America Realigned: Living Apart Together

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

These days, it seems, every political, social and cultural disagreement turns into a bitter right/left, “red/blue” fight. Perhaps they could get along better if the sides agreed to disengage and give other a little – or a lot – more space.

Unfortunately, though, only one side genuinely wants to be left alone. Clearly eager to control everything and everybody, the other side is attempting to accumulate and leverage political power to impose their will on society generally, efforts that generate resentment among a large segment of the population. Left uncorrected, the only question is how the inevitable backlash will be expressed.

Currently, conservative and moderate suburban, exurban, small town and rural voters in a number of states are held captive by “blue vote factories” – the large, populous, liberal cities that can throw entire states to one party in national and statewide elections. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois are examples.

Even the “bluest” states, California, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and Vermont, contain “red” geographies that, in some, are substantial, even overwhelming.

A review of the 2020 presidential election results by county map shows a huge preference gap between the relatively small geographical areas of dense, primarily-liberal population centers and the vast majority of the nation’s land mass.

In 2020, Joe Biden won only 477 counties out of 2974, the fewest ever for a “successful” presidential candidate. In fact, Biden didn’t perform well in portions of tiny “deep blue” Delaware – his home state.

Left/right political conflicts are broader than just federal election results. Blue state capitals are sometimes the population centers that control voting results in geographically-red states, so there are also a number of disconnects between branches of state governments and much of their populations.

Some blue-vote-factory states, like Pennsylvania, have gubernatorial/legislative blue/red party splits.

Activists in a few states are attempting to address and change what they believe to be unfair, unbalanced urban hegemonies through realignment.

For example, separatist movements have arisen in Eastern Washington and Oregon where some counties have already indicated their desire to join Idaho. Downstate Illinois would like to secede from Chicago. Western Maryland citizens started petitions to form a new state.

California has had a number of efforts to form northern, eastern and/or southern counties into one or more new states, one called the “State of Jefferson.”

There are historical precedents for forming new from existing states. Kentucky, West Virginia, Maine, and Vermont and were formed from Virginia, Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York, respectively. Dissatisfaction with prevailing governance was a factor in each.

Indeed, successful attempts at realignment and statehood would change national politics and the electoral calculus: red states that gain geography and citizens would add U.S. House representatives and electoral votes at the expense of abandoned states, and new states would get two senators.

National Democrats should have no objection to secession, realignment and/or statehood movements. After all, for years, Democrats have been pushing statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, believing that those would add House Democrats, create a permanent Senate majority, and give them automatic Electoral College votes in presidential elections.

Today, separatist/statehood efforts are not confined to red jurisdictions. Independence/realignment movements cut both ways.

In fact, a more-or-less active “blue” movement labeled “Calexit” was formed to declare California’s independence from the United States.

But, California would have to unburden America by assuming its share of the nation’s $28 trillion national debt, which, based on population, is about $3.4 trillion, plus the Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and public welfare obligations owed its current and future residents.

To succeed, Calexit would require a two-thirds vote in Congress and the approval of three-fourths of state legislatures. The deliberations in each would center around one question, “Will we be better off without California?”

Tempting, isn’t it?

Without adding or removing states, though, if state boundaries were realigned to better cluster citizens’ political preferences, and states attended to their own affairs, most of geographical America could experience an uncontested renewal of respect for biology, borders, markets, private property, public responsibility, simple math and the U.S. Constitution – outside the red states’ remaining liberal enclaves in larger cities and college towns, at least.

Frankly, realignment has local appeal. Many (most?) of Pennsylvania’s problems could be solved by ceding Philadelphia County to New Jersey.

Harrisburg, are you listening?