Greek tragedies are a whimper. In a disturbingly polarised America, any classic tragedy would sound sweet to American’s stressed ears. Sadly, the fifty states which make up the United States of America are united today only in name. Consider, as many as 22 states have abortion bans in force, while 22 other states protect abortion rights. Seven states restrict abortion, while three of them fall short of protecting abortion as a right. These numbers show how divided and polarised is America today.
Polarisation is driving deep wedges across America. When the Capitol Hill rioters breached its sanctity, Americans were alarmed to see a dangerous red flag appearing on their democratic horizon. Such demonstrations of polarisation have become the norm, more so after Donald Trump emerged on the American political scene. Today, right- wing ‘nationalists’ are usurping the right to divide America along lines never heard before. This is a worrisome portent for American polity, federalism and democracy. If this is what the planet’s oldest democracy has come to, the malaise is not far from reaching the doorsteps of similar democratic nations.
A Harsh American Reality
Abortion rights apart, the cancer of polarisation is metastasizing to other sensitive areas in America today. Consider, the state of California stopped on 25 August sale of petrol cars from 2035 in a bid to slash carbon emissions. Then, Texas promulgated a ‘trigger’ law banning abortion anytime after conception, while it remained legal elsewhere. The Texas trigger law came with a 5-99 year for doctors who provide abortion services. https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-are-trigger- laws-abortion-5499088. Such examples of pernicious polarisation pockmark the face of America, making it unpleasant to look at.
These disheartening examples underscore a harsh American reality. States are making laws in thoughtless merriment with scant concern for conflicts this legal recklessness creates between States. Protagonists of polarisation argue these conflicts prove independent thoughts and autonomous approaches are alive in America. Sadly, they are wrong as large-scale law-arbitraging goes on unchecked in America.
The Sin of Law-Arbitraging
Indisputably, law-arbitraging is a sin child of polarisation. Desperate to violate the laws in a restricted state, potential offenders simply move to any of the liberal states to get what they want. This practice of law- arbitraging raises quite a few pertinent questions. How can rampant law- arbitraging serve the basic intent behind American laws? How can this practice transform America into an egalitarian society with unequivocal stress on fundamental rights? How can this odious action bring and bind Americans together, united in purpose and principles?
Depressingly, the answer to these questions is a resounding No. Conflicting laws and contradictory attitudes are leaving an America weaned on fundamental rights divided more than ever before. While proponents of polarisation argue differing practices allow states to tailor laws to suit their revenue models and demographic composition, there are not many fair-minded takers to this theory. Sensible Americans say the dichotomy among states helps politicians serve their partisan ends, reach their divisive goals and achieve their polarising objectives. This is the real tragedy of American politics today.
Welfare Given the Go-By
Partisan politics shakes the supporting pillars of federalism in America. At the same time, it erects new beams of cultural righteousness, ethnic propriety, regional entitlements and religious rationality. In fact, divisive politicians in America claim they are adhering to the ground rules of political correctness and poll pragmatism. Sadly, they are losing sight of universal principles which support American democracy. Clearly, distressing political divisions come alive on partisan television channels. The divisions are now threatening to show up in school syllabi, gun culture laws, medical interventions and illegal immigrants, among others.
In the bargain, focus on citizen welfare is given the go-by. Why is this happening in a country long considered as a model of rules-based governance? Why is this sorry state of affairs in a nation traditionally seen as the prime champion of liberty, equality and fraternity? Though these questions are vexing, they are not complex. Answers are right there in polarised America.
Leads to Blatant Gerrymandering
Political analysts however say the actual answer can be found in the flawed American model of unitary governance. Nearly 38 states, teeming with nearly 75 per cent of the American population, are unitarily governed by a single party. Worse, this arrogant unitariness has been spreading as dangerous poison for the past three decades. The results are troubling: Abhorrent political absolutism everywhere, including legislative chambers. This absolutism leads to blatant gerrymandering. Sadly, this is why politicians pick their voters today in America. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering_in_the_United_States
This rampaging politics has given birth to distasteful right-wing formations and repulsive political extremists. Trapped inescapably in their own politics, political extremists take refuge in self-serving conflicts and confrontation. Why create conditions for political extremism by colour-coding states? Why call them red and blue states when they are not fated to be so for ever?
States Neither Red or Blue
Consider here how red and blue states keep America perpetually divided. While blue states frown at the freedom of gun-makers to ply their trade, red states back them and lobby for freedom of doing their business. Again, while blue states say there is nothing wrong in states setting their own emission standards, red states do not accept this idea. Once again, while blue states go easy on illegal immigration, red states do not. https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/3605763-red-state-blue-state- whatever/ When Americans see racism as an obnoxious idea, why identify states as red and blue? Truly, red and blue states are political racism at its worst.
States are neither red nor blue. They need to assert themselves as democratic states. How to put an end to this polarisation? Simple, Americans need to galvanise into a mass movement, on the lines of the Black Lives Matter movement post-George Floyd killing. This is imperative as extreme polarisation hits America Inc too. Consider what was once a large national market, America is now a loose mishmash of fragmented markets working at cross purposes. Worse, polarising energy-environment policies of the states do not enable America Inc compete with other economies on a level field.
Self-Styled Nationalists a Red Flag
If this is the fate of American business, American democracy cannot be far behind. Today, no republican can dream of winning a primary unless he believes in Trump’s divine right to presidency. Republicans are sure their poll campaigns will not be endorsed if they do not profess faith in Trump’s claim of a stolen 2020 presidential election and assert this on media platforms for public consumption. Today, in polarised America, Trumpism is not a fad, it is a passport for political nirvana. https://theconversation.com/trump-endorsed-candidates-would- generally-win-even-without-his-support-and-thats-usually-the-case-with- all-political-endorsements-184231
More ominously, the ding-dong duel between republicans and democrats could turn uglier during mid-term polls in November. With self-styled nationalists on a polarising spree, America is sure to lie more divided. This is a red flag, both for America and rest of the world which looks up to America for keeping a rules-based order alive and ticking.
Revenge Politics and Vendetta Democracy
Sure, there is a paradox here. When America cannot prevent toxic polarisation in its own backyard, what sense it makes for rest of the world to look up to a divided America as a guardian angel of values? When a polarised America does not have uniform laws across the states, how can it be expected to usher in uniform orderliness on the planet? How can a rift-ridden America assume moral authority to discipline dictators and democracy-busters in rogue nations? How can one expect a divided America to usher in a rules-based peaceful world order?
Thus, the task at hand is immediate. America needs to reform its election laws, principles and practices. Plus, it should stop the states from re-districting through autonomous commissions. Unless this is done, polarisers in America will continue to carve out pockets of entrenchment with impunity. Unchecked, this may spiral into vicious racism, vendetta democracy, vitriolic megalomania and revenge politics. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/revenge-against-revenge-bidens- revenge-politics-and-the-cure-at-troy/ Encouraged, political demagogues are sure to trespass into to strategic domains of health and education. Worse, they could polarise ethnicity, nationality and religion. This is a perfect recipe for civil wars.
Not to lose heart, however. As states appreciate the need to be colour- neutral, shift major policy decisions on climate change, gun laws, energy, health and education from the states to the President’s office. Restrict the states’ charter of responsibilities to managing their revenues, taxes and spending. This alone would make American federalism meaningful and purposeful.
Such federalism has the potential to end the toxic divisiveness tearing American states apart today. When this happens, American politicians will have no option but to spend their time and energy in addressing local problems and not in pandering to the whims of polarisers. That is the day the world’s oldest continuous democracy can rightfully claim to be the United States of America, both in name and spirit.