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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Two Americas

Billmon (at The Whiskey Bar) has an absolutely brilliant analysis, as usual. --pseudolus
John Tierney, the right-leaning New York Times, celebrated Independence Day with a column posing the classic what-if question: What if the South had won the Civil War and there were now two republics sharing the slice of continent between Canada and Mexico, instead of only one?
On Independence Day, would we all be happier with even more independence? What if government of the people meant that the Red people in the South and the Blue people in the North had a border between them?

I never read Tierney even before the Times firewall went up, so what I know about his column ("The Disunited States of America") is what Steve Gilliard excerpted and posted on his blog. Steve points out that the scenario itself isn't very plausible, given that an independent Dixie would have been a weak, politically fractured state with deep racial and class divisions. Ingrained hostilities and conflicting strategic interests between the rival republics probably would have led in relatively short order to another war, one the rapidly industrializing North almost certainly would have won.

I think this probably right, although it's possible an alliance with Britain and/or France might have allowed the CSA to fend off a a repeat of what my Southern ancestors liked to call the War of Northern Aggression. But modern historians, like the University of Kentucky's William Freehling (Road to Disunion, The South vs. the South) stress how the social tensions inherent in the South's version of "herrenvolk democracy," plus the racial hysteria of Deep South slaveholders terrified of being trapped in a new Haiti, drove the desperate gamble of secession. That being the case, it seems likely to me that an independent South would have fallen prey to internal unrest (perhaps including a civil war within a civil war between the Border and the Deep South states.) Or it might easily have been drawn into reckless imperial adventures in the Caribbean and Latin America, eventually leading to economic exhaustion and collapse. In the end, the North might have been forced to intervene simply to prevent the emergence of what we would now call a failed state -- or states.
___to read on "Print Article and/or Read More" below >>>

But it appears to me that Tierney wasn't so much making a historical argument as he was crafting a subtle, Swiftian proposal for disunion now. Thus his reference to Southern "red people" and Northern "blue people." He seems to be arguing that both colors would be less angry and antagonistic if they could go their separate national ways:
If the South were a separate country, Northern liberals wouldn't be ranting at George W. Bush and Pat Robertson. They wouldn't be frantically trying to find a candidate who appealed to the Bible Belt and pretended to enjoy Nascar races. They might never hear a Garth Brooks song or have to stop at a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.

Southern conservatives wouldn't have to fight for moral values against godless Yankees. They wouldn't have to watch John Kerry go hunting. Michael Moore would be an obscure foreign filmmaker . . . Politics in both countries might be less partisan, even civil.

As you can see, Tierney is every bit as fond of shallow, trivial cultural metaphors as his editorial neighbor David Brooks. He does, however, have a point -- although it's not the point he thinks he's making. Tierney's notion of the Two Americas is certainly correct, as we discover daily. But the union doesn't come close to dividing along the geographic and cultural lines he proposes.

Continued ...The Two Americas...


Anonymous Scoopernicus said...

And the Blue States continue to economically support the Red States to this day!\

They'd be a third world country without us.

7/05/2006 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Scoopernicus said...

(I haven't seen any Comintern organizers around my office lately, and if there are any separatist movements out there looking to peel off a few states they're keeping it pretty quiet.)

I keep a low profile.

Seriously, Billmon makes an excellent point. I'm not mad at the south or the 'Red' states, I"m mad at the angry fearful traditionalists whose fear and rage against change is getting people killed, keeping millions in needless poverty and wrecking the economy of the nation. I'm an unabashed modernist, I embrace multi-culturalism, and I'm not afraid of change (so long as I keep the law of unintended consequences firmly in mind). I don't want a war, I just want social and economic justice.

7/05/2006 8:53 AM  
Blogger pseudolus said...

I hear you. The eliminationist talk originates with the right.

7/05/2006 6:29 PM  

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