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1850 or 2019?



My pattern bias is hard at work again.

I was doing my Show Prep for Thursday and Friday, and I came across a post by a friend who wants to break up California because it is “too liberal” for his tastes. The problem is, of course, that solution will not result in one “Liberal California and one “Conservative” California, but in two Blue California’s. The dynamics should be apparent, but in case they are not, it a matter of relativity. What is “conservative” in the Central Valley of California is considered “liberal” in the heartland of Texas. Admitting a new State at this point in our political journey would become an exercise in balancing the power of two political forces which are more allied than divided and yet like to draw lines of distinction. Any new State that changes that balance is going to face a quick death in the operational details of Article IV.

We’ve been here before, as a Nation. In the mid-19th Century, things were a bit different, in that there were great swaths of land vying to become the next State. Unlike today where – for the most part – any new State would have to be carved out of an existing State – but the same concerns about balancing the political power existed then as now. Theoretically, the motivation behind it has changed. In the 1800’s everything was about slavery. The Slave States believed that if the Free states got too much of the power they would take actions to end Slavery. The Free States feared that the Slave States were trying to add ever more Slave States to perpetuate the peculiar institution of slavery.

So whenever a Slave State was about to be added, a Free State had to join as well. And when a Free State was proposed, a Slave State had to be proposed at the same time. It maintained the balance of power, but it had devastating effects on politics and the State of the Union. The same people who exhaustively explain to me that they would have solved it had they been there back in the day, have no idea how to solve it today. The more things change, the more they stay the same. An uneasy balance of power remains, with the threat of Mutual Assured Destruction hanging in the air. Each side pretends that it wants to destroy the other completely – and in a fantasy world they probably do – but they also understand that would end the detente. Conquest is easy, control is not. A complete win by one side or the other simply opens them up for a counter attack with similar scorched Earth destruction coming at themselves this time.

Where does that leave us?

First, the dividing lines are not as clear as they once were. In the 19th Century, you lived in a Slave State or a Free State. With few exceptions, your State determined your politics and moral positions.* The destruction of Federalism and the natural after-effects of the Civil War have created a more homogenous nation. No longer are there clear and absolute dividing lines. You can no longer cross from one State to another and find the entire state population disagreeing with you to the point where shooting at you is a reasonable solution.

There is no “peculiar institution” in today’s nation. Sure, there are sharp divides, but none that are undecided by law and legislation. You may not like something politically, but it’s highly unlikely that you are willing to shoot at your next door neighbor over it. And if you are, you’re not going to find much support for your actions, even among the like-minded. That said, we are starting to see a singular issue that is dividing States – abortion. While some states are passing laws to expand abortion protection, others are passing lass to restrict it out of legal existence. but how likely is it that the people of a given State are as clearly divided as the Legislatures?

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