I've been giving a lot of thought to the election, in the last few days. I guess we all have. For the most part, I have simply felt at a loss - unable to comprehend how or why we lost.
Jess pointed me towards this editorial in the NY Times, today, and it resonated with one of the dominant issues on my mind - the division in this country over religion, and how that impacted the election. In my less-magnanimous moods, I equate religiosity with ignorance, and I'm simply disgusted and angry about being a member of an intelligent/secular minority doomed by democracy to lose. A lot of people feel the same way, and the sentiment is expressed in this "new map of the Americas" that has been making its way across the internet in the last two days:
When I first saw it, I thought "yeah, how sad - how frustrating". A minute later I was thinking "wow - what a good idea." I was surprised to find, this evening, that conservatives think it's a good idea, too. This stimulated a productive train of thought: (1) They want it. (2) We want it. (3) It's not plausible. (4) Is there some other way to go about achieving the same ends? I posted the following message on this blog:
I'm an athiest, I'm working on a PhD at Harvard, and I'm fairly generally liberal (unsurprisingly, I suppose). It seems like both liberals & conservatives actually like this idea of splitting the nation in two and being rid of eachother. A lot. (See the freerepublic discussions) Is it plausible? No, probably not. I don't believe any of us actually want civil war, but it would be almost inevitable given the resources that would have to be divided up, and the interweaved populations in many regions of the country. I'm surprised, though, that even the suggestion of liberal secession hasn't elicited expressions of outrage from conservatives about it being traitorous and unamerican. Would it be regarded that way, or would the response truly be "good riddance"?
I find myself wondering what the country would look like if Bush were successful in pushing through (what I regard as) a traditional conservative agenda, shrinking the federal government to almost nothing except national defense, and giving back a great deal of power to the states. Given the vast differences in cultural mores between the Blue & Red states (or between the U.S. of Canada and Jesusland, if you prefer) maybe it really wouldn't be so bad to have dramatically different laws on abortion, marriage, stem-cell research, school prayer, drug legalization, etc. We (liberals) dislike your (conservative) religious values intruding into our lives; you dislike our secular values intruding into yours. Perhaps secession isn't necessary to make us both happy, and the triumph of states-rights conservatism would be enough.
One other aside: why are you folks in the sea of red so concerned about the war on terror? Al-Qaida isn't going to bomb your farmland in West Texas. If they strike again, what would you estimate the chance is they strike a blue (metropolitan) area? I have to guess 90%. Any thoughts?
I really feel like thinking this through has given me a new perspective. My feelings yesterday were of frustration at being ruled over by "one of them" and being subject to the imposition of "their" values. But that's probably akin to what conservatives felt throughout the course of the liberalization of the entire latter half of the twentieth century. Common ground! Empathy! These are important things.
Why do we, as liberals safely tucked away in Blue states, care so much about "imposing" gay rights, school prayer bans, and access to abortion upon those in the vast swath of red states? It is, perhaps, because of a sense of universality in morality - liberals think we should fight for everyone's rights, not just our own. But I don't feel tied to that, being the philosophical amoralist that I am, and with my newfound perspective on the religious right, this leftist attitude seems essentially hippocritical.
So my proposal is this: in response to losing this election, Democrats don't need to give ground and move to the right on "faith and values", as some have suggested. Instead, Democrats need to turn the tables on the Republicans with some political judo, championing a reduction in federal power and the re-expansion of states rights. It's true, this is a fundamentally conservative position. But given the divisions that apparently exist - primarily over cultural/moral issues - perhaps it is the most sensible, most constructive position, even for a liberal.
For an interesting alternative set of views, I suggest the frequently excellent Altercation posted by Miles 1:44 AM