Some of you may know that I have been a lifelong U.S. Civil War buff. I read every book I could as a kid and even did some re-enacting as an adult. Much of my interest in the war comes from the fact that the issues and outcome of that conflict shaped America for the next 100 years.
I now believe that we are at the cusp of a second “War Between the States”. In this case, I do not expect one side to take up arms against the other. Nor do I expect states to secede from the Union. There is also not a nice, clean Mason-Dixon Line to separate those states on one side from those on the other. But, I do expect it to be a “war” that will drag on for some time and I believe its issues and outcome will shape the country for decades or longer.
In my “Laptop Report” to you a couple of weeks ago entitled “Frustration”, I said that I did not expect, “…the principles and causes for which I have stood,” to find their resolution in Washington. That’s because I expect that resolution to come at the state level…but, not until after the “war” between those states. Allow me to explain.
I am often asked why things are so partisan and divided in Congress. I always respond that I think the founders of this country did a pretty good job of setting up a system of government that reflects where the people are currently. Congress is divided because America is divided right now. A Member of Congress from Dallas is a reflection of his or her constituents or they won’t stay in office. Same goes for a Member of Congress from San Francisco. But, the majority of constituents in Dallas believe and want something very, very different from the majority in San Francisco. Today, you have Tea Party Republicans and Occupy Democrats because their constituencies created and believe in those movements.
Throughout the nearly 60 years I have been on this earth, the country has had trends. Taxes were either on the way up or the way down. Education, health care or environmental issues were moving in one direction or another. Some states have moved faster than others. And, some states haven’t moved at all. However, that is not what’s happening now. Today, “red” states are moving in one direction on many issues and “blue” states are moving in precisely the other. There are no national trends.
Many of you may know that I have family roots and a house and farm in Kansas. I obviously follow California politics but I also keep quite close to Kansas politics. Kansas is one of the reddest states in the union, possibly surpassed only by Oklahoma and Wyoming. California is, of course, one of the bluest of states, maybe surpassed only by a couple of New England states. Every statewide officeholder in California is a Democrat. Every one in Kansas is a Republican. Democrats held, until the recent felony indictments of 3 Democratic State Senators, a 2/3rds majority in both houses of the California legislature. Republicans in Kansas actually hold even greater control of their state house and senate.
So, I have tracked legislation signed into law over the last few years in each state. On 10 major issues that I tracked, California and Kansas have passed legislation directly in the opposite direction to each other on the same issues. California raised taxes. Kansas lowered them. California made it harder to use fracking to access oil and gas resources. Kansas made it easier. Kansas eased restrictions on private gun possession and ownership while California substantially tightened them. California basically made it illegal to ask someone to show proof of citizenship to register to vote or to vote. Kansas tightened further the requirement of original proof of citizenship to do either. I could go on and on. There are economic issues, social issues, privacy issues, property rights issues and more. It’s every issue. It’s as though every time Kansas “yings” on something, California “yangs” on the same thing.
I only use these 2 states as examples because I know them, own property and do business in both. But, I could have picked Texas and Illinois, or New York and Georgia or Massachusetts and Oklahoma.
The things that liberals and leftists believe today have almost no overlap with what conservatives and libertarians believe. Red states will likely get redder and put more conservative policies in place. The blue states will likely get bluer and put more liberal policies in place.
And, we’ll see who wins. Some states are going to succeed and others fail. Those that fail will have to become more like those that succeed.
As you all know, the country overall is pretty evenly split today. Because of that split, I do not think this “tie” will be broken in Washington. It will be too difficult for either side to muster the votes to move the whole country in a hard conservative or hard liberal turn. But, the states have and will continue to do so.
And, that’s the way it should be. This is exactly the brilliance the founders built into this country’s federalist system. As the 10th amendment to the Constitution states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In other words, if this Constitution doesn’t specifically say that a job belongs to Washington, then it doesn’t. It belongs to the states or to individuals acting of their own accord.
This country was designed to let states go their own separate ways. If you don’t like the direction your state is going in, fight it in the statehouse or move to another state. But, don’t go to Washington. That’s not the job of Congress or the White House.
We will see how this “second war” between the states goes. I have a prediction. Texas, Georgia and Tennessee are winning. California, New York and Illinois are losing. Detroit already has gone bankrupt. As I told you last week, Los Angeles will be there soon. But, Nashville is fine. So is Abilene, Texas. Kansas has an unemployment rate of 5%. California’s rate is 8%. Socialism doesn’t work. It never has worked. Anywhere, anytime. And, it won’t work in Minnesota either. My greatest fear is not that the left will win. Their ideas are patently archaic and futile. Liberals from blue states may move to red states where there is growth and opportunity. That’s fine. But, what drives me nuts is that they then will try and make the state they moved to look more like the failed state they just ran away from. My friends in Colorado tell me this is already happening there as a result of an influx of ex-Californians.
Oh, and of course, there are also today’s “border states”. What Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland were in the first Civil War, Pennsylvania and Michigan and Ohio are in the “second”. I’m using these as examples because all 3 of the aforementioned modern “border states” have Republican governors today and are recovering. There were more “border states” then and there are more today. It is impossible to predict which way these states will swing over the long term. However, how they move will be very important to the outcome of the “war”.
So, we are at war…..with ourselves. That’s what a civil war is. Today’s battlefields are in Sacramento, Topeka, Austin and Springfield. Shots will not be fired. But, the consequences of the outcome will be significant nonetheless. It is a war over policies and politics and courts and laws, of course. However, it is even more fundamental than all that. It is a war over our culture.
And, that may be the most important battlefield in this war. More about that next week.