One of the best political cartoons I’ve ever seen wasn’t something that appeared in a newspaper. It was a cartoon I saw on the web. You remember it, it was trying to represent the deep division in the American electorate after the election of George W. Bush. It divided the United States into two new nations (called the "United States of Canada" and "Jesusland.")
Remember that? It’s supposed to be a picture of the electorate after the 2004 election. I guess some states are identified as "Jesusland" (as opposed to something like "Conservativeland") because Bush beat Kerry by more than 3 million votes that were identified as previously untapped "evangelical votes."
The point of the cartoon is that there are now really "two Americas." You know—like before the Civil War.
And, indeed—after Bush beat Kerry you did hear a few liberals and progressives (never very many) talk about the possibility of secession. They argued that the people of the "USC" could get along very well without the people of "Jesusland." For example, they argued that the red states take more from the blue states than they give, in terms of federal spending and revenue returned. The people of the blue states, with their liberal social views and demands for more health care and less pointless warfare, would be better off without "Jesusland."
Today, with Dems controlling the White House and the Congress, you don’t hear the secession talk from liberals. Instead, the talk about throwing off the shackles of the existing federal government (by any means necessary, apparently) is coming from the conservative. Texas has Rick Perry, in Minnesota I have Michele Bachmann. They’re telling people to rise up and throw off the "tyranny"—the constitutional, elected by a landslide government of Dems.
Here’s an article from the Wall Street Journal that may explain why this is happening now.
It’s about how the money for Republicans is drying up. Now we saw that coming—lobbyists pay for access to policymaking, and if Republicans are out of power there’s no sense in lobbyists wasting money on them.
But the lack of money spells big trouble for the surviving GOP. Bachmann’s okay, her extremist rhetoric is apparently winning her more money—coming in from around the country, including the evangelical right groups that have always promoted her candidacies. But if you’re a GOP legislator right now who depends on media advertising to get over at election time—you’re between a rock and a hard place. The rock is "the special interest money’s drying up, because I’ve lost influence" and the hard place is "the wing nuts in conservative broadcasting who represent the white hot core of white hot right." You’ve already lost the business guy money because of their pragmatic concerns about access to influence that you don’t have anymore. Are you going to refute the charge that the insane charge that Dems are part of a "super-national socialist conspiracy"—and lose the conservative demagogues and their millions of dittoheads, too?
No you are not, if you want any chance of your career surviving into a next term. Republican politicians can count. They don’t want the "this McCarthy/John Birch Society stuff has no place in American politics" statement on their permanent school records. Have any Republican politicians stood up and said "Bachmann’s nuts, Glenn Beck is nuts, Sean Hannity’s nuts, with this socialist conspiracy stuff?" I haven’t heard about that. They’ve been watching the money from the relatively sane business Republicans dry up, they saw the GOP chairman kissing Rush’s ass after an ineffectual attempt to distance the party from him. They’re sweating, and the last thing they want to do is lose the angry white nuts—that’s career termination.
I think that explains why you and I are hearing wackier views from GOP elected officials these days. The liberal talk about secession at the end of the 2004 election was brief and it didn’t come from Dem elected officials. The current talk about the American president and Congressmen being "tyrants" and the need to "rise up, immediately"--*is* coming from elected officials: Republicans in office. That’s a big difference, right? (It’s also an invitation to commit murder and treason, but let’s let that go for another diary.)
But what would the United States look like, if they were successful and we split along the lines suggested in the "Jesusland" cartoon?
I like alternative history and some science fiction. Let’s take a crack at it.
It’s the not-too-distant future, the United States as we know it no longer exists. The conservatives have acted on their rhetoric; some Turner Diaries types have committed a series of terrorist atrocities (a la Oklahoma City) and political murders. The federal government decides that it’s best to avoid more bloodshed and the prospect of a second American Civil War (with WMDs, this time) and so they allow Jesusland (the red states) to secede. (I know, the federal government won’t do that. They’re not going to turn their back on Lincoln and let what he prevented, happen. But stay with me on this. The point is about what would happen to Jesusland if the conservatives got their way.)
There’s a great rejoicing in Jesusland when independence is announced: the event is understood as liberation from socialist tyranny from D.C. and a victory for personal liberty and Christianity.
