Let's pretend, just for a moment, that something happened to our Constitution -- trolls stole it, it got left out in the rain or accidentally thrown into the trash -- and we were forced to write a new one. Could we do it or would the attempt drive the nation into two or more warring camps and require that the Union be dissolved?
The last time I looked, the Constitution was in one piece and residing in the National Archives yet the nation is engaged in a near war over what it says and we face bankruptcy and civil unrest as a dysfunctional government and the partisans in charge of it straddle two competing theories of moral and economic reality. What if we admit defeat, concede that the right and the left can no longer coexist, agree to write not one new Constitution but two, and let people take their choice?
I'm not talking about 1912 Main Street living under one form of government while 1914 lives under another. The selection would have to be done on the state level and would ultimately dissolve the Union; secession by mutual consent.
The resulting nations would probably fall along existing Red State/Blue State lines; creating a geographically cohesive conservative nation and a more fragmented progressive one housed principally on the two coasts and the northern Midwest. Such a fracture would admittedly lead to tremendous disruption and relocation, but we are facing that anyway as citizens on the right and the left each continue to demand more than either side is willing to give.
Every day it becomes more apparent that the left is living on borrowed time in this country. Elections are escalating toward irrelevance. The left cannot win because the right rejects the concept; they cheat when they think they might lose and refuse to accept the results when they actually do. Voter suppression is becoming a reality in conservative-governed states and we are even seeing examples of persons being denied the right to convene as liberal groups or to speak out in public forums. Commentator Howard Fineman, in fact, recently described the current situation in this country as slow motion secession as the right slowly weans the country from its longstanding social contract. Right-wing legislatures, in fact, are well into the process of an irreversible coup in several states.
What would Blue Nation look like? Our constitution could delineate a true separation of church and state, put a sensible limit on gun ownership, end the death penalty, thoughtfully rebalance the powers of the three branches of government and end the unrepresentative domination of small states. Enforceable rules for public financing of elections would eliminate special interest bribery. The new Blue Nation would be able to design and enact sensible environmental regulations, rein in the abuses of corporations and financial institutions and tax them fairly, and make universal health care a reality. The rights of all persons including women, gays, Muslims, and those of no faith could be explicitly guaranteed, and we could once again be assured of a system that is not afraid of an educated and thoughtful population and our children taught real facts about science and history.
And what would be the guiding principles of Red Nation? I am truly afraid of the answer, but its citizens could freely adopt a constitution that would enshrine all of the virtues they are convinced the founding fathers fully intended the last time, without the inconvenient intervening realities of the 21st Century.
Persons with whom I have discussed this have insisted the businesses would flock to Red Nation because of presumed lower wages and taxes and a free-wheeling regulatory climate while the labor base would tend to distribute itself according to individual political beliefs. If this happens at all, I believe it would be corrected in the long term to the detriment of Red Nation.
Businesses know, even as they rail against regulations which affect them that they cannot survive without many of the rules that affect the other guy. Clean air and water, limits on competition, fair lending are just a few of the areas where regulation creates a good business environment.
They would also quickly learn that there is a trade-off between taxes and services and that it is not easy to operate successfully in a location where police and fire departments are poorly equipped and short staffed or where private contractors charge for other services that are traditionally the responsibility of the government. Low taxes will be just as meaningless for their workers as they pay out of their non-union wages tolls on privately owned roads, tuition to educate their children, and the fees and penalties unregulated business can levy at will. At a minimum, those businesses that need a well-educated and skilled employee base will fairly quickly migrate back to Blue Nation.
The Constitution (the one we already have) makes provisions for a constitutional convention and it takes two-thirds of the states to force one. In the past when such a plan has neared fruition it has been the right pushing for it (to force such legislation as the balanced budget amendment) and liberals pushing back. It is probably only a matter of time before the right is successful and the resulting "con con" will be ripe for mischief. The trick is for the liberals to grab the wheel, initiate the call from the grassroots, and insist on not one convention but two.
As Lincoln famously said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand," but perhaps we don't need to go to war this time. We just need to go condo.