The progressive left seems to want us to become something akin to social democratic Europe with all its cultural trimmings, while the right wants us to remain more like the America of old. To satisfy both parties, is the answer for the United States of America to become like the Europe of old?
Just where is this country ultimately heading? Revolution? Civil War? Perhaps, the American future might be less violent, but more transformational, than either one. Such a future might even satisfy both the left and the right—at least for a time.
The progressive left seems to want us to become something akin to social democratic Europe with all its cultural trimmings, while the right wants us to remain more like the America of old. Maybe there is a way for each side to get its wish. Maybe the answer is for the United States of America to become more like the Europe of old than the Europe of today.
Progressives are always hazy about stating—or revealing—their ultimate goals. Maybe their eventual idea is an AU, as in American Union, to match the EU. But no doubt the first step would have to be the “fundamental transformation of the United States of America.” That line was candidate Barack Obama’s on the eve of his 2008 electoral victory. However, his transformation of the United States into some sort of progressive utopia is not the transformation that is being proposed here. At least not in its entirety.
While the precise goal of the progressive left is ever elusive and always moveable, it’s pretty clear that progressives do not much care for the United States that was—or is. After all, it’s hard to have real affection for something one deems to be in need of fundamental transformation.
So perhaps what should take place is the peaceful transformation of this country—as one country—into many countries. From the standpoint of the left this really should make sense. Bernie Sanders, AOC, and other democratic socialists favor a fundamental transformation along those lines. At a minimum we ought to become another Sweden. At least that’s what Senator Sanders imagines when he’s not waxing nostalgic about the allegedly high literacy rates in the old Soviet Union.
Well, let’s take him at his minimal word. In fact, let’s become not one, but many Swedens of various progressive hues. There could be a few Swedens on each coast, as well as a few more scattered inland. Some of them might even be much closer to actual socialism than to the actual Sweden. In any case, social democracies, or some version of socialism or socialism-lite, seem best suited for small states.
And then, while we’re at it, let’s become many non-Swedens as well. There should be plenty of room—and desire—for this in the Midwest, the Mountain West, and the South. This way, both left and right might get what they want—at least for a while.
Of course, the progressive left won’t get its American Union any time soon. Such a configuration will likely take a few centuries to achieve, not to mention a war or two. In any case, maybe the way to get there is to first go back to being the Europe of yesteryear. After all, that’s what Europe did. And why not? Progress doesn’t always have to mean going forward; sometimes it can mean going backwards, too. It all depends upon the goal. Besides, how can there be genuine progress without knowing what one is progressing toward?
Depending upon how far back we might wish to go, we could even decide that the now ancient model of the European city-state might be the answer for, say, New York or Los Angeles or who knows how many other massive urban conclaves in what is now the United States.
Of course, there would still be plenty of room for any number of larger European-style Swedens and Denmarks as well. After all, cradle-to-grave welfare states might work in small, pleasant, harmless, geopolitically irrelevant American equivalents of, say, the Netherlands, assuming, of course, that a new American Sweden might be too much of a behemoth.
Even so, such a rearrangement would not take up the entirety of the current behemoth, namely the force for ill that the left deems the United States to be. No, not at all. There will still be more than enough room for a number of new countries for those who don’t vote the way the left thinks they should vote.
Here an irony of sorts intrudes. The old South tried to secede to preserve chattel slavery. Today’s South might like to secede to avoid what Alexis de Tocqueville called the “soft despotism” of an all-too-powerful central government.
States of the old South seceded as entire states. But why couldn’t various configurations of counties, north and south, do this? The result might be not just one, but a number of new countries, composed of old counties. Actually, there is a precedent of sorts for this. Maine was originally composed of counties that broke away from Massachusetts, and part of Virginia became West Virginia during the first Civil War.
Think of it. Instead of the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, there could be the city-states of Minneapolis–St. Paul and Milwaukee with plenty of old counties left over to be transformed into one or more brand new countries.
Of course, all this peaceful reorganization could result in rivalries and even wars. The old Europe had trouble of that sort for quite a while. But it would certainly be better, not to mention more manageable and less bloody, than a gigantic, Armageddon-like second civil war that would dwarf the first one, which wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.
To be sure, such a transformation/reorganization would fly in the face of the genius of the founders of the original United States. They rightly thought that a country of its size, let alone the continental country that it became, would best be governed by the limited hand of the federal government. They knew that their new country along the eastern seaboard was already a diverse place in all sorts of ways. All the more reason to limit the powers of a central government.
They also were aware that the world was a dangerous place, which was all the more reason to have a central government strong enough to be able to summon the power to deal with potential foes.
In sum, they sought to have the best of both worlds. But we seem to have come to a point where the best of both American worlds means many dis-united countries, rather than a single united one.
Obviously, it would be nice if all of this could be accomplished peacefully. The trouble is that peace is seldom the story of the human condition. In any case, there isn’t much real peace now. And there isn’t likely to be much in the immediate future, whether that future is dominated by progressives seeking to transform the United States into one gigantic Sweden or those who oppose them.
Small Swedens might well be nice, comfortable, peaceful places—for a time. But a gigantic Sweden is an unworkable nightmare. Besides, both would likely be in need of some sort of protector, a country like, well, perhaps like the old United States, which once protected places like the old Sweden.
Speaking of peace, all of this presumes that the rest of the world will be content to leave a gigantic Sweden alone. But really now, who would bet that such a bloated, spendthrift country would ever be in any shape to protect itself?
For that matter, it’s also been presumed that the rest of the world would take a live-and-let-live attitude toward the smaller Swedens and non-Swedens of the old America. But it’s fair to wonder if that would be the case. In all likelihood the smaller countries carved out of the original United States would be easy pickings for great powers. China, anyone? Or even not-so-great powers, whether far away or nearby. Mexico, anyone?
Come to think of it, we’d likely be much better off if we simply adhered to the original vision of the original founders and stuffed all this talk of—and movement toward—fundamentally transforming what has long been a great and good country. But it’s not likely to happen.
The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.
The featured image is courtesy of Pixabay and has been brightened for clarity.