A Constitution is proposed and adopted. In that document, "the Christianity of the Bible" is enshrined as having "a special place" in the new republic. Charter schools teach sectarian religion with public funds, as do public schools. There is a constitutional ban on abortion; the only marriages that will be recognized by law are between "one man and one woman." (Screw Utah.) "Creationist science" is taught alongside "secular science" on the school curriculums at all levels. Scientific truths are officially pronounced on by the government, and policy is made according to those official findings.
What about individual rights? This a republic founded on principles of "true liberty" and "true freedom," so these terms appear in the new Constitution. Certain rights are definitively spelled out in the New Bill of Rights: every adult citizen has the right to bear arms as an individual. (The exact meaning of "arms" is not defined, though. Assault rifles, yes of course. Explosive devices? Well, we’ll see...)
"Freedom of speech" is identified as such in the new Constitution. But there is specific language explaining that the right does not extend to circulation of "obscene or prurient expression." A Permanent Congressional Committee on Un-Jesusland Activities is also spelled out in the new Constitution. It has investigative authority to identify and compel testimony on Un-Jesusland speech or activities.
There is also an National and Internal Security Bureau (NISB) charged with investigating and monitoring suspicious citizen activities. There is no recognition of a "right to privacy," because—after all, if you haven’t done anything wrong, why would you object to being investigated by the government? The idea here is to stop criminal or terrorist acts before they happen. There is no need for a showing of "probable cause" prior to clandestine government surveillance of private citizens. (The NISB is not named in the new Constitution, it derives its authority from legislation passed by the President and Congress under the "provide for national security and public safety" clause in the New Constitution. The Bureau’s chief serves for an indefinite period, at the pleasure of the President.)
There is a "national emergency" clause in the new Constitution that allow the president to suspend any enumerated rights in event of wartime or a "declared national emergency."
The president has the authority to declare war, and to launch "pre-emptive strikes" against "dangerous foreign powers." The new Constitution allows for impeachment of the president "for high crimes, except during wartime or declared national emergencies."
A commitment to unrestricted free enterprise is also adopted as a fundamental principle of the new republic, it’s in the Constitution. A progressive income tax is explicitly prohibited. Sales taxes affecting consumers will be okay, though. Virtually all of the New Deal "socialism" will be eliminated and constitutional drafting will strictly prohibit it. The society will be one of "personal responsibility." If you’re broke when you’re laid off or old or sick—you should have planned you life better. It’s not the responsibility of government or your fellow citizens to pay taxes to help you out. Look to private charity or religious institutions to help you out, but the law of the land will not.
A president and Congress are elected. There is a senior chamber called a Senate. As in the present day United States, senatorial authority and the number of senators assigned to represent each state are determined by geographic boundaries, not according to that state’s population. And no term limits—not a conservative issue anymore, since the "bad guys" are out of government here, forever.
Only native born Americans with "legal ancestry" can vote. (Since the earliest days of this republic, there is a huge illegal immigrant population due to an accident of geography and the business community’s demand for cheap labor. But the illegal immigrant are "guests of Jesusland" and can be deported without legal proceedings at the request of local government officials. So can their children. Essentially, "an illegal immigrant has no rights which a native-born American is bound to respect.")
There is a Supreme Court, but its officials are elected, as are all other appellate judges. They serve limited terms. (No going against the popular will of the moment, you see.) The president has the authority to declare appellate court decisions "unconstitutional, and therefore null and void." (This is the formally recognized doctrine of "presidential review.") Lawsuits are only permissible if the plaintiff’s complaint survives review by the local office of the "Frivolous Lawsuit Prevention Authority." Regarding criminal law, there is no right to a habeas corpus proceeding. A criminal defendant may be detained without trial for as long as a local court identifies him "a danger to the public." There is a right to remain silent, but juries in criminal trials are allowed to make whatever inferences they wish from the defendant’s invocation of that right, when determining guilt or innocence. The standard of proof for a finding of "guilty" is by a "preponderance of the evidence." Corporal punishment is not explicitly prohibited by the new Constitution.
That’s the basic framework. In the next diary, I think, I will write the future history of this second and better America.