It can seem pretty clear, from my perch up here in Canada, that there really is such a thing as Blue America, and an almost wholly opposite thing called Red America, and that each comprises a tidy collection of States that have next to nothing in common with those in the other broad grouping – as the last electoral map apparently makes plain, there are neatly distinguishable Red States and Blue States. From a distance, the perception is unavoidable, if you don’t look too hard. On the one hand we have, say, New York, in which a young Hispanic woman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, can win not only her own House Congressional primary, but also the one in the district next door by way of unsolicited write-in ballots, based on a platform that we here in Canada would consider to be not so far from mainstream – or, by the lights of those who absorb reality via Fox News, near treasonous socialism. Look at what sells in her neck of the woods:
On the other, you have, for example, Georgia, in which a Republican running in a gubernatorial primary figures rightly that ads featuring great huge pickup trucks and shotguns, with the candidate promising to use his big old vehicle to deport “criminal illegals” by his own goddam self, and impliedly threatening to give the hot buckshot treatment to a teenaged boy who’s interested in dating his daughter, are just the ticket:
If each of these represents a locally successful strategy, then how can that woman possibly be from the same country as this man?
What in the blue blazes do Alabama, Mississippi and Texas have in common with California, Vermont and Oregon?
There seems an obvious solution, doesn’t there? Split up the country! Simple! The Blue States can form The United Democratic States of North America, and the Red States, God bless ’em, can haul off and remake themselves as the Unified Conservative States of Moronica. Why doesn’t that work? They all hate each other anyway, right? So much so, in fact, that maybe this time they could effect the split without going the Civil War route like last time. Maybe if the Red States declared independence, the Blue ones would just say something Cromwellian along the lines of “In the name of God, go!” They could work it out in advance, agree to hold some kind of referendum or something. Make it all nice and legal. Wouldn’t that be tidy?
Obviously, there’d have to be some constitutional jiggery-pokery to get it all done, and there’d be thorny issues around stuff like the national debt, military bases, currency, central banks, who gets the National Capital Region, and so on, but as a Canadian, having lived most of my life with Quebec separatists screaming bloody murder in the background, these are issues that seem thoroughly surmountable. We’ve had to think about such things, and just exactly how it could all be made to work without everybody raising armies and killing each other, for decades. We’re used to the idea of “one of these things is not like the other”, and what that might mean, push comes to shove; why, this is a country so steeped in the issue that it counts as one of its great works of literature a novel called Two Solitudes. We’ve more or less constitutionally absorbed the concept of one of our provinces as a “distinct society”. When it comes to seceding from the union, we even got a Supreme Court ruling on how do it, legally and constitutionally, all fair and square. There’s a rule book.
Americans are all binary in their thinking, assuming that either the Union holds or it’s war, but here in Canada we understand that done right, it doesn’t have to be the apocalypse. It could be more like an amicable divorce, an occasion for relief, not fixing bayonets. Some times, you just have to throw in the towel, that’s all. Heck, at the height of the Separatist movement here in 1995, when the Parti Québécois looked good to win its epochal referendum to split from Canada, I parted ways with all my enlightened friends in hoping most fervently that they’d simply go ahead and get it over with. It seemed sensible, that’s all – look, if you positively hate my guts and can’t stand living with me, feeling that every compromise you have to make in order to remain as a room mate is like a dagger in your heart, I’ve got zero interest in making you live with me. You think you don’t need anybody to split the rent and help with the power bill, fine, go get your own joint, and let’s shake on it and part like adults, all civil and no hard feelings, right? I’ll just have to do my best to muddle on without you.
I was thus looking forward to it as the vote approached. If it’s really what you want, then be gone with you, I thought. Let’s just settle this. I was pretty near as bitter as Premier Parizeau when the result was an excruciatingly narrow mandate to stay. Crap! So close! I remain, to this day, a dyed-in-the-wool separatist, and if I had my way, English Canada would have its own referendum and send Quebec on its merry way toward the broad, sunlit uplands of glorious self-determination, and freedom from the piggish oppression of we Anglophone swine. Off you go! Bon Voy-a-gee!! Don’t forget to pick up your share of the tab on your way out! Oh, and good luck in your unilateral negotiations with the United Fucking States!*
It turned out, though, that on second thought they didn’t really want to go. The old homestead wasn’t so bad, really. We had our own bedrooms and such. Maybe think on it a while more. You hardly ever hear about Quebec separatism these days, though it’s bound to be back at some point, and that’s OK with me, just as long as next time, they decide already.
So I can understand the Blue States’ yearning to be free of the Red, and vice-versa. I’m all for it, in principle. The problem is that nothing’s ever that simple, is it, and the great divide in America isn’t so much delineated by jurisdiction as by geography, just like it is, actually, within Quebec. It’s not really Blue State vs. Red State. It’s more like Blue Urban vs. Red Rural.
Here’s the 2016 electoral map the way we’re used to seeing it:
Now here it is broken down by county, not State:
Not so clear-cut anymore. Compare the locations of the little enclaves of blue with the sites of major cities:
It’s not a perfect overlap, by any means, but the city vs. hinterland comparison, which also touches upon race, education, religious observance, gun ownership, and all sorts of related factors, certainly gives pause to anyone wishing to neatly classify given states as true blue or solid red. Look at Alabama, surely a Red State if ever there was one:
Or Oregon, just as Blue as it can be, right?
Here’s Blue State Illinois:
Look at how stark the urban/rural split was in Red Ohio:
It makes you want to ask what the Hell goes on in Dayton? So it goes, to greater or lesser extent, across the entire lower 48. I know, I know, why does everything have to be so %$$##ing complicated?
It is, though. It’s @#$%ing complicated. There’s no clear jurisdictional line of demarcation in America, no obvious legal borders separating the opposing views, not at the state level anyway. The real problem, so much messier, is a constitution designed to skew results away from a simple tabulation of total votes, with an undemocratic anachronism laid over that called the Electoral College, which has twice this century installed the popular vote loser in the White House, as aided and abetted by a comprehensive program of Republican gerrymandering that actually had the cajones to call itself Project Red Map. The tail is wagging the dog in America these days, that’s no illusion, but the thing is that the tail isn’t just on the ass end, and the rest of the dog is all over the place. The many structural and legal issues will take decades to fix, and maybe even constitutional amendment (all but impossible), if they’re to be fixed at all. It pains me, but there can be no Unified Conservative States of Moronica. There’s just no simple way to fix this.
There’s never a simple way to fix anything, you see.
*I’ve even got my own separatist political party if you’re interested in sending a donation, called “la Fleur-de-leave”.