The Coming American Breakup, and Why It May Be the Right Thing

Craig Shirley | March 30, 2021 | 2:14pm EDT
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Featured is an electoral map during the 2016 presidential election. (Photo credit: BAY ISMOYO/AFP via Getty Images)
Featured is an electoral map during the 2016 presidential election. (Photo credit: BAY ISMOYO/AFP via Getty Images)

The United States is headed for a national breakup. Think of a nasty divorce. Or a person with a split personality disorder.

It may not be for ten, twenty, or possibly a hundred more years, but our country is in a vicious toxic relationship with itself. And like any toxic relationship, the only inevitable eventuality, the arc of the falling star, if you will, is that it will mercifully end with a breakup. Counseling won’t help.

It saddens me to have come to this conclusion, but I don’t see any sort of viable path forward at the rate we’re going. Congress is hopelessly deadlocked with both sides convinced they are doing the Lord’s work and that anything less than total, utter legislative victory is a sorry defeat. Likewise, the grassroots on both sides of our country’s ideological divide seem incapable of seeing eye-to-eye.

Our new president isn’t helping matters. After four tumultuous years of Donald Trump, Joe Biden promised to be a breath of fresh air, telling us that he would promote “unity” or at the very least dial down the proverbial heat. We’re nearly two months into his administration, and so far he’s shown little inclination to do either, preferring instead to pander to the progressive base and sign whatever Congressional Democrats shove across his desk.

And he is blaming Trump for every ill afflicting America. Please. It is so immature.

The larger federal government seems to have also lost any sense of the people it’s supposed to govern. The party leaders (Pelosi, Schumer, McCarthy, et al.) have little concept whatsoever what life is like outside of D.C. or the big coastal cities. Farmers in Iowa or factory workers in Pennsylvania can no longer count on Washington to take their issues seriously, if the issues even get brought up at all. And people are voting with their feet.

California and New York are becoming more liberal and Florida and Tennessee are becoming more conservative.

In short, the whole thing---Washington---has become one big, bureaucratic, crooked mess. The government is too big, bloated, corrupt, and inefficient, and the people running it have lost all sense of purpose. Perhaps then a breakup into a regional confederation, whose leaders would better understand their localized needs and issues, wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

For those in need of a history lesson, our country didn’t always have our current form of government. Before 1787, the United States was a loose confederation of allied states governed by the appropriately named Articles of Confederation. 

The Articles were a mixed bag. There were some strengths, such as Congress being able to have the final say on foreign alliances, treaties, and wars. Congress also served as an arbiter of interstate disputes. Likewise the states, while independent, could not restrict trade or the flow of persons between one another. But, there were plenty of flaws in the Articles, the most glaring being the absence of a Bill of Rights, which was what ultimately led to the Constitutional Convention and our current system of government. 

Such drastic changes to our way of life would need to be carefully managed and conducted over a lengthy transition period. Other factors would need to be taken into account, as the world is radically different today than it was in 1787. America would still need to act as a major power and arbiter internationally (Russia, China, and Iran will always be here to cause mayhem), and the roles of the presidency and the Supreme Court in a potential confederation would need careful evaluation. And it goes without saying that the Bill of Rights would need to be kept in place (practically every state constitution has its own Bill of Rights anyway). 

It would hardly be the first time a country experienced regional and governmental changes. 

From Rome to Republican England to even the end of the Cold War, governments always go through reorganizations at one point or another. Some transitions are sadly brought about through violence, but just as many occur without bloodshed. And people are voting with their feet, favoring red states over blue states, the competent governor of Florida over the idiot running New York.

America is, in my opinion, historically sensible enough that a transition from a constitutional republic to a set of allied, regional constitutional confederations based on the republican model would not seem that far-fetched. As was mentioned earlier, maybe a set of self-governing regions united by a common American heritage would allow our country to actually solve some of its most glaring problems.

It’s a complex question of what a regional American confederation would look like, and I confess I, myself, don’t have all the answers. But many have come to believe that sooner or later, some sort of reckoning will be needed if America is ever going to haul itself out of its current predicament.

Craig Shirley is the author of four bestselling books Ronald Reagan's campaigns, including "Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980," out March 21, 2017. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller, "December 1941," and is the president of Shirley & McVicker Public Affairs.

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