Rethinking the United States of America — 22 March 2018

It is in fashion to blame Russia for America’s funk with democracy, but history is replete with bogeymen who are blamed for society’s ills. We should take whatever is in fact happening as a wake-up call to look at ourselves who created the conditions that the Russians exacerbate. A quarter century of awful candidates by both parties who have been hijacked by extremists, Fox News which tars and feathers anyone who would compromise what they declare in their own commercial interest to be American ideals, an emphasis on party primaries and nonstop fundraising which push moderates into being extremists in order to be elected and to survive in office, and a broken electoral college based on 250 year old fractures and which exclude the votes of a wide range of people – all of these have conspired to alienate reasonable people from our political system both as participants and voters. You almost have to be nuts or a glutton to want to run for or remain in office these days. Even if Russia were to disappear, these problems are still with us, just as much as Israel’s disappearance wouldn’t solve Arab conflicts on all sides of it.

We have reached a fork in the road for America; we are a country of two distinct minds about where we want to go, and the outcomes envisioned are very different. People are being forced to agree in order to move forward and they cannot, so real problem are festering for years now, such as violence in society, sickness, aging and dying, traveling from place to place, digital communication and America’s security in the world. Gridlock in Washington is preventing the majority of citizens from living the lives they want and in building a country they hope to live in. We have become so angry, distressed and jaded that when kids get shot in school, nearly half the country thinks it’s reasonable to believe it is a plot involving actors to garner sympathy so as to deprive them of their guns. Respect for people, institutions, religious and moral principles and even our courts is at an all-time low. A man campaigning for president stated that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose votes; he got away with saying that John McCain was not a war hero because he was captured – against what should be everyone’s moral compass he was correct that he suffered no consequence, and it tells you more about the state of mind of our country than it does about Trump. People are so stuck to validating their opinions that they will reject any information that cuts against them and have become all too happy to dehumanize their fellow countrymen. I read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal in print daily and I see two distinct realities in this country, and every day it is a challenge to decide what to make of it. If people at the top cannot bring themselves to agree on what is happening around them such as the fact of rising flood waters, they can hardly be expected to get together to solve any problems. Our gridlock is causing us to become cruel and insensitive to values throughout the world which we used to defend – in one instance right here at home, we are deporting people and breaking up families in a way that we know is shameful and self-destructive, only because we won’t agree as long as each side holds other issues hostage to this one.

If you want to see America at its best, visit Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel which solved water problems involving 20 states and built up the West’s economy for this past half century in a way that only a great government could. Hoover Dam would never be built today. Maybe it was just America in the midst of the great depression that built it in the first place and maybe such disasters have to happen to bring people together, just like Texans all of a sudden realized that disaster aid was not an evil thing when they got hit by a big hurricane.

Right now half this country is disgusted at what we have become in the world, and the other half feels that the ends justifies the means. This is a dark chapter in our history. I am suggesting a way out and it involves a Rethink of the logic of our United States of America. Sometimes you have an internal competition, and the red team and the blue team go their separate ways and we see who succeeds and try to learn from it. America’s blue states and red states should each choose up sides and create two quasi-republics within our great country, each with their own central regional government that will be responsible to deal with a portfolio of issues that the US Government has become unable to deal with that are better left to the states, but which states by themselves cannot deal with. Let each of these two teams pass their own gun laws, pay for their own public works, create social policies that deal with issues such as crime, health care and public assistance, and decide how to collect and spend their money instead of being stymied by Washington that gives mandates without funding and diverts taxes from states that need the money to improve their infrastructure. We are all in each other’s faces so we cannot ignore the need for a central US government to handle matters such as national borders, air traffic, telecom and shipping, disease control, the military, and environmental protection. And yet we live in a virtual world so that we do not need regions with contiguous borders to make this work. The red and blue teams will have enough collective power to act in foreign affairs to move markets and to put their money on the line to promote policies that affect the world around them (California alone is one of the world’s top 10 economies), which is a good thing since the central government has become paralyzed to the point that it cannot agree to treaties, foreign spending or even the appointment of ambassadors.

Divvying up the division of labor between these 3 seats of government is not an easy order but it must be doable. This is not a satire; I’m very serious. New York and New Jersey have different needs than Florida and Alabama. Our futures are being held back by the inability of anyone in Washington to agree. Those states that need tunnels under rivers and better train service can go their way; those that want no taxes or government can go theirs, and we’ll see what worked for whom.  What America needs is a third party that will freeze out extremists and bring the center together, but the balance of forces in place has made that impossible, as Michael Bloomberg intelligently calculated when he saw two poor candidates running for president and decided to stay put. I think Bloomberg was right as he saw conditions in 2016, but that doesn’t mean there is no option that a collective of billionaires working together couldn’t pursue in 2020. Now is the time to get ready and to give hope to a nation that is searching for a brighter future and retreating into its shell as it stares and sees only darkness.

Having a red team and a blue team doesn’t have to be a precursor to civil war. Instead, it might be the kick in the pants this country needs to get moving again. We need to fashion some way for people in this country to aspire to a future they want and to live it, and not be forever hamstrung by forces that reward doing nothing. It is a waste of a generation of life to see America squandering its edge in the world and doing nothing to solve real problems such as infrastructure, immigration, education and public health. The Russians console themselves by keeping America distracted as they do nothing to solve their own problems and live in a country with no future of its own. Fox News is stirring the pot, and you can be sure the people there making billions from it are not thinking primarily about what is good for America – a national spirit of compromise is not good for their business, and most people watching Fox are never going to figure out how they are being manipulated. We need a new generation of great leaders to aspire to elected and appointed offices and who believe in the old-fashioned spirit of public service and the art of compromise. Morale is at an all-time low for those who would take this as their calling but the talent and will is there to be mined and will resurface if we act to create the right conditions. Right now it appears that the ones mobilizing are the angry ones at the fringes. We need more reasonable people to pick up the slack but such people need infrastructure to have a chance. Beyond our tech barons investing billions to eradicate diseases in Africa, I think that charity begins at home and involves reinvigorating our political system for a new century. A few billion dollars invested in a new third party to shake up our political system could do wonders.



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