the purple states?"
It's a fair point. California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts and most of the rest of New England are pretty reliably blue, while Texas, several mountain states and the Deep South remain firmly red. But what about Florida and Ohio, which seem to blow with the wind each year? Would the two new nations alternate custody every four years or so, while the people of those flaky states tried to make up their minds?
We're Probably Stuck With Each Other
Ultimately, we can agree that it's appealing in theory -- imagine how awesome it would be if the idea of President Palin / President Obama (depending on your political stripes) were someone else's
problem? After all, if there's one thing that all Americans, red or blue, can agree on, it's that whatever is happening in the rest of the world isn't really all that much of a concern. But when you think about it in practical terms, it probably wouldn't fly.
In the end, the red states aren't nearly as powerful economically, which would make it a struggle for them in the event of a split. Although, they do contain most of the military bases, so if they got too stressed about the fact that their blue neighbors were driving luxury hybrids and shopping at Whole Foods, they could probably just invade.
Which would put us right back where we started: in the middle of this mess. So, we should probably learn to agree on a few simple, basic things, and go from there. Maybe we could start with agreeing that, aside from getting an excuse to listen to GNR's "Civil War" again, there's not really much benefit to exploring this.