"The art of politics, under democracy, is simply the art of ringing it. Two branches reveal themselves. There is the art of the demagogue, and there is the art of what may be called, by a shot-gun marriage of Latin and Greek, the demaslave. They are complementary, and both of them are degrading to their practitioners. The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots. The demaslave is one who listens to what these idiots have to say and then pretends that he believes it himself." ~ H.L. Mencken
One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State
John Kerry says 'there are no losers' 'in an American election.' There's a part of me that finds this ironic, given that it was said during his concession speech, and given that concession, by definition, means admitting defeat. But then there's another part of me that realizes irony, by definition, means something unexpected'which would disqualify what Kerry said, since it's what we'd expect from political rhetoric. So I don't know what to make of it anymore. I suppose it brings us full circle. Everything was on the line in this election. Or nothing was. It depends on who you talk to.
But either way, now that it's over, I'd like to believe this year's election was a learning experience, because I, for one, took several lessons away from it. For example, I learned that kids are a thousand times smarter than anyone gives them credit for, as evidenced by the fact that P. Diddy's 'Vote or Die' failed to make a difference at the polls. It turns out Urban Outfitters was right: 'Voting is for Old People." Kids will take an interest in politics when they're good and gosh darn ready. Until then, they will play Xbox.
Another thing I learned is that the letter 'F''as in 'John F'n Kerry''is an awesome middle initial. This election would've been so boring if Kerry's middle name were Adam instead of Forbes.
Finally, but perhaps most important of all, I learned that Red States and Blue States are here to stay. So, too, is the 'culture war.' And so, too, are the 'two Americas' (not counting South America, which isn't a real America anyway). All you need to do to confirm this is to look at an electoral map. The battle lines are clearly drawn, and the parties colored inside them with a single wide brush. For instance, the west coast and northeast went Blue on behalf of the Democrats this year. According to conventional wisdom, this means the people in those regions are liberals; they all want fewer wars, free stuff, teamwork, and trees. Likewise, Republican Red conquered the rest of the continent, meaning everyone from Florida all the way to North Dakota wants old fashioned weddings and the right to shoot birds. You know, because they're conservative.
Now, personally, I'm of the opinion that not every state fits neatly into one of two categories. Vermont, for example, is a little more liberal than, say, anywhere else. So in fairness, it's probably more of an Olive State than a Blue one. Then you have swing states like Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, all three of which were said to be 'in play' this year. By presidential election logic, the first two are Red States and the latter's a Blue State because they voted for George Bush and John Kerry, respectively. But if things were that close before the election, shouldn't all three of them technically be Purple? Or at least Magenta? If you ask me, two colors are too few.
But still, there's something to be said for the fact that Red States and Blue States carry such weight in popular discourse. Perception is reality. And in America, right now, there are clearly several dueling realities. So the question is, how long'after a 'hotly contested election''can they coexist? Perhaps the answer is: Not long at all.
Some liberals are apparently so pissed off about Bush's victory that they're thinking of moving. Indeed, visits to Canada's immigration website are up since the election. But while it's true the ball is in their court, they can't just take their ball and go home when the home they're going to isn't their own. Canadian immigration has already said Democrats will have to wait in line like everyone else. So if they want to get into Canada, they may have to take it by force. Maybe Howard Dean can lead the way? 'We're going to Saskatchewan! And Ottawa! And Nova Scotia! And Alberta! And after that we're going to Toronto to take back the CN Tower' eh!!!!'
Another option is secession.
'The history of the last four years shows that red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do'they prefer to be ignorant,' says Slate's Jane Smiley. Talk about ignorance. I'd ask who died and made her God, but a belief in God is the basis of ignorance, in her opinion'so forget it, I already know the answer. But still, she might be onto something. After all, plenty of Red Staters would say precisely the same things about 'ignorant' Blue State liberals. You take a guy like Jerry Falwell (who blamed 9/11 on gays), and you take a lady like Smiley (who no doubt blamed 9/11 on guys like Jerry Falwell)'they're never going to see eye to eye. So why are they so much as trying to share a president? Think about it. They really don't have to.
In a post-election editorial titled, 'Blue State Secession: The Only Solution?,' Zoltan Grossman writes'albeit jokingly'on Counterpunch.org that perhaps the Blue States should join Mexico and Canada, in a radical shift of North American borders. (No word yet on how realignment would affect playoff football). Meanwhile, rock-musician-type-person Moby writes on his website that Canada would stand to gain 'interesting cities,' 'surfing,' and 'good karma,' if they annexed the Blue States. Now, obviously, these suggestions were made in jest'somewhat. But they kind of, sort of make sense, if you think about it.
I mean, if people out in California, Oregon, and Washington State think Washington, D.C., is too far removed to be relevant to them, why not let them break free? It doesn't need to be a violent secession. In fact, it probably wouldn't be. Blue Staters make love, not war'remember? So we'll just kiss and hug and say our goodbyes. We'll trade with them, maybe visit sometimes'what more do you need? It'll be fun.
And why stop at regional secession? Why not local secession, too? In the northeast alone we already have the New Hampshire-based Free State Project (which isn't officially secessionist), and a group called the Second Vermont Republic (which is), as well as a movement in Killington, Vermont, to leave Vermont and join New Hampshire (despite being miles from the border).
Just imagine what life would be like if states could secede from unions, towns from states, families from towns, and people from families. It would be a true system of checks and balances. Issues like guns and gay marriage would be settled locally, because no one would accept anyone else coming in and making decisions for them (D.C., I'm looking at you.) We would all be winners in that sort of system. Or we would all be losers. I guess it depends on your perspective. But the point is, ideally, a lot less would ride on presidential elections. We could finally put this Red State/Blue State stuff to bed. And if nothing else, it would shut P. Diddy up.
Look, I'm not a secessionist. I'm too lazy for anything that requires actual effort. But it wouldn't hurt to at least keep the threat of secession on the table at all times'no matter where you live, or who you vote for. After all, secession is as American as baseball, mom, apple pie, and Cheers. Our forefathers certainly thought so'they seceded from England. And just think: If not for their courage, we'd all be speaking English right now.