There must be something wrong with me.
The fireworks closing off the Republican National Convention were sensational. The music was inspiring. The speakers throughout the entire convention did well—no major screw-ups that I saw. The stories worked. And through it all, Trump and his proxies articulated a clear case for re-election. As conventions go, it felt like a success.
And yet as the last firework fizzled out, some melancholy seized me, and I wondered if the real story of the week wasn't the convention at all, or the upcoming debates, or even the winner of the 2020 election. I wondered if the real story was an irrevocable, worsening rupture no election victory could cure.
After all, it's one thing for citizens to differ on a sales tax initiative or what to name the new highway. It's another for them to differ, and differ deeply, on whether it's okay to murder full-term newborn babies, burn down buildings, or release hordes of violent criminals to the streets to resume their psychopathic predations. And as it happens, the clash between the rival world views underlying those disagreements has spawned nightly, real-world battles—complete with actual casualties—within a country called the United States.
The truth is, there's nothing particularly "united" about the United States these days. Even basic perceptions now differ. After watching the same video of 17 year old Kyle Rittenhouse, half the country thinks he committed pre-meditated murder, while the other half thinks he justifiably defended himself against weapon-wielding attackers. Same with the McCloskeys over in St. Louis: half the country saw them illegally threaten peaceful passersby; the other half saw them legally deter a mob of trespassers threatening their safety.
Half the country can't glance at Trump without envisioning him in a Nazi uniform shouting from the Luitpoldarena podium in Nuremberg; the other half just sees a pragmatic, commonsense guy, albeit of eccentric appearance, who just wants to make America great—hell, even just functional—again after decades of mismanagement.
Half the country sees Joe Biden as a mentally sound, principled, independent man who'll "calm everything down"; the other half sees him as the increasingly senile, corrupt, amoral puppet of cunning corporatistas and violent leftists. And we could spend another three hours thinking of examples just of the perceptual differences.
The moral divide is even more striking. Aside from all the real-world examples we could recite, just consider this: If, God forbid, mobs broke into the White House tomorrow and massacred the duly-elected Donald Trump and his entire family live on television, half the country would begin wildly celebrating, and everyone knows it. And that's all we really need to know to begin to grasp the depth of moral difference between the two diverging tribes here.
As a result, we must say that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron revealed a dangerous naiveté during his Tuesday night convention speech when he concluded that "we all just want the same things in the end". No, we don't. Some of us want to live in safe, clean communities, populated by strong families, pursuing meaningful, shared, morally-grounded lives of noble purpose. And some of us—quite a lot of us, actually—don't.
Those that don't have been obsessively destroying lives, careers, educations, reputations, property, everything they could, for months now, under protection from Democrat politicians. And remember that this ongoing destruction is only the most recent manifestation of a multi-decade effort to sow dissension, and co-opt or destroy every institution of influence necessary for healthy civic order.
No country can remain intact and democratic with moral and perceptual divides this great, nor with this many citizens actively or passively trying to destroy it. A house this divided just can't remain standing for much longer, at least in its current form.
So where does that leave us?
Three main possibilities present themselves.
The first is a return to something like antebellum levels of federalism (minus the slavery).
In this scenario, the states would recover a huge amount of their sovereignty; Congress's legislative jurisdiction would correspondingly shrink; the 14th Amendment (and maybe the 17th) would be rescinded; the US Supreme Court would lose its power to veto actions taken by state legislatures or governors; and in short, the United States would take a big step back toward what the American founders originally designed (which has proven successful in Switzerland).
I like this option. The problem is, it'll never happen. State politicians love all that federal money. They love blowing it to boost their popularity, and they love siphoning it into their own bank accounts. They'll never give that up.
And so, I move on.
The second option is some form of dictatorship which imposes a uniform order from above.
Obviously, a dictatorship would represent the end of America's republican form of government; but then, one might argue that American republicanism, in many ways, has long been on its way out already.
After all, the now-routine practice of five unelected Supreme Court justices vetoing any democratically-passed laws they wish—for any reason they want or no reason at all—is incompatible with any intelligible conception of republicanism. So is government retroactively assenting to bureaucratic coup attempts, presidents issuing blatantly unconstitutional Executive Orders, governors unilaterally ordering the house arrest of millions, and dozens of other now-routine practices.
We might add that any federal government which rejects its constitutional and statutory boundaries, grants itself license to intrude into every corner of life, and exterminates every check against that intrusion, qualifies as a genuine Leviathan far more hostile to representative democracy, federalism, and limited government than King George III ever was. DC's entrenched, elitist, control-freak swamp monsters make Mad King George and his indifferent parliament look like paragons of Jeffersonian populism.
All that aside, the post-constitutional, military-backed Strong Man option is, shall we say, high-risk. Yes, it's possible some great man could rise and rule with wisdom and equanimity, notwithstanding his insulation from democratic accountability.
But even if that happened...what would happen when he retired or died? Another Strong Man? And then another? And what are the odds of even a small number of them governing well?
Yet even as I type those words, I can't help but remember the colossal mismanagement of the past 32 years, all accomplished under the present system of ostensibly republican government. And I confess I wonder whether any man—like some guy chosen at random at the local mall—could have done any worse, governing alone, than the thousands of "expert" politicians and bureaucrats actually did.
I wonder, because it was those "experts" who gave us endless, ill-conceived wars; deindustrialization; dependence on communist China; thousands of war casualties; intelligence failure after intelligence failure; the First World's worst immigration laws; exploding debt; the export of millions of working class jobs; welfare programs which financially reward social pathologies like illegitimacy; government-created recessions; botched coup attempts; illegal spying; open corruption, and a hundred other failures. They all raise legitimate, if uncomfortable, questions about the value of whatever we might choose to call America's actual system of government these past thirty years. (Swampocracy?).
To be clear, I'm not here supporting the Strong Man option. I'm only trying to put it in context. The fact is, the self-styled experts who actually ran American government the past three decades did a poor job. Would an American Lee Kuan Yew, or even the janitor over at the local elementary school, really do worse?
The third option is national divorce.
In that scenario, the country would divide into new nations—two at least, and probably more—based mostly on their world views.
In the newly-created People's Republic of Leftistan, for example, citizens could live out their political fantasies without being hindered by the gap-toothed, cross-burning, Bible-thumping, flyover-country yokels they believe populated most of their previous country, or by their orange, evil, racist, Nazi Klansman Führer hero, Donald Trump.
They could ban electricity, cars, straws, diapers, soft drinks, meat-eating, Christianity, heterosexual marriage, the English language ("the language of the slave owners")—anything they wanted.
They could expand upon their infanticide fetish by offering Sunday morning child sacrifice rituals in their town squares.
They could import all 652 million Latin Americans and all one billion sub-Saharan Africans, then give them all guaranteed-incomes for life.
They could legalize crack cocaine, human-animal marriage, and even cannibalism. Come to think of it, they could appoint super-Democrat, author, and real-life cannibal Reza Aslan as their official Cannibalism Czar. He could visit Leftistan's elementary schools to tell the kids all about the wondrous multiculturalist bona fides he earned after snacking on human brains during his CNN special. They could do anything they wanted.
And here's the thing: Why not?
Yes, in ceding territory for Leftistan, the United States would be giving up some great California beach front, the New Jersey Boardwalk, Manhattan, and a few other valuable patches of land; but then, they'd also be excising a malignant demographic cancer comprised of demented, destructive humans which no healthy nation can tolerate. Without them, the United States would actually have a chance at being united again.
Not only that, but shorn of its would-be destroyers, America would begin to thrive like never before, building great families, great communities, great schools, great parks, great recreational activities, great churches, and great businesses. For my money, getting a lunatic-free country for a few beaches would be a damn fine trade.
But even if it weren't a fine trade up front, once Leftistan weakened due to its own insane policies, New America—if it wanted—could promptly annex it, expel the bad guys, bring the rest to heel, and make it better than before, all without any real fight.
Now, I admit a national divorce would be sad for some. Breakups, even the necessary ones, usually are. No one wants a beautiful dream to die.
I only say that the beautiful dream of Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, and Mississippi one day seeing the world the same way as California, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey, and then unifying to forge a brilliant national future, was never going to come true; and more importantly, that beautiful dream has transformed into a real-life nightmare. Without a hard demographic reset (like violent lunatics all moving—or being moved—to Leftistan), the nightmare will never, ever end. If Trump wins in November, the riots, the delegitimizing of the victory, the refusal to accept the results, the false accusations, the pernicious media confections...it will all continue. And if Biden wins, the managed deconstruction of the United States—largely halted the past four years—will resume. Again: As long as these people are around, the nightmare will never, ever end.
The good news is, it ends as soon as they're gone. Then a new dream begins—and that dream is one that, maybe, really could come true.
Mark Steyn Club members can let Tal Bachman know what they think in the comments section. Commenting privileges are just one of many perks that come along with Mark Steyn Club membership, including access to members-only events, Steyn Store discounts and an all-access pass to SteynOnline's audio, video and written content. Let Tal know what you think in person by joining him and Mark's other special guests, including the unrelated Michele Bachmann, Ann McElhinney, Phelim McAleer and Douglas Murray, aboard next year's Mediterranean Mark Steyn Cruise.