How Southern States Are Harming America And What We Can Do About It
There are currently two versions of America operating in this nation. One comprises the states in the North, the other, the states in the South. At first glance, the average visitor wouldn’t notice much of a difference. After all, we nearly all speak the same language, eat the same kinds of foods, share common histories, customs, religions, wear similar clothing, and enjoy the same sports. The only thing that seems to be dividing us is politics and how we view government. In the South, conservatives are in control. Fear and hatred of the federal governments run rampant, which leads to the election of those who want to dismantle it. In the North, liberals are the majority. Government is generally viewed as a bastion for the common good, which leads to the election of those who seek change to advance the country and solve its problems. The question is, can these two visions of governing co-exist or do we have a problem that only separation of the union can solve?
In an article published on Alternet, an argument is made explaining why allowing Southern states to secede would be good for America as a whole. But is this a viable option, or just a fantasy of what a perfect world would look like?
It is clear that there are major differences between the North and the South. The South is anti-union while the North is largely pro-union. The South is anti-choice while the North is pro-choice. The South is anti-gay while the North is rapidly expanding gay rights. Religious fundamentalism is more prevalent in the South than it is in the North. The South is still fighting the Civil War while the North has moved on. Furthermore, Southern states oppose gun regulations, government health care, increased voting rights, lower taxes, do not fund public education as much as they should, and are profoundly more racist. To be sure, lower taxes appeal to just about every American, but when the nation has a debt problem, it is the liberal North that generally supports raising taxes as part of the solution to debt issues. And even though all Americans support Second Amendment rights, the liberal North realizes that common sense regulations can prevent gun violence without infringing on gun rights. And there is no doubt that racism can be found in every state in the nation. It’s just that the South has a deep-seated history of it.
The main argument for allowing the Southern states to secede is that the South is dragging the nation down. Because the South is anti-union and anti-worker’s rights, they offer foreign nations cheap labor which brings in jobs at the expense of Northern industry. Cheaper labor leads to cheaper products, which means Southern businesses will rake in more demand. The core example used to show this is the American auto industry which is based in Michigan. Since the South is able to offer cheap labor to foreign auto-makers, they can sell cheaper cars to the American public resulting in less American made cars being purchased by consumers. This is a major problem if you support worker’s rights and strong American industry. How can we have strong protections for workers and revive American industry if Southerners are constantly willing to work for far less money and fewer protections? As Alternet notes, by voting for conservative politicians and conservative policies, Southerners are voting against their own interests and as a result, “also have “inferior health and pension plans, less job security, higher risk of being fired for trivial reasons, and diminished safety precautions. …”" But the question is, wouldn’t the cheap labor policies still hurt the North even if separation occurs? I assume foreign countries and businesses will still prefer the cheap labor of the South and unless tariffs are enacted, I’m betting Northerners will still buy the cheap goods produced by Southern industry.
Another argument for separation involves the amount of taxpayer dollars that go to red states (the South) versus blue states (the North). According to Alternet, the South, “home to nine of the nation’s 10 poorest states, is rabidly against government spending, yet all of its states get far more in government subsidies than they give back in taxes.” In short, conservative states are welfare states that benefit from the tax paying blue states. As it turns out, liberals have been supporting conservatives financially this whole time and not the other way around. That means conservative states are parasites even while they accuse liberal states of being lazy.
The argument concludes that if separation were to become a reality, both sides would be happier and everyone would prosper in their own way. Blue states could keep their policies and tax dollars and red states can keep screwing over their uneducated populace and maintain their conservative policies.
So would separating into two different countries solve our problems? The answer is, no. Yes, the North and South are divided along political, economic, and social lines. But that will not make both sides happier. The problem with this argument is that there are conservatives in the North, and there are liberals in the South. Is the South going to transfer political opponents to the North and vise versa? Certainly not. What would more than likely occur is that the South will likely oppress liberals, African-Americans, Latinos, and women in worse ways than they do now. The only thing stopping them from doing so currently is federal law and the judicial system. Sure, the Supreme Court wrongly gutted the Voting Rights Act, which will allow Southern states to suppress the vote of those they hate even more than in the last 40 years. But remedies still remain to challenge oppression and suppression. It’s wrong to abandon half of the nation’s citizenry simply because we disagree.
Another point to make is that if we allow separation to occur, the blood spilled by 600,000 Americans during the Civil War would mean nothing, especially Northern soldiers. Should we really invalidate a hard won victory for civil rights and Union by allowing the South to leave 150 years later? Wouldn’t that allow the South to go full on state’s rights and return back to the kind of way of life (segregation, Jim Crow, etc…) that contradicts the Constitution in every way? The Civil War was fought for a damn good reason. It settled the question of slavery and so-called state’s rights for good. The South needs to get over it and move on.
Another reality to consider is that conservatives currently control state governments in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Maine, Iowa, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Indiana. These are Northern states. So even if North and South separated, it wouldn’t render conservatives and conservative policies extinct, including the economic policies that are dragging the nation down. In fact, it is more likely that the same destructive conservative policies would continue and anti-voting policies combined with ridiculous redistricting maps could result in Northern states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin to turn red and continue to cause the same divisions in Congress and could even place a Republican in the White House. What then? Do we merge back with the South? Or do we transfer those new red states to the South as well? The whole idea of separation sounds very messy now. It can also be dangerous.
Conservatives are very fearful and paranoid, especially of liberals. That’s because they’ve been brainwashed by Republican politicians to see liberals and Democrats as the greatest enemy of freedom on the homefront. That being said, it is likely that eventually the South will strongly consider going to war against their liberal neighbors in the future to protect what they call freedom. There is not an ocean separating the North and South. We are landlocked, and thus would be right next to each other the same way Israel is with Palestine. So it’s not out of the question to see war breaking out, because once we are separated, the differences will only become greater, leading to guaranteed conflict. As Alternet points out, there is no other subject that Southerners express their patriotism more than on war and the military. Combined with rampant religious fanaticism, that kind of patriotism will lead to bloodshed the likes of which this nation hasn’t witnessed since the Civil War. What will we do to prevent that? Turn states like Kentucky and Tennessee into a no-man’s land?
Separation is not the solution to our nation’s ills. The only real solution to our problems is the American people themselves. We have the power to settle these political battles between liberals and conservatives. Not only do we need to start voting more intelligently and in greater numbers, we need to wage a movement to change people’s minds. One ideology is wrong. That much is clear considering the conditions in the South due to extreme conservative policies. Southern voters have the power to change these policies, but that starts with education, either by school or by life experience. By life experience, I mean the federal government could strip benefits from Southern states and show the people of that region what a hell hole their elected officials have turned their states into. The results of losing all government funding would be disastrous to the South. And when people start to lose things, they get angry at who represents them. Conservatives in Southern states have been able to use government funding to hide what their policies have actually done. That should end. And when it does, the fireworks will begin.
But separation is a bad idea for another reason. In states across the South, demographics are constantly changing. The old guard is dying off, while the idealistic youth are becoming more powerful politically. Not only that, women are waking up to how their state governments are trying to legislate their bodies and African-Americans are mad as hell about more restrictive voting rights. On top of that, demographics are changing because of increased Latino populations. For example, the Latino population is growing so rapidly in Texas that it is believed that Texas will turn blue as early as a decade from now, maybe earlier. Even Florida is turning a deeper shade of blue. That change has resulted in Florida flipping to the Democratic column in the last two Presidential elections despite voter suppression efforts by the conservative controlled state government. A liberal Texas would tip the scales on the electoral map and if you add Florida, Republicans may never again occupy the White House unless they change their policies or stoop to illegal means to win it. Why give up on America now when the long-term looks so promising?
The relationship between North and South is a long and complicated one. Although both have many things in common, the differences between the two haven’t been so fever pitched since the Civil War and Civil Rights eras. But change does and will happen. It always does. At one time, the South voted Democratic and hated Republicans. Then Democrats changed their positions and the result was a nation transformed by liberal policies. Out of that, we got the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, Title IX, the Environmental Protection Agency, several landmark Supreme Court rulings such as Roe v. Wade and Brown v Board of Education, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and a whole host of other pieces of legislation that has shaped the America in which we live.
Republicans, divided as they are now, morphed into a party of conservatives and have grown in strength over the last 60 years. But once again, change is on the horizon. It’s going to take a grassroots movement to combat conservative bad ideas, and a changing demographic will only aid that movement. Conservatives will either change their policies, or they face certain political doom, and the new liberal majorities in southern states will drag them kicking and screaming into a new American era. During the most divisive time in American history when Southern conservatives and Northern liberals couldn’t be more different, Abraham Lincoln once said that “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” That adage holds true today. Conservative politicians are fooling the good citizens of the South, and it’s up to liberals across the country to convince them to open their eyes. America should be one nation as our Founding Fathers intended. We cannot separate and pretend to be one nation dedicated to liberty and freedom while our southern brothers and sisters are oppressed in their new separate nation. It just won’t work and considering it amounts to giving up on America.