Are we in the midst of a more or less conventional culture war? Are we, as Dennis Prager and others argue, fighting a kind of “cold” civil war? Or are we facing something else entirely?If the article has a weak portion, it is French's "solution" - federalism. He says let California be California and Texas be Texas. Basically, let red states follow conservative policies and blue states follow liberal ones.
I’d argue that we face “something else,” and that something else is more akin to the beginning stages of a national divorce than it is to a civil war. This contention rests fundamentally in two trends, one political and the other far beyond politics. The combination of negative polarization and a phenomenon that economist Tyler Cowen calls “matching” is leading to a national separation so profound that Americans may not have the desire to fight to stay together.
Here’s the New York Times, in a report shortly after the 2016 election: “The proportion of voters living in counties that were won in a landslide for the Democratic or Republican presidential candidate has steadily increased over the last seven elections and now makes up a whopping 60 percent of the electorate.”
A civil war results when the desire for unification and domination overrides the desire for separation and self-determination. The American civil war is a classic example. There were grounds for separation — North and South were culturally different on a scale that dwarfs modern divides between red and blue — but the North did not consent. It sought to first unify and then transform the southern states.
By contrast, had Scotland voted to leave the United Kingdom, would England have mobilized in response? No, the U.K. came close to its own national divorce, the dissolution of a union generations older than the American republic.
I don't see our federal courts allowing sufficient leeway on issues like abortion and LGBT rights, for instance. Or on extent of welfare state benefits. Do you?
What is to keep red states from "exporting" their welfare populations to blue states by being stingy with benefits? Suppose CA wants to ban pistols, given open borders how do they accomplish this?
Given internal freedom of movement, how can Montana have a different refugee policy than Florida, or than New Jersey? How can red states keep out Internet porn, assuming they'd want to? Suppose Tennessee decided to admit no Muslims, could they do this?
I believe French lacked the will to follow his "divorce" analogy to its logical conclusion which is separate countries with separate constitutions, courts, and defended borders. Maybe not civil war, maybe just basic divorce: the going of separate ways, growing apart.
A final thought about "divorce" - I was chatting up a neighbor in Wyoming who said he'd gladly let California have independence just to get rid of all those damned liberals. It becomes "thinkable